Mysore Masala Dosa

This was the first time I ever “winged it” with an Indian recipe. I mean, it’s not as though I threw the recipe out the window, but there was nothing that said “30 seconds later add the” or “2 minutes later combine the”, as Madhur Jaffrey is prone to do in my favourite Indian cookbook. Actually the cookbook of hers that I have doesn’t have many South Indian dishes. So I turned to the internet with its sketchy, and often missing, instructions for a recipe for mysore masala dosa – my favourite fermented rice and lentil crepe known for its slightly (to not-so-slightly) spicy potato filling.

3 cups boiled and slightly mashed potatoes
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup boiled peas (not really optional, but I didn’t have any, so for me it was optional. For you, well, you can do what you want)
3-4 finely chopped green chilies (I only had red. Well, oops, but that’s what I’d bought in bulk at the farmers’ market, so that’s what I used)
1/4 inch piece of ginger, finely minced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch asafoetida
4-5 curry leaves
salt to taste
1 tsp turmeric 
1 tsp cumin 
chopped coriander
1/2 cup grated fresh coconut (again, not really optional, but the fresh coconut options around the city are minimal, and I’m just one person anyway, and that’s a lot of coconut to eat. So I kept my carbon footprint relatively in check…or at least let it balance with my purchase of Greek figs. So worth it).

See, there were no actual instructions on how all these things should be put together, but with some other dosa cross referencing, I got the general idea. Besides, you’d rarely see an Indian cook with a recipe…but that Indian cook would probably have grown up in a household where such things as recipes were passed down from mouth-to-mouth, so to speak.

Boil the potatoes. Boil them whole if you’ve got the time, since they slip easily out of their jackets and I think retain more of their nutrients if boiled with the skins on. If you don’t have time, peel them and chop them into smaller sections. When a fork goes into them easily, remove them from the pot and either plunge into ice water to cool, or let them cool on their own while you’re busy doing other things…
…such as chopping the chilies. I like to take the seeds out before I chop the chilies, since the seeds give pure heat and no flavour, but if you want that burning sensation to come quicker and don’t care about the heat, leave them in and save yourself the trouble. Get all the other ingredients ready and measured. This goes pretty fast, so unless you are a chopping superstar whose spices are all alphabetically organized, be humble and do the mise-en-place. Oh! That includes peeling and mashing the potatoes. You CAN mash them after you’ve thrown them into the frying pan later, but it takes extra time and thing may burn while you’re attempting to mash. Then if you’re like me you know they’re not going to want to mash and you’ll start swearing at it and cursing your lack of a decent potato masher, when a slotted spoon would have been just fine if you’d actually mashed the potatoes before you’d turned on the heat…but that’s just me. You are much smarter than that. Anyway, mashing roughly is fine. I kind of like the lumps because potato purée dosa has a less interesting, more baby-food-like texture.
Okay, go! The oil goes in the large frying pan on medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. Wait 30 seconds. With mustard seeds you always wait 30 seconds, well approximately. You wait for them to “pop” and in every recipe that apparently takes 30 seconds. Mine didn’t pop…so I cried a little inside and turned up the heat. Maybe my pan wasn’t ready yet. 
Then add the ginger, garlic, chilies, and curry leaves and stir relatively frantically so it doesn’t burn. 
When everything is getting a little softened and brown a few minutes alter add the turmeric, cumin and coriander. Now you really need to stir since the dry spices will burn very easily. When it’s stirred (it doesn’t need to cook more than a minute) add the potatoes (pre-mashed!) and stir everything. The potatoes should turn yellow-orange from the turmeric. The oil will get sucked up, as though through a straw, into the potatoes and your masala is done. You can add a little water to thin it and make the potatoes a little more tender if they’re a variety that’s naturally starchy. Oh! Salt to taste! Very important! There’s no other salt in this recipe and the salt really brings it together, so be generous. Garnish with chopped coriander (cilantro) and wrap in dosa. Die from joy from eating so luxuriously, simply, and healthy. Okay, maybe don’t die, but experience some kind of blissful state. Please.


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