Two Dosais


So I decided to write a song. Another one.

This time what moved me wasn’t the backbeat, or complex chord harmonies. It was the sizzle and smell of a dosai.

That oily, artery-clogging, carb-filled, nutritionally-challenged, pure veggie mouthful of heaven that is served up at breakfast time in many South Indian homes, so their little children can grow up and all have heart attacks.

I’m not exaggerating. It’s all over the WSJ, the TOI and other papers.

Apparently if you’re a vegetarian, unwilling to eat animals, the Lord Above isn’t going to give you any special benefits. He’s going to wipe you out with a massive coronary all because of the sambar and idli, the dosai and chutney you walloped piously.

But this isn’t about that.

I overheard someone say that there are over six hundred types of dosais one can pick from.

It inspired me to find out if there’s any truth in it.

So here are some dosais you may have heard of… and some you may not know a thing about. The Perumal Koil Dosai which contains cumin, ginger and curry leaves. Sold in temples exclusively. The Rajaraja Chozhan dosai named after the Chola King Raja Raja Chola 1, who was a mighty dude, conquering neighbouring areas (including Lanka) with focus and despatch.

There is a similarity between the dosai and the sandwich. Both are carb-heavy accompaniments that act as fillers, taste-enhancers for the main dish. In the case of the dosai, what started with just the potato has now come to encompass a whole variety of foods starting with kheema, chicken curry and fish and ending up with something called American Chop Suey Dosai. It’s got noodles, (plain old Maggi I suppose) and ketchup. India, China and America colliding, waging war in your stomach. It probably needs a song of its own.

When I first met my SO (Significant Other) and he was still trying to impress me by taking me to unusual places, one of the first dates we went on was about a couple of hours away from Bangalore to a place called Salem, in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, a town well-known in some dosai eating circles as being the best place on earth to find the Omelet (they eschewed the ‘tte’ in those parts) Dosai. The people of Udupi may take offense at this, but I’m only trying to get to my point, at the end of this piece, so please forgive me.

There was a man, SO told me, who had set up a stall on the roadside, who mixed the dosai batter with his bare hands and swirled the egg into it, spinning it around on the fiery hot griddle with his forefinger, unmindful of getting burned, until the shape was just so.

People came from all over the area, prepared to stand in a long line just to get a taste.

He pooh-poohed my alarm (a minor issue based on the lack of hygiene) with a, ‘People have been eating this way for thousands of years.’

He paid no heed to my, ‘But they’re all dead!’ response.

It was, as SO stated, very delicious.

All of this led me to my song, a tribute to the dosai, in reggae-style, and you can listen to it here:

The lyrics are online so you can sing along. And if you’re compelled to go find a dosai, make it two. Rendu Dosai.

Bon apetit.

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