Mix and match
Your friendly neighbourhood dosa is getting a pan-Indian twist with fillings like galawati kabab and vegetable Manchurian, says Rahul Verma
I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of people. The first lot likes fusion and thinks there is nothing as good as a foie gras samosa. The second set can't abide the thought of mixing different kinds of food concepts, and can't even stand the thought of eating their salmon with a tart kasundi sauce.
I can understand the second group's concerns, but I have to admit that I belong to the first lot. I like mixing and matching. Of course, very often the match doesn't work. But unless you mix, how do you know what matches, and what flops?
In one part of Calcutta, a chef has been furiously working in a kitchen laboratory, mixing this with that, and testing and tasting the results. This is chef Niladri Chakraborty, whom I first got to know when he was at the Kenilworth Hotel in Calcutta. The chef, who is now moving to north India on a new assignment, has been tossing (and turning) a dish that's a hot favourite across India — the dosa. And he's looking at ways to change its DNA structure.
Take, for instance, something called a galawati dosa. Chef Niladri prepares the melt-in-the-mouth kabab with minced meat and spices, and then puts it inside a rawa dosa (prepared with semolina) as its filling.
"I also give a twist to the galawati, which is prepared on a tawa. I skewer it instead, which gives it a different texture," he says.
In some other corner, I can see a chef cringing in dismay. This is Arun Kumar T.R., who is the executive chef of the Zambar chain of restaurants, which specialises in southern Indian food. Chef Arun shudders at the thought of revamping dosas, and tells me that he has come across dishes called the Manchurian dosa and Szechuan dosa. The first has a stuffing of vegetable Manchurian (deep-fried veggie balls in a sauce), and the latter has the hotness of Szechuan food. I have also seen — though I must admit that despite my pro-fusion leanings, I left it untouched — something called the paneer Manchurian dosa.
Chilli con carne dosa
I don't suppose chef Arun is going to be greatly enthused by a dosa with a core of chilli con carne, a Mexican dish of kidney beans and minced meat. The chef believes that dosas should be left where they are — with their curry leaf and mustard flavoured potato fillings. And let the outer wraps consist of ground rice, or rice and dal, or semolina, he pleads.
Of course, there is no hard rule (barring the one in the conservative cook's book) that says a dosa had to be prepared with rice, or rice and dal. Chef Niladri sees no reason why it can't be prepared with polenta, which crops up in a host of Italian recipes.
What I find interesting is that for the filling, he doesn't restrict himself to Italian cuisine, but looks eastwards. He stir-fries onions with garlic, galangal, mushrooms, cauliflower florets, broccoli, red pepper, baby bok choy and Thai basil. The sauce for this is prepared with soy, dried crushed chilli flakes and brown sugar. And this goes into the polenta dosa.
Some chefs, however, believe that there can be a middle path. Praveen Anand, the executive chef at the Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers in Chennai, says his perfect dosa is the one with a filling of upma — a mix of cooked semolina and vegetables. He would like to sauté some onions, and then add a helping of upma to it. He'd mix it well, and then put it in the middle of a crisp dosa, and serve it with thin coconut chutney.
To each his own. For me, fusion is a melting pot. Let's just add more stuff to it.
Mediterranean Chicken Dosa (serves 1)
• 100g cubed boneless chicken breast • 1 tbs lemon juice • 1 tbs olive oil • 2 chopped garlic cloves • a pinch of cumin powder • a pinch of ground pepper • a pinch of red chilli powder • salt to taste • 1 tbs tahini • 15g chopped onion
For the accompaniment:
• 1 tbs hummus
For the salad:
• a few pieces of diced watermelon • 1 tsp feta cheese • 1 sprig mint leaves
Mix the chicken with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, pepper and chilli powders and salt. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours.
Place the chicken on skewers and grill for 15 minutes on both sides. Cut the cooked chicken into small pieces. Mix with sliced onions and tahini. Prepare a dosa in the normal way (place fermented ground rice and dal batter on hot tawa, drizzle oil on the sides, cook till the sides turn up). Put the chicken mixture at the centre of the dosa. Roll the dosa. Mix the ingredients for the salad. Serve the dosa with hummus and the melon, mint and feta salad.