In a previous life I worked for three years as a secondary school teacher of physics at a comprehensive school in Brixton. It was a great job, but hard work, and together with a group of colleagues we would routinely go out for a mid-week dinner to unwind at one of the many great Indian restaurants in South London. That was where I first ate masala dosa, a deliciously crispy Indian crepe, typically stuffed with spicy potatoes and served with coconut chutney and a side of dahl.
I tried unsuccessfully to make dosas at Ma khin Café a few years ago.I dutifully soaked basmati rice, poha (flattened rice), fenugreek and urid dahl. I ground the softened grains and left the mixture overnight. But despite perfect conditions in a warm Mediterranean kitchen, the batter failed to ferment. I read an article in LaVanguardiaa few weeks ago that claimed to be the “authentic” recipe for dosa. I’ve never liked the word authentic. It flaunts objectivity and absolute truth and is in denial of it’s innate subjectivity. Authenticity fails to recognize the variety in regional food and recipes that enrich our culinary traditions and encourages gastronomy to evolve. Did your grandmother put garlic in her paella? What about rosemary, saffron or red pepper? I confess I was delighted to see that the La Vanguardiadosa had clearly suffered the same fate as my experiments, and in the photograph that accompanied the article there appeared what was clearly an improvised imitation of the finished dish with a distinct resemblance to a French crepe. So much for authenticity!
The recipe for Masala dosa with Valencian rice
It seems the problem both myself and the Vanguardiacolunmnist had with fermenting our dosa batter is often caused by dahl or rice that has been sitting for too long in the pantry! I tried my hand at the recipe again, using recently harvested Valencian rice, and I was delighted to see the mixture bubbling furiously after 24 hours, a result we have managed to repeat and incorporate in our new winter menu. So now you can enjoy a fabulous Masala dosa at Ma Khin Café, as good as anything you’ll find in Tooting Bec or Kerala!