Never having experienced a dosa before, Lindsey Groskopf expected only “deliciousness.”
After supping on the butter masala dosa at Dosa Corner, she said the south Indian delicacy lived up to the hype.
“It’s fantastic,” said Groskopf, whose friend Dipa Patel talked her into dining at the restaurant. “I’m a big fan. It’s nice and flaky, light and summery.”
Even with the growth of Indian restaurants in central Ohio, the dosa still is a rare treat. Because it is served mostly at vegetarian Indian restaurants, it’s a bit harder to find than, say, lamb vindaloo or chicken tikka masala.
Yet, Dosa Corner, which opened eight years ago on the Northwest Side, serves about 1,000 a week.
The most popular is the masala dosa, stuffed with curry potato and folded into a triangle. The batter is made from lentils and rice, which first are soaked in water for several hours, blended at a slow speed until smooth and then left at room temperature for several more hours to ferment before being refrigerated.
Dosa – also known as dosai, thosai and dosay – is considered one of those blank-canvas foods, such as pizza and flatbread, that adapt well to myriad flavors. They are served plain or stuffed with everything from paneer to chickpeas to spinach.
It is the ultimate finger food. Snatch off a piece and dip it into sambar, a vegetable lentil stew and coconut chutney. (It is acceptable to eat it with a knife and fork but is frowned upon in some circles.)
They’re crispy, offering textural appeal, and slightly sour from the fermented batter.
“In India, they eat it from 7 o’clock in the morning to 12 at night,” said Hari Narahari, owner of Dosa Corner. “It’s a staple. It’s got carbohydrates, proteins. It’s good.”
It’s fairly inexpensive, too, as the 12 options at Dosa Corner are priced at $7.50 and less.
Narahari’s wife, Girija, is an old pro in dosa artistry. She douses the griddle with a bit of ghee, or clarified butter, and ladles on a thin layer of the ivory batter. She watches the mixture solidify and blister, and with the precision of an atomic clock, she scrapes it up when it’s perfectly golden brown.
Dakshin Indian Bistro on Sawmill Road offers a wide swath of both north and south Indian classics, but the dosa is the No. 1 seller, chef Pandia Rajan Pitchai said.
He said unlike some Indian dishes, the dosa is not spicy, although chilies are added to some variations of the dish. And it appeals to vegetarians and omnivores alike.
“Anybody can eat it,” he said.
But dosa isn’t everywhere for a reason.
Vince Prakash, owner of Cumin in the Polaris area, said he’s spent years perfecting north Indian cuisine, so there’s no room for dosa on his menu. And face it: There’s a limited customer base and most Americans like meat dishes and the rich flavors of north Indian cuisine, he said.
Cumin offers a vegetarian Indian buffet with many south Indian dishes on the weekends, but the dosa is best left in the hands of trained professionals, he said.
“Dosa is not a thing that anybody can make,” Prakash said. “Only the expert can make the dosa.”