These thin, soft and savoury rice and urad dal pancakes, otherwise known as sada dosa, are to South Indians what crêpes are to the French, according to Devi, suitable for rolling and dipping into all kinds of chutneys or dips for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Instead of using a flour, egg and milk batter, however, these pancakes are made from nothing more than ground and fermented basmati rice and split urad dal with water and a little salt.
Because the soaking and fermentation process takes upward of a day and as much as two days, you will need to plan well ahead of time if you are going to make sada dosa, but blending the batter and frying the pancakes are relatively quick procedures. The planning time is well worth it however for the lovely, slightly sour fragrance and flavour that warm fermentation lends to these thin pancakes and for their delicate but crisp texture.
These savoury rice and urad dal pancakes went beautifully as part of a light meal I served with Devi's suggestion of Coconut and Mint Chutney for dipping as well as my hot Curried Vegetable Soup.
Savoury rice and urad dal pancakes
2/3 cup split urad dal, without skins
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
scant 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
ghee or olive oil for frying
Rinse the dal thoroughly under cold running water for several minutes, then place in a bowl. Add 3 cups of cold water and loosely cover. Similarly, rinse the rice under cold running water as well and place in a separate bowl. Again, cover with 3 cups of cold water and loosely cover. Allow both to soak for 4-6 hours.
Drain the dal and add to a blender. Process for about 1 1/2 minutes, adding 1/2 cup of warm water in tablespoons. Stop now and then to push the dal down with a spatula. Slowly add another 1/4 cup of warm water and continue to blend for a couple more minutes until the batter is light and frothy. Using a spatula, remove all the batter into a large ceramic or glass mixing bowl.
Drain the rice and add to the blender. Grind for 1 1/2 minutes, stopping now and then to push the rice down with a spatula, until it is ground into a meal. Add 1/2 cup of warm water and blend for 1 minute before adding another 1/4 cup of water. Blend for 3-4 minutes until the rice forms a fine paste-like batter.
Scrape the rice batter into the bowl with the dal batter and gently stir to mix. Drape a dish towel or cloth over the bowl and loosely cover with a plate. Set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen to ferment for at least 24 hours. When finished, the batter should have expanded in volume and be covered on the surface with little bubbles. The aroma of the batter should be pleasantly sour and slightly fruity. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, the fermentation process may take as long as two days as it did in my winter kitchen.
Once fermented, stir in the salt and add some warm water if necessary to thin the consistency to that of a light cake batter. At this point, the batter is ready to be fried, or it may be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days for later use.
Preheat a 10-inch frying pan or cast-iron pan over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the pan to test the temperature — if it is just right, the drops will dance and sputter before vanishing. If the drops vanish right away, turn down the temperature slightly, or if the drops just sit on the surface before boiling, turn up the temperature slightly. Brush the surface with a light film of ghee or olive oil.
Scoop 1/3 cup of the batter and place on the middle of the pan. Wait a few seconds, then place the bottom of a ladle or large spoon in the centre of the batter and spread it outwards in a continuous spiral, pressing lightly, until you have a thin round or oval pancake about 8 inches in diameter. Drizzle a teaspoon of the ghee or olive oil over the surface and around the edges of the pancake.
Cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes until small holes appear on the top of the batter and the bottom is golden to reddish-brown. Loosen the edges with a spatula and turn the pancake over. Fry, uncovered, for another minute or so, then flip over once again, fold the pancake in half and slip it out of the pan on to a warming plate or into an oven preheated to 250° while you repeat the process. Repeat the water sprinkling periodically to test the temperature of the pan and brush with more ghee or oil before adding each 1/3 cup of batter.
Serve hot, or store wrapped in aluminum foil and reheated in a 350° oven. Makes about a dozen pancakes.