Ayurvedic Fermented Food How-To: Dosa!
Dosa ingredients, ratios and soaking and fermenting times vary from recipe to recipe. What I am finding is that this is a rather forgiving ferment and easier than you might think! As long as you include at least 2:1 ratio of rice to legume, you can experiment with a variety of types of rice and beans/lentils. Some folks who don’t do well with rice or beans may still tolerate dosa because the acidic soak activates the enzymes which breakdown phytic acid and the fermentation breaks down many of the carbohydrates. Exact fermentation time varies on your location / ambient temperature and the desired flavor. The warmer it is, the faster it will ferment. The longer you ferment, typically the more sour it becomes. The batches I have experimented with thus far have all tasted like a delicious sourdough in a crepe format. Yum! You can use dosa in the same way you would a crepe – savory or sweet, as long as the sour flavor is complementary to what you’re serving with it! It’s delicious filled with or just served alongside most any kind of curry or chutney. Ayurvedic recommendations call for a balance of sour, salty, sweet, bitter and pungent at each meal. The sour flavor found in fermented foods is particularly balancing for vata dosha. The following recipe is adapted from one found in Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation with some additional tips from Fermentationist Summer Bock.
- Passive soaking and fermentation time: minimum 2 days, up to 4+ days
- Active: similar to making crepes or pancakes! (~an hour total)
Equipment to gather:
- Well-seasoned or non-stick frying pan
- Large mixing bowl (that can hold > 2x the volume of your dry rice/lentils)
- Towel or cloth napkin to cover the bowl during fermentation
- Mixing utensils
- Ladle to pour batter into pan
Ingredients (makes about 32 dosas):
- 2 cups rice (white Basmati is traditional and comes out nice and fluffy, the pictures here were red cargo rice which will yield a more chewy result)
- 1 cup lentils (urad dal is traditional, red lentils work great and are easy to find, the pictures here were split moong dal)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt (favorite: pink Himalayan or sea salt)
- Optional flavorings for cooking day: 1 small bunch cilantro (pitta balancing) and/or 1 inch fresh ginger root (vata/kapha balancing)
- Oil for pan (I liked using a little coconut oil on a paper towel)
- Soak the rice and lentils in filtered or spring water for at least 8 hours or overnight to soften them. Summer Bock recommends adding a tablespoon of lemon juice at this stage for some acidity. This activates phytase enzymes and may discourage less desirable microbes from taking up residence. Cover them with plenty of water as they will expand and swell. You can leave them soaking up to 48 hours – they may being to bubble or sour a bit and Sandor Katz says that’s fine.
- Strain the rice and lentils, reserving the soaking liquid.
- Grind the rice and lentils into a batter. I added the tsp of salt at this stage as Summer Bock does for her idli recipe, Sandor Katz adds his just before cooking with other flavorings). You will need some of that soaking liquid for the grinding process, and you may have to do it in stages. You don’t have to get it to crepe batter consistency at this point because you can always add more liquid just before cooking. I used a Vitamix and it worked GREAT! You can use a food processor, but you may need to blend a second time after fermentation. Note: Many South Indian ferments call for yogurt, and Sandor Katz lists it as an optional liquid addition at this stage. If you are trying to adhere to Ayurvedic food combining principles, milk is not recommended at the same time as beans. Remember, not all Indian recipes are Ayurvedic! Make sure the vessel you put the blended batter back into for fermentation is has plenty of room for expansion! My white basmati variation expanded nearly 2x! You’ll also want to leave some room in the bowl for adding water to thin the batter when it’s time to make up the crepes.
- Cover your vessel with towel/cloth to keep critters and rogue mold spores away and allow to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. You can go longer, but longer is not necessarily the goal unless you really like sour funkiness (I don’t recommend that for your very first trial!) I just keep an eye on it and watch for it to rise. My red cargo rice version didn’t rise very much, so I tasted a teeny bit every 12 hours to see if it tasted sour or if it tasted like raw beans.
- Add enough room temp water to the batter to produce a thin crepe-like batter (thinner than regular pancake batter). Most likely about 1 cup.
- If using optional flavorings, chop cilantro, great ginger and add these to the batter. Stir well.
- Heat a well-seasoned frying pan. Add oil and let it heat up. Ladle the batter into the center of the pan and either use the bottom of the ladle to spiral the batter from the center out and spread it, or swirl the pan a la Julia Childs (depending on the type of pan you’re using). Cook as a pancake, flipping after bubbles appear on the surface and the crepe lifts freely. If necessary, thin the batter with more water. Lightly oil the pan between dosas.
- Enjoy dosas plain, or stuffed with curry, chutney or other fermented veggies. I made some Cholar Dal to enjoy with these. Note: asafoetida / hing is typically not gluten free, but you can get some GF from redonionspice.com