The temperature began dropping last week and my response was to make an warming Indian meal. I hankered for Indian crepes but didn’t want to ferment and grind batter. Something simple was in order and rava dosas came to mind. The southern Indian crepe is made with readily available ingredients and the batter does not require fermentation. Mix it up and an hour later, it’s ready.
I had them with a light curry, chutney and raita. The next day we had the crepes for lunch with a dollop of yoghurt that I mixed up into a quick raita, and a salad. I based the recipe below from one in Julie Sahni’s magnificent Savoring India cookbook.
She used bell pepper and lots of serranos and dried chile flakes. I dialed up the fruity fresh chile heat by using pasilla and Fresnos and lowered the others. Regardless of the chile combination, the result was something to rave about. We didn’t mind eating rava dosas two days in a row.
I’d never made rava dosa before and there were extra lacy, crisp versions online. I stuck to Sahni’s recipe because she said it was an ancient one. It's nice to check out old school renditions of foods to understand their roots. If you don’t know Julie Sahni, she is one of the foremost Indian food authorities, author of Classic Indian Cooking and Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking. A scholarly woman who rocks in the kitchen.
Rava dosa tips and tweaks:
- Where to buy semolina and rice flour? At an Indian market or the bulk section of a health food store or a place like Whole Foods. It’s much cheaper than getting semolina for making Italian pasta.
- When prepping a day in advance, mix the batter and cooking the vegetables. Refrigerate them separately. Return them to room temperature and combine before you make the crepes.
- For appetizer size portions, make these as small as silver dollar pancakes. Or cut the ones below into wedges.
- Accompaniments: You can serve this with a sambhar. See the note section of the Dal Dhokli recipe on Asian Dumpling Tips for guidance. Or, enjoy the crepes with a coconut cilantro chutney.
Semolina Crepes with Chile
Yield: 8 crepes, to serve 4
- 4 ounces (115 g) fine-grind semolina
- 2 ounces (60 g) rice flour, any brand, Asian or not
- 1 1/2 ounces (45 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (480 ml) water
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more as needed
- 1 large pasilla chile or 2 large jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely diced
- 2 Fresno or other moderately-hot red chile, seeded and finely diced
- 1 extra-large shallot, chopped (1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 75 g)
- 1 or 2 serrano chiles, unseeded, thinly sliced
- About 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, pounded with mortar and pestle
- 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- About 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt, full fat or 2% preferred
- For the batter, put the semolina, rice flour and regular flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center and whisk in the water until smooth. Cover and set aside to thicken at room temperature, 1 hour. Or refrigerate overnight, returning the batter to room temp before using.
- In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add all three types of chiles, shallot, dried red chile flakes and cumin. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until slightly softened and halfway cooked. Off heat, stir in 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Let cool briefly then dump into the batter. Taste and season with the salt. You should have about 2 2/3 cups (630 ml) of batter, which should be pourable and thick like buttermilk.
- For a quick yoghurt raita, mix the yoghurt with 1 to 2 tablespoons water to soften and turn creamy. Season with salt and if you like, pound a little more cumin and add to the to the yoghurt. Set aside.
- To make the crepes, reheat the nonstick skillet or a griddle over medium-high heat. Brush with a little oil. For each crepe, ladle about 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the batter onto the pan. Swirl the skillet or use the bottom of the ladle to spread the batter to about the thickness of a bean sprout. It does not need to be a perfect circle. Drizzle a teaspoon or so of oil around the edge, let cook until browned, nearly 2 minutes. Use a spatula to turn over and cook the other side for 30 to 45 seconds longer. Repeat to make more from the remaining batter. As you work, you can add extra water to thin out the batter and make the dosas a little more crisp or thinner. Adjust the heat accordingly.
- These crepes soften as they cool. If you want to return a bit of their chewy-crispness, throw them back into the skilet or onto the griddle for a short spell. Serve the crepes with a plop of yoghurt and sprinkle of cilantro.
If you’re an old hand at making or eating rava dosas, do you have tips to add?