On the train from Kollam to Ernakulum we got chucked off our seats and ended up sitting in between the carriages. We were waitlist number 43 and the hundreds of people getting on had all bought their tickets sometime in advance. But at least we were only on the train for 3 hours; the three guys sitting with us by the doors were waitlist 133 and had to go all the way to Hyderabad. 30 hours on a train floor, not my idea of fun.
Turns out they are all engineering students, on a trip to visit a famous temple, and of course they wanted to practice their English. Which is fine, I love talking to people and If I’m helping them then all the better. So we’re talking and I tell them I’m a chef, and one of them asks me
– What’s your favourite Indian Dish?
I had to think about this one a while. There are so many different dishes, different styles, different regions, how can you pick just one? Finally I said
– Masala Dosa
– Mine too, If you come to Hyderabad you will have the best Dosa, he replied
I’m not too sure about that but it got me thinking about all the masala dosas I’ve had in the past couple of years, In fact I’ve eaten one everyday I’ve been in India so far.
A dosa is a big flat, crispy pancake made out of a fermented rice flour batter. It’s usually served with coconut chutney and sambar – a light veg curry. When it’s stuffed with potato masala it’s called a masala dosa.
My first Dosa was in Borneo, on a small island off Brunei, called Labuan. I’d never even heard of a Masala dosa when I took a recommendation from Lonely Planet for ‘Choice Restaurant’ and had one. It was an Epiphany, what had I been missing all these years – In fairness we don’t really have many South Indian places in Scotland. So I went on eating dosas around Malaysia, and when I moved to London I could go to several places locally to eat them, including Woodlands restaurant, which does a whole range of dosas.
The dosas in India have been a lot more rustic than the ones in the UK or Malaysia. They are often a little thick and not as crispy. The potato masala inside, however has been fantastic, loads of the curry leaves they love round, lots of mustard seeds, and not too spicy – which I think is good for what is essentially a breakfast item. The sambar has been good too. And nobody is ever going to complain about the price. I’ve loved every second of my dosa tour here.
But I do have to say, in my opinion. That my favourite Dosas are the ones served in a Tamil run restaurant in tooting, London, called ‘Dosa N’ Chutney’. They are perfect in everyway -super crisp, good sambar, great filling and three types of coconut chutney, plain, red chilli and coriander.
That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a better dosa in India. This is the home of dosa; surely there must be a Holy Grail, or dosa. I’ve only just started my journey though, so I’ll just have to keep on looking till I find it.