Any true Indian worth his salt knows what a dosa is. South Indians especially are partial to this rice crepe and its variations. Among the many variations of Dosas remains the Neer Dosa, a fluffier and lighter version of the legendary breakfast dish.
Indians are famed for their love of food. A day has to begin with a hot, piping and heavy breakfast with tea or coffee. It is followed by lunch at home if you are lucky or on the go with colleagues and friends. Dinner is a boisterous, family affair where everybody catches up with each other. Stories are told, anecdotes are shared and memories are created over good meals. Being a vast country, India has various cuisines in its regions and states. The loving Indians and tourists have ensured that these dishes reach other parts. Often they forget, the dish isn’t even local! Any Maharashtrian will tell you of their love for pani puri, which is a North Indian delicacy. Or any Indian will confirm that the Dosa is a part of their weekly meals, a pure South Indian invention.
Indigenous to South India, the Dosa has been a staple of their meals since centuries. Every household, small or big, enjoys this rice pancake with sambar or chutney. The sambar is a lentil stew with vegetables and the chutney is a coconut dip. Dosa or Dosai has also been mentioned in ancient Tamil literature and history books. With Independence, the immigration of Indians from one state to another became possible. They shared their traditions, their culture and their food with the locals. South Indians, also known as Madrasis (though incorrect now) brought the Dosa to places as far as Delhi and Himachal Pradesh. Its fluffiness and salty taste made it loved by people of all cultures and regions. Indian breakfasts are hot and fresh compared to American breakfasts which rely on packaged foods or sugary cereals. An Indian breakfast is also supposed to focus on local nutrients and flavors. Dosa is made of rice which is available across India and beloved by all. As the Dosa and its fame spread, variations began to appear and fusions were tried to update the dish.
A popular take on the Dosa is the Neer Dosa. ”Neer” means ”Water” in Tulu. Tulu remains a local dialect and language spoken by the residents of Karnataka. This inspired version comes under Mangalorean cuisine which has influences of Southern and Western India. The regular Dosa is usually prepared by mixing rice and black gram by soaking them in water. The batter is left to ferment overnight. Neer Dosa is unique since it requires no fermentation. It is named so due to its thin, water-like consistency. It’s simplicity also adds to the taste and flavor of the dish. The invention of Neer Dosa is credited to women as they kept trying on ideas to make batter faster and without fermenting. Rice is a staple in South India so anybody can whip up Neer Dosas with rice and salt. Simply soak the rice for 2 hours and ground it into a thin flour. Add some salt and the batter is ready! The thickness of the batter is often a matter of debate among women and families but to each his own!
Neer Dosa has now become a regular and famous accompaniment to several curries and gravies. Restaurants and hotels across Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, and Karnataka serve their version. If you are a tourist or traveler visiting these states, you must sample the Neer Dosa. To have the authentic experience, try a homestay or local cafe where you are bound to find a traditional recipe passed over generations or a friendly grandmother willing to serve you her secret recipe!
Featured Photo by Charles Haynes