To most it’s really a snack. If you have a kind South Indian friend/relative then its breakfast and if you’re American it’s apparently one of the 10 foods around the world to try before you die.
While the masala dosa has come a long way from being just a staple in south Indian households, it unfortunately retains its humble position on most restuarant menus in India.
In a generous elevation from an everyday snack to a food that may see a death convict seek it on death row, the Huffington Post says:
If one subcontinental meal could persuade a committed carnivore to order vegetarian, my vote would go to a masala dosa in South India. The plate-covering, paper-thin pancake is made from rice and lentils, cooked to lacy perfection on a hot griddle. What creates the flavor is a spiced concoction of mashed cooked potatoes and fried onions, served with a liberal dose of garlicky chutney.
A garlicky chutney?? Maharashtrians are familiar with the ‘garlicky chutney’ that accompanies their vada-pavs but serve one with their masala dosa, even they would blanch. A south Indian, might, as one friend once said when served a damp masala dosa, “Burn the place down”.
The mention of the ‘garlicky’ chutney will make any self-respecting consumer of the Masala Dosa deeply suspicious. And here is where we paused.
Perhaps, the HuffingtonPost felt it must have Indian representation. Indian food is too widely eaten and liked in the US not to find it on a must-have list. Perhaps the tandoori chicken and butter chicken refrain was getting a bit everyday and a vegeterian option would catch the reader’s attentions. Perhaps there is an outlet in San Francisco or New York that is churning out the dosas with ’garlicky’ chutney.
But then we asked ourselves the question: Does the masala dosa really deserve its place in this pantheon of dishes? Would it beat back the mildly spiced tandoori chicken, the plain and humble idli, the deliciously sinful butter chicken, the pantheon of Bengali dishes, the irresistable dal baati churma, the biriyani and numerous other dishes regional to one part of India but popular across the nation, reinterpreted as it is crossed borders?
Undoubtedly yes. Whether accompanied by the insipid watery sambars of Mumbai’s Udupi restaurants, made with the bland masalas in Kerala, coated with the sweetish-ghee laden chutney in Karnataka or eaten on the road under an umbrella (or evidently even with a garlicky chutney); it transcends them all to satiate and how. Having survived minor alterations as it travelled from the pans of south Indian homes, the masala dosa is perhaps one of the few dishes you can get anywhere in India that will, barring a few minor changes, have a consistent taste. The masala in the dosa also alters depending on where you eat it but it never takes away from the goodness that is the masala dosa.
Even if the Huffington Post has been the first of the Western publications to stumble on the goodness that is the masala dosa, and while it may not be as well travelled as its competitors like the butter and tandoori chicken, the mild masala dosa is nothing to be sniffed at. As long as it’s not served with garlicky chutney.