It should be noted that whilst palm oil production is infamous for its destruction of rainforest and animal habitats; palm sugar is not made from the same type of palm. Instead it is made from the sap of coconut and sago palms, whose cultivation do not appear to be linked with deforestation. It's not available in all supermarkets - currently Waitrose is the only store I've seen consistently selling it. If you can find it in an independent asian supermarket it will undoubtedly be cheaper.
The basic recipe is similar to that of pancakes, but it's somewhere in between uncommon and unheard of to use eggs in the batter, making it much more vegan friendly. Wheat flour and water are the main ingredients, with rice flour, spice and palm sugar for sweetness.
I've only had this in a restaurant once and was very impressed with it when I did. I don't remember tasting any spice in it at all, but it was at the end of a huge meal and I could have missed it. Unfortunately the restaurant (which was one of Leicester's finest vegetarian eateries) no longer exists :(
There are many recipes available online with similar ingredients but applied in varying ratios. There is probably no correct ratio, so I tried a couple of batches last night, using an average of several recipes and recording the quantities in grams and ml (I mean come on: cups, why would you do that?).
The first batch I made used wholemeal flour and came out looking fantastic, but witha course texture from the bran that detracted from the experience. The second batch used plain flour and slightly more rice flour. They worked really well, but didn't develop the lovely golden colour looked more like a regular pancake than a dosa.
I'm blogging both recipes for now and will next time try to find middle ground by using brown flour. I used ground cardamom and pistachios in both. The latter were my addition and I think they work well.
Common Ingredients (for 5 dosas):
- 40g Palm Sugar
- 100ml Boiling Water
- 100ml Cold Water
- 1 Cardamom Pod
- 10 Pistachio Kernels
The mixture is easy to make - you dissolve the palm sugar in the boiling water, add the cold water and strain. Grind the pistachio and cardamom to a course powder (discarding the cardamom shell) and mix with the flours. Add liquid a little at a time, stirring as you do.
You're aiming for a thinish lump free batter - I ended up adding a splash more water in the wholewheat batch, where as the plain was just right.
Once complete heat up a crepe pan (worth investing in, but a frying pan will work if you don't have one) over a medium to high heat. Rub a little sunflower oil across the surface with kitchen paper then add a ladleful of mixture. Start by pouring in the centre, then around in a circle. Use the bottom of the ladle to spread into a large circle. Add a drizzle of sunflower oil over the top.
The pan should be hot enough to cause the dosa to start to bubble and firm up quite quickly, but not so hot as to cause the dosa to firm up on impact (making spreading rather difficult) or to burn the sugar. As it cooks it should start to come away from the pan on its own, although it may need some gentle coercion around the edges (I found a metal palette knife to be best for this). Once the underside has browned and all liquid firmed lift the dosa and flip it over.
Cook the underside to the point where brown spots appear. Transfer to kitchen paper to remove excess oil and serve immediately.
As with all pancake making you should be prepared for the first to not work. If it takes too long, doesn't bubble at all, sticks and refuses to turn over without breaking apart then your pan isn't hot enough.
They can be folded with a bit of melted margarine and eaten on their own, or filled with vanilla ice-cream. The photo at the start of this post has some chocolate syrup drizzled over the top, but this isn't really needed.
I found the cardmom a little strong - next time I think I'm going to experiment with using cinnamon instead.