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South Indian Cooking: Masala Dosa with Coconut Chutney

Listed as one of the World’s most delicious foods by CNN Go in 2011, Masala dosa has also made its way into my book of favorites. From humble beginnings as a staple breakfast dish in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh in South India, dosas have now spread their popularity into neighboring Pakistan, Sri Lanka, across the seas to Malaysia and Singapore. My love for dosas began at the mamak stalls in Kuala Lumpur, where dosas are served round the clock. The concept can be akin to French crepes, but the taste and ingredients are very different. Essentially it is a very thin fermented crepe that is either served on its own with cooked lentils and chutney or stuffed with spicy potatoes or goats cheese or spinach to name a few.

Masala Dosa with Coconut Chutney

The beauty of a dosa lies in its crispness. The batter has to be spread thinly around a flat griddle or pan, so that once cooked the dosa is paper thin and crisp. Most mamaks in Malaysia serve the dosa without any fillings and simply with lentils, coconut chutney and fish curry. But I set out to try and recreate the same dosa but with a spicy potato filling. All I can say that it was not easy at first, with the dosa either becoming to thick or disintegrating completely as i tried to pick it up from the pan. It took me quite a lot of wasted batter to finally come close to a crispy dosa. It still was not perfect, but then again practice makes it perfect. Slowly but surely I am confident that I would come close to a crispy thin dosa. The recipe that follows is my version of a masala dosa served with a piquant coconut chutney.

Masala Dosa with Coconut Chutney


For the Dosa:

  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 cup urad lentils
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • Salt

For the Potato Filling:

  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Oil

For the Coconut Chutney:

  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped green chillies
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • Salt
  • Juice of 1 lime


For the Dosa:

  • Separately soak the lentils and rice overnight
  • Grind the rice and lentils into powder form separately and mix in a bowl
  • Add the salt and slowly pour in water, while stirring. Keep mixing till all the lumps disappear and a smooth runny batter has been formed
  • Dosa Batter

  • If the batter is still thick, add some more water. The batter needs to be runny as that helps the dosas to be thin and crisp
  • Cover the batter and leave it to settle at room temperature for 3-4 hours
  • Heat a griddle or round pan with some cooking oil, just enough to smear around the pan
  • Scoop out the batter with a ladle and pour in the center of the pan. Using the back of the ladle spread the batter in a circular motion till it reaches the end of the pan. This has to be done softly and quickly, because once the batter begins to heat up it will not spread. Oil the back of the ladle slightly so that it does not stick to the batter
  • Spread the batter in the Pan

  • Let the dosa cook for about 5 minutes till it starts to brown. It is better to just let it cook on one side as the heat from the pan escapes to the top as well due to the thinness of the dosa. This prevents the dosa from breaking while flipping it to the other side.
  • Once the dosa is brown and crisp from the bottom, carefully remove from the pan and set aside

For the Potato Filling:

  • Boil the potatoes in salted water for about half an hour till they become soft
  • Let them cool and them mash the potatoes till they are completely broken down and mushy
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and cook the onions till they are translucent, make sure they do not brown at this stage
  • Add all the spices and mustard seeds and cook for 3-4 minutes till the spices are fragrant and the onions have browned
  • Add a tablespoon of water to prevent the spice mixture from burning and mix well
  • Add the mashed potatoes to the pan and mix well till the spice mixture has been thoroughly infused with the potatoes. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes and switch off the heat
  • Spicy Potato Filling

  • Sprinkle with some chopped coriander if you so desire
  • Once the potatoes have cooled down slightly, spoon 2-3 tbsp of the filling onto the center of the dosa
  • Spicy Potato Filling

  • Carefully fold the dosa from both the vertical sides to form a wrap
  • Turn it around and serve

For the Coconut Chutney:

  • In a food processor, blitz the chillies and mint leaves together till they form a choppy paste
  • Add it to a bowl along with the coconut, yoghurt, salt and lime juice
  • Mix well together
  • Adjust the spices according to your taste
  • Coconut Chutney

  • Add some hot water if you want the chutney to be runny, however I prefer it to be moderately thick

Masala Dosa with Coconut Chutney

It seemed like a long endless process, but actually it only took long as it was my first time at attempting to make a dosa. The coconut chutney and potato filling can be made in advance and refrigerated. The spiciness of the potatoes along with a crisp dosa is complemented by the creamy coconut chutney. It is a delightful dish that can be served as a main course at any time of the day. Full of carbohydrates, it makes sense why the South Indian diet includes a dosa as a breakfast staple, helps to keep the energy flowing all day long. First mentioned in Tamil literature in the 6th century, the dosa has come a long way spreading its wings across all continents, courtesy of its simple yet full-bodied flavors. A must try for every epicurean palate.

Masala Dosa with Coconut Chutney

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  • Maureen

    I have always wanted to give Dosas a go, but never had the courage. Your well set-out recipe has now inspired me! Thanks a lot.

    • Thanks Maureen. I have to admit I had the same problem with attempting this dish, but one day I just decided to take the plunge. It just had to be done. Just take the step Maureen, it will be great

      • Maureen

        Hi – Just one question: I also have rice flour in my kitchen. Can that be used. I have no problem with the rice, but asking for interest sake.

        • I am sure you can use it Maureen, since its made from grinding rice anyway.

  • Maureen

    Im going to try that as well as the soaked, ground rice. Thanks – and keep on blogging!

  • Very nice recipe. I am also very fond of cooking. Here is my version of south indian idlis in chinese style:

  • Very nice recipe. I am definitely gonna try it. I have also tried south indian idlis in Chinese style. You can visit my blog to explore the recipe.

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