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South Indian Rice and Lentil Crêpes (Dosa)

by Suneeta Vaswani

Makes 12-14

This quintessential South Indian food, which has been embraced globally, is a breakfast dish. However, it has morphed into an anytime crêpe and is served with a variety of fillings. The traditional filling is, of course, a soft mix of potatoes and onions.

2 cups    long-grain rice (not basmati)     500 mL
1 cup     split white lentils (urad dal)    250 mL
11⁄2 tbsp fenugreek seeds (methi) 22 mL
11⁄2 tsp  salt or to taste   7 mL
3 to 4 tbsp   oil  45 to 60 mL

1.   Soak rice overnight in 6 cups (1.5 L) water. Clean and pick through dal for any small stones and grit. Rinse well. In another bowl, combine dal and fenugreek seeds and cover with 4 cups (1 L) cold water. Soak overnight.

2.   Drain dal mixture. In a blender, purée mixture, in 2 batches, with 1⁄4 cup (50 mL) warm water for each batch. Blend continuously for 2 to 3 minutes to make a smooth batter. Transfer to a large bowl.

3.   Drain rice and add to blender, in 2 batches, adding 1⁄4 cup (50 mL) water to each batch. Blend continuously for about 2 minutes, until batter is very smooth. Pour into lentil batter. Stir in salt and about 1⁄4 cup (50 mL) additional water to make a cake-like batter. Mix well to combine. Cover and set aside in a warm spot to ferment for 10 to 12 hours. Ideally, when ready, batter should be almost doubled and appear light and frothy. (This does not always happen, but, even so, the batter will be fine to use. It will lack the slight tang of a fermented batter.) Batter can be covered and refrigerated for up to 48 hours. Return to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.

4.   When ready to make dosas, whip batter vigorously for 2 minutes. Thin batter with additional water as necessary until it resembles heavy cream — thick but pourable.

5.   Heat a dry large nonstick griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle a few drops of water to check if they sizzle and disappear. The correct temperature is very important. Using a 1⁄2-cup (125 mL) metal measuring cup, pour batter into middle of griddle and quickly spread with a circular motion using flat bottom of cup, from the inside to outer edge, forming a crêpe about 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) round. If metal cup is not available, use metal ladle and spread batter with bottom of ladle. This step requires quick action as crêpe (dosa) begins to cook almost instantly. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover and drizzle 3⁄4 tsp (4 mL) of the oil over top. Cook for 1 minute. Edges will begin to curl. Remove with spatula and fold gently in half. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately with chutney.


Crêpes should be almost translucent — the thinner, the better. Stir batter well before pouring each, as batter tends to settle.

Potatoes with Two Onions filling: Serve with potato filling (see recipe, page 351). Place about 3⁄4 cup (175 mL) of the stuffing slightly off-center and fold in half. The stuffing does not run the length of the dosa. Serve with chutney.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Complete Book of Indian Cooking, by Suneeta Vaswani, Robert Rose Inc., 2007.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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