Masala Dosa With Coconut Chutney From Padma Lakshmi

June 18, 2020
Photo by Padma Lakshmi
Author Notes

"Of all the dishes Padma Lakshmi cooks, dosa hits the closest to home, because it’s one of her earliest food memories. At two years old, she sat and watched her grandmother grind rice for the batter in the reservoir of a huge, flat, two-foot-wide stone. Recalling the tedious process, Lakshmi demonstrates with movements of her hands how the fermented rice and lentils are carefully combined into a paste and thinned with water for fresh dosa batter. Her grandmother did that every day for 10 people when Lakshmi was a child; when she grew old enough to use the stovetop, at age 12, her grandmother eventually taught her the technique for the perfect dosa.

Her Aunt Bhanu—whose recipe she shared with us for masala dosas and coconut chutney, all coordinated via a long WhatsApp chain—continued that tradition whenever Lakshmi visited her in India. Even after partying until 4 a.m., if a group of them came back to the house, Bhanu would ask if they wanted some fresh dosas. It became a love language that Lakshmi has passed down to her daughter, too." —Alyse Whitney


  • Prep time 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • Homemade Dosa Batter (NOTE: You can also buy prepared batter from your local Indian store):
  • 3 cups white long grain rice
  • 1 1/4 cups urad dal (white gram lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup canola or untoasted sesame oil
  • Aloo Masala:
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or untoasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal (white gram lentils)
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into thin crescents
  • 1 to 2 green chilies, such as serranos, sliced into thin strips lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems), chopped
  • Coconut Chutney:
  • 1 splash canola or untoasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chana dal (split yellow gram lentils)
  • 1 fresh coconut, drained and peeled, cut into small chunks (or 10 ounces frozen and grated coconut)
  • 2 to 3 fresh green chilies, such as serrano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Tadka (Tempered Spices) for Coconut Chutney
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon urad dal (white gram lentils)
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  • 12 to 15 fresh curry leaves
In This Recipe
  1. To make the dosa batter:
  2. Soak the rice in a large bowl with enough water to cover (by approximately 3 liters or 12 cups.) In a separate bowl, soak lentils in (approximately 4 cups) water. Let both bowls stand on counter for at least 5 hours.
  3. Blend both lentils and rice together in a blender until a smooth batter is formed.
  4. Pour batter into a deep pot, making sure there’s plenty of room for batter to rise up. Now cover and place in an off oven and let stand overnight. Dosa batter is like an old woman and needs a shawl to keep it warm in cooler months—so if the weather is cold, you can help the fermentation by wrapping the covered pot in a towel to keep it extra warm. The warmer it is, the better the fermentation. But do not heat!
  5. After a minimum of 24 hours check to see if the batter has risen well/fermented. You’ll know if you see tiny air bubbles on its surface. The longer you wait, the more sour (and tastier) the batter will be.
  6. Stir the batter well and add a tablespoon of salt.
  7. Heat a flat griddle or very large frying pan on medium high heat. Use a rounded ladle to pour just a ¼ cup of batter in the center. Starting in the middle, make concentric circles to spread the batter evenly and thinly to make a crepe-like round. Drizzle an espresso spoon or two of oil around the edges to crisp up the perimeter of dosa.
  8. When air bubbles start to appear and the underside seems golden, take a spatula and lift around the perimeter of the dosa to make sure it’s not sticking, and flip the dosa carefully. Make sure the spatula goes in under the dosa enough so that the dosa doesn’t fold when you try to flip it.
  9. Once flipped, just heat through the other side of the dosa through for a minute. Remove from heat, add a few tablespoons of the aloo masala mixture (recipe below) to one half of the dosa, close to form a half-moon, and serve right away with chutney (recipe also below). Uncooked, the dosa batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  10. To make the aloo masala:
  11. Bring a pot of water to boil over high. Once the water boils, add the potatoes. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes, then drain in a colander. Using a wooden spoon, smash half of the potatoes, while leaving the other half in cubes. Stir to distribute the smashed potatoes among the cubes and set aside.
  12. Using a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop, about 1 minute. Once the seeds begin popping, add the urad dal, and cook until toasted and golden, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  13. Add the onion and green chilies, and sauté until onions are translucent—about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the turmeric powder and mix well.
  14. After another minute, add the smashed potatoes and sauté until masala is distributed evenly and potatoes are warmed through. If the mixture seems dry, add a splash of water. Add one teaspoon of kosher salt, or more as needed. Turn off the stove. Garnish with lemon juice and chopped cilantro.
  15. To make the coconut chutney:
  16. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil over medium. Add chana dal and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
  17. In a blender, add coconut, roasted chana dal with oil, green chiles, and salt, blending to a fine paste. Add water, a tablespoon or so at a time, as needed to help mixture blend. Transfer chutney to a small bowl and set aside.
  18. Make the tadka: In a small saucepan or skillet, heat canola oil over medium. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop, about 1 minute. Once popping, add the urad dal, red chile and asafetida and cook until dal is golden, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  19. Add fresh curry leaves (be careful not to stand too close to the pan when you do this step because fresh curry leaves have a lot of oil in them and will react to the oil in the pan by splattering), sauté for 10-15 seconds, then pour over coconut chutney and mix well.

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