Friday, January 22, 2016

Recipe of the month: Karnataka Speciality - Neer Dosa

Neer dosa which literally translates to 'water dosa' is a crêpe prepared from rice batter. It is a South-Indian breakfast dish. Neer dosa is a delicacy from the Tulu nadu region in Karnataka and part of Udupi cuisine. 'Neer' is the word for water in Tulu and 'Neeru' is the word for water in Kannada.

To make this soft delicate dosa, rice is soaked in water for a few hours. It is then ground with water to make a runny batter. Most types of dosa require the batter to be fermented for a few hours or even a day. However, fermentation is not required while preparing this dosa. A thin layer of batter is poured onto a heated flat cast iron griddle pan (or a non-stick pan) greased with oil. The batter is spread with a ladle to form a crêpe and is typically cooked only on one side.

Being a native of Tulu nadu, this dosa is a breakfast staple in my family. We also refer to this dosa as 'bari akki dosa' or 'bajjar dosa'. I distinctly remember going through a childhood phase of intense liking for this dosa followed by a phase of intense dislike. Not proud of the latter! Since reaching adulthood, I have come to my senses and have realized how simple, versatile and delicious these neer dosas are.

The vegetarians enjoy neer dosa with coconut chutney, sambar, vegetable stew (saagu), rasayana (chopped mango  or banana in sweetened coconut milk) or a mixture of jaggery and fresh coconut. The non-vegetarians enjoy it with a meat-based curry, meat-based sukka or egg roast. In my household it has always been coconut chutney for the chutney-loving husband and mango (midi) pickle with coconut oil for the pickle-loving me. I prefer savoury accompaniments to this dosa rather than sweet but for the sake of my toddlers, this time round, I also prepared a mixture of jaggery with shredded fresh coconut. The extra effort paid off as they enthusiastically ate a few bites....phew!

Another wonderful attribute of these dosas is that one can enjoy these dosas hot or even after they have cooled down. My husband's mandate is that hot neer dosas are to be drizzled with ghee (clarified butter) and the cool ones are to be served with coconut oil. I don't argue and simply go with what he says....ghee....coconut oil....whatever!....these dosas taste yum to me any way!

My previous recipe for neer dosa had grated coconut in it. I also used only one kind of rice (regular sona masoori). I never owned a cast iron pan until recently so I used to make them in my non-stick pan. Somehow I was never satisfied with the outcome. They would be markedly inferior from the neer dosas I would relish back home. So this time, I watched my MIL preparing them in Bangalore and noticed that her recipe was quite different (and simpler). She also told me that neer dosas turn out best in a cast iron pan. After obtaining my new cast iron pan way back last year, I had chucked it away in a corner  of my kitchen cupboard because I lacked the know-how on how to season it. Whatever dosa I made in it would end up sticking to the pan and leave me frustrated. Fortunately things changed when my MIL visited us last year and guided me in seasoning the pan the right way. Now It works so well that I am in love with it! I tried this new way of making the neer dosa and it turned out just like my mom and MILs rendition. Hubby agreed too. Yay! 

I am sharing with you the recipe in this post. I hope you enjoy this pearly white gem from my very own Tulu nadu 

Neer Dosa

Preparation time: 4-5 hours to overnight (soaking time) plus 30 min
Cook time: ~ 3 min per dosa
Serves: 4
Recipe category: Breakfast (Indian)
Recipe level: Easy but requires some experience
Recipe source: MIL

Ingredients:

2 cups idli/dosa rice
1 cup regular raw rice (sona masoori, parimal rice or ponni rice)
5 to 6 cups water or add as required
Salt to taste
Cooking oil for making dosas

Method:

1. Soak the two types of rice together in enough water for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. I soaked it overnight and made dosas for breakfast that morning.


Here is a pic illustrating the differences in the two types of rice for your reference


2. Drain the soaked rice and place in a wet stone grinder. You can also use a powerful blender/mixie for the job but I find that a stone grinder works really well since you need the batter to be extremely fine. The batter when rubbed between your fingers should feel velvety smooth and not gritty.


3. Just add water enough for grinding the rice. I gradually added 2 cups water. Note that if you add all the water then you won't be able to grind the rice effectively

4. Grind to a smooth fine batter and collect it in a large bowl

5. Add more water to get a thin flowing watery consistency. I used 2 cups of water to rinse out the stone grinder and added that water into the bowl.  Then I added an additional 2 cups water. The batter consistency should be somewhat like buttermilk and should not be thick. A visual guide is that the batter shouldn't coat the back of a spoon. The addition of water depends on the quality and kind of rice so add water as per your best judgement.


6. Then add salt to taste and stir well

7. In a cast iron pan spread ½ tsp of cooking oil and heat it on high flame. Do the sprinkle test. When you sprinkle a few drops of water on the hot pan, it should sizzle. 

8. Stir the batter well and take a ladle full of batter

9. Reduce flame, grease lightly with oil again and pour a ladleful of batter in a circular motion moving outwards to inwards

10. Fill in any gaps with some of the batter


11. Cover with a lid and cook the neer dosa till done (it will look shiny and translucent). Avoid browning or flipping the dosa


12. Fold the dose in half to form a semicircle and then do it again to make a triangular fold on the pan itself



13. Remove the dosa and place it on a plate. Serve immediately or if you want to finish making all the dosas, make the neer dosas as described and place them separately without them touching each other in a container to avoid sticking to each other

14. Serve the neer dosa hot or cooled down with savoury accompaniments such as coconut chutney, sambar, stew, curry or sweet accompaniments such as shredded coconut with jaggery or rasayana



Notes:
  • If the batter is of the right consistency, you will get tiny holes and a lacy dosa. If not, this means the batter is thick so you need to add some water to thin it down
  • If the batter becomes very thin, then the dosas will fall flat and break while lifting. In this case, add some rice flour to thicken the batter.
  • If the batter is too thick, you will see cracks in the dosa.
  • Before making each neer dosa, stir the batter very well with the ladle
  • A cast iron pan is recommended for this dosa. Non-stick pans can be used but the results will not be as good as that seen with a cast iron pan. Keep in mind that whatever pan you use, it should be well seasoned otherwise the dosas will stick to the pan
  • If you are using refrigerated batter, let it come to room temperature before you make the dosas. Cold batter makes the dosas stick
  • Once you pour the batter, there is no need to add oil along the sides or in the holes like what is done for rava dosa
  • Leftover prepared neer dosas in the fridge can be reheated in the microwave for a minute or two. The dosas go back to being soft and fluffy


Cheers,


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