Recently read a post ‘Online delivery of Masala Dosas is a food ‘hate-crime’. North India must apologise.’ Its indeed a hate crime!!! Even the paper thin Dosa is a hate crime the North Indians must tender an apology for!!!
A Dosa is a thin pancake like a crepe originating from South India, made from a fermented batter of lentils and rice.
The paper-thin Dosa is the corrupted form of Dosa. In my childhood Amma made Dosa on a ten-inch dia stone girdle. It was thick – the least it was five times thicker lighter and spongier than its paper-thin cousin. These Dosas were characterised by the holes left by the steam evaporating on cooking from the batter.
I joined Sainik School Amaravathi Nagar (Thamizh Nadu) in 1971 at the age of nine where Dosa was served twice a week – Sunday breakfast and Thursday diner. The Sunday Dosa was with Sambar and Chutney, but the Thursday Dinner was the best – rarest of rarest combination – Dosa with Chicken Masala Curry – one of the best combinations I have had in my life. Here too it was the thick and fluffy Dosa which combined well with the gravy.
My introduction to the paper-thin Dosa was at the National Defence Academy. It never tasted anywhere near what I had at home or at school. It was too crispy for my liking. I called it the ‘Corrupt version of the poor Dosa.’ Though corrupt, it was lapped up by the North Indians and the South Indians too followed suit and the thick and original Dosa disappeared from most South Indian restaurants and homes. Some restaurants now serve it as ‘Set Dosa.’
I recall an incident narrated by Veteran Colonel MA Mathai. After marriage, on settling in their first military abode in 1985, he and his wife Sainu decided to invite all officers of their Regiment for a Dosa Brunch. In the morning Sainu made Dosas the way her mother made them – thick and stout. Neither Captain Mathai nor the officers were too happy about it.
After our marriage, we established our first home at Devlali, Maharashtra in 1989. During our settling down days, Marina said she intended to make Dosa on the following Sunday and she inquired as to what I wanted with it. I asked for my most relished combination with Dosa – chicken masala curry. “What an unpalatable combination?” was Marina’s reply. I told her that the thick Dosa made on a granite griddle, served with chicken masala curry was the best combination for Dosa that I had ever had. She did not believe me until we relished it that Sunday evening.
During our Pan-India tour as part of the Long Gunnery Staff Course (LGSC) in 1990, at Jabalpur Railway Station, our coach was stationed adjacent to the main platform. After the industrial visits, while I was strolling on the railway platform in the evening, I came across tow young men from Kerala selling Dosas. They narrated their story as to how they came to Jabalpur and established their business.
The two unemployed high-school graduate lads landed at Jabalpur on the recommendation of a close relative who was employed with the Ordnance Factory. They searched for a job and joined the restaurant on the railway platform as dishwashers. Few months into their work, the restaurant owner was impressed with their dedication and asked them “Can you make Dosas? There is a lot of demand for it. There are no good Dosa vends in town.” They took the bait.
The two men travelled to Kerala to return with a heavy grinder, girdles and other utensils needed to make Dosa. They commenced their Dosa selling in the restaurant and soon the place became a favourite haunt of the powerful, wealthy and influential people of Jabalpur. The restaurant owner now came out with a new business model for them. “You sell your Dosas here and all the money is yours?”
Too tempting an offer to reject!! They again took the bait. They sold hundreds of Dosas every evening, collected the cash, went back to their home to soak the rice and lentil overnight. Next morning, they ground the rice and lentil and fermented it till evening. In the evening, they established their girdle on the platform, in front of the restaurant. People came in droves to buy Dosas. Many sent their tiffin carriers for home delivery.
The biggest question in their minds was “Why did the owner allow us to sell Dosas and take all the money?”
A month into the new venture, they gathered enough courage to ask the question to the restaurant owner. “Customers who buy Dosas from you buy coffee too. I sell over a hundred coffee every evening and I make a Rupee on every coffee. “
The restaurant owner did not kill the geese that laid golden eggs for him, he nurtured them!!!!