I was recently asked how I eat healthy in the midst of a busy schedule. I have been “blessed” with a weaker digestive system, so if I don’t stay on track with food that is appropriate for me, I feel it. Thus, I have fairly high motivation for keeping my food consumption in check. Some tools I find helpful include planning ahead and batch cooking (preparing food in large amounts, so it can stretch throughout the week), and when all else fails, in good times and bad, I heavily depend on dosas (doe-sah) and uttapams (oo-tah-pom).
I am often sharing my love of dosa and uttapam, so I thought I would post the preparation process, and you might find that you love it too…
Dosas and uttapams are South Indian fried bread, made with a simple fermentation process of rice and lentils. Both are made with the same recipe, but dosas are crepe-like, while uttapams are pancake-like. They are delicious alone, and serve as a wonderful base for endless meal possibilities.
Yes, they are gluten-free and optionally vegan. For folks who are giving up bread, they may satisfy that craving, and the fermentation process makes the grains and legumes easier to digest. And did I mention they are frugal-friendly?
How to make the batter…
Ingredients for 1 quart of batter:
1 cup rice (white basmati is considered traditional, though I’ve used many kinds: brown, white, wild, basmati, long grain, etc. All work fine.)
1/2 cup lentils (Urad daal, white lentils, are traditional. I usually use red lentils because it is easily found and makes a lovely pink batter. I have also used green lentils, black lentils, and mung beans)
3 Tbsp Fenugreek seeds (optional, does fine without)
1/2 cup yogurt or kefir (optional, does fine without)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
cooking oil (I usually use coconut)
Preparing the batter…
Step 1. Put rice, lentils, and fenugreek seeds into a quart jar or bowl. Cover with twice as much water, a dash of vinegar or lemon juice, and let soak 8-12 hours. It will swell.
Step 2. Strain out the water.
Step 3. Blend the rice, lentils, and fenugreek with 1 cup water and yogurt or kefir (optional). Blend into a batter the consistency of pancake batter. It should be pourable and fine (not chunky). Add more water if you’d like. I use a Nutrabullet and let it blend for a long minute to make it as fine as possible. Sometimes I get impatient and cut the blending time short, but then I always regret having chunky batter at mealtime.
Step 4. Allow this batter to sit out for 12-48 hours, or longer. The batter will rise. In warm weather (like Florida summer), the process will move fast and I feel satisfied with the batter after 12 hours. You can even leave it out for a couple days and the sour, cheesy flavor intensifies…the magic of fermentation at work!
Step 5. After you’ve allowed it to ferment, add salt to the batter. Cap the jar and store in the fridge. It can last for a few weeks, and will continue to ferment at a slower pace, cultivating a cheesy and savory flavor.
Cooking the batter…
*Please note: Dosas are crepe-like preparations, while uttapams are pancake-like preparations. The recipe above sets you up to make uttapams, so if you’d like to try dosas, simply add more water to the batter to thin it out. (My fickle stovetop only allows for the thicker pancake-style uttapams.)
Step 6. OPTIONAL: Herbs such as chopped garlic, basil, cilantro, parsley, grated ginger, and spice powders (try turmeric, cumin, coriander, etc.) can be stirred into the batter.
Step 7. Heat a well-seasoned frying pan, preferably cast iron, with a touch of oil.
Step 8. Once it is nice and hot, use a ladle to pour batter onto the pan. I like to make them small, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Use the ladle to spread the batter out in a spiral-like fashion.
Step 9. Watch for little bubbles to appear on the surface, just like a pancake. Once the bottom has thoroughly cooked, flip it with a spatula and cook the other side. Lightly oil the pan between uttapams. If this doesn’t go perfectly on the first try, don’t give up! If they are sticking to the pan, then it is probably not seasoned enough. I have a cast iron that never gets rinsed or washed and it works well.
Preparing your meal…
Once you’ve cooked your uttapams, the possibilities really are endless. I often top them with the following layers…
Layer 1: A spread. This can be butter, pesto, dairy cheese, cashew cheese, guacamole, pâté, etc.
Layer 2: Stir fry. Nothing beats simple sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, with some diced potatoes and tempe.
Layer 3: A sauce. I often make a tahini sauce, or a spicy salsa drizzle.
Layer 4: Gomasio. Nearly everything I make gets topped with gomasio, which is roasted sesame seeds freshly ground onto the dish. Definitely not necessary; I just really like it.
Here are some examples of meals I’ve prepared that center around uttapams…
Breakfast: My breakfast uttapam is topped with avocado, a spinach-bidens-garlic omelette, and gomasio.
Lunch: This lunch uttapam is topped with an asian-inspired stir fry, in which the carrots, asparagus, onions, and mushrooms are sautéed in a little coconut oil, peanut butter and a lot of Tamari. Topped with gomasio, of course.
Dinner: These uttapams are topped with a spread of cashew-cheese, a stir fry of onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, and tempe. Tahini sauce is drizzled on top.
Dessert: Yep, they can even be made into a sweet! Simply add 1 Tbsp sweetener to 1 cup batter. I like to use maple syrup. It turns out very similar to a pancake. This one is topped with Elderberry syrup and a dollop of ice cream. Oh yeah.
Late night snack: Sometimes my favorite way to enjoy uttapams are plain, with a little butter and a lot of gomasio ground on top. On this particular night, I paired them with fried plantains and it hit the spot 🙂
So there you have it…the dosa/uttapam fix! I start my week by making a batch of batter, and then my toppings are dictated by whatever else I find in my kitchen. On days when I haven’t planned squat, I can usually scrounge uttapams, onions, and potatoes, and that in and of itself is not a bad meal to whip up on the fly!