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Chutney recipes to enjoy dosas without sambar

From spicy tangy dangar chutney to sweet churna, a number of lesser known side dishes elevate dosas

Dosas are usually served with coconut chutneys and sambhar.
Dosas are usually served with coconut chutneys and sambhar. (Pixabay)

Last week, a bizarre news story made me question my dependency on side dishes for dosas that come with a main character's energy. A restaurant in the Buxar district of Bihar was fined 3,500 for not serving sambar with masala dosa, reported a story by Hindustan Times. When we think of a dosa, it’s almost reflexive to picture it with coconut chutney and sambar; it’s just one of the things that feels incomplete without the other. So, it might come as a surprise that other than these much-loved side dishes, dosas can be enjoyed with lesser-known accompaniments as well.

Also read: More than just idli dosas

More than coconut chutneys and sambar, I have grown up eating dosas with my mother’s groundnut chutney podi, which now I dive into whenever nostalgia takes over. Today, podis have gained immense popularity, especially among those looking for a spice kick. From masala dosa glistening with podi to thatte idlis smeared with a generous amount of podi and ghee or oil, the novelty has now become a habit.

However, there are a few lesser known side dishes that deserve the spotlight for the unique ways they complement dosas. 

Vada curry

For a long time, I used to visualise this dish as vadas dipped in sambar, but turns out, that’s not even a close guess. There are at least two ways of doing this. Some use fried masala vada and some steam the vadas. For the latter, soaked chana dal is ground with green chillies, salt, curry leaves, and fennel seeds. Steam the vadas in a cooker, for around 10 minutes. After they cool down, break them into small pieces.

In another pan, saute onions, ginger and garlic paste, tomatoes, chilli powder, coriander powder, and turmeric powder. Once they get a bit mushy, add the salt. Depending on how thick you want the curry, add water, and let it simmer. Once it boils, add the crumbled vada and simmer until the curry thickens. Eat with dosas or even chapatis.

Dangar chutney

If you are craving something tangy with your dosa, this might just be it. Usually made during special occasions, this chutney uses two different varieties of onions and chillies, Indian shallots or sambar onions and gundu chillies, respectively. Gu. These onions are much smaller in size compared to the usual ones and the chillies as the name suggests, are kind of round. The chutney is all about enhancing the flavours of these two ingredients.

In a pan, add oil and mustard seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the gundu chillies and saute for two minutes or so. Then add in the sliced shallots and cook until the shallots gain a brown colour. To this add tamarind water or paste, salt, red chilli powder and water as needed. For the tangy flavour, add a bit of jaggery and let this mixture thicken. Serve it hot with crispy dosas. 

Gundu chillies are usually available in online markets such as Big Basket but if you can find them in local shops, pick them up. Alternatively, you can use dry red chillies. 

Sweet churna

While I am not a fan of eating anything sweet in the morning, I have seen my mother make a quick mix with neer dosas. Churna is the simplest of all the accompaniments and takes two minutes. To make this, mix grated coconut with jaggery and add a pinch of cardamom powder, based on your preference. If you want a smoother mixture, then give it a whirl in a mixer or else just combine the ingredients by hand. Paired with neer dosas, it almost tastes like a dessert.

Ulli theeyal

This is another side dish where the shallots shine. This gravy-based mixture has a sour and spicy taste that is bound to feel refreshing. In a pan, heat coconut oil and add coriander seeds. After a few seconds, add cumin seeds, pepper, fenugreek seeds and dry red chillies. The number of red chillies depends on how spicy you want it to be. Usually, about three to four are added. As the chillies change colour, add grated coconut and lightly saute this until the coconut turns golden brown. Once it cools down, grind it to make a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a pan, saute the shallots until they turn light brown. To this add turmeric powder and tamarind extract and let it simmer. Finally add the coconut paste, water as needed, salt, and jaggery. Let this simmer for a few minutes. Temper this with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and a red chilli sautéed in oil.

Also read: Looking beyond masala dosa, through Amma's lens

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