No other food has seen such a level of customization as this South India dish. Sambhar-dosa is a truly cosmopolitan dish now; considered an authentic south Indian dish originating from Karanataka, it has a multi-cultural love story.
The origin of Dosa can be traced back to a millennium from its mention in the Sangam Literature of Ancient Tamil Culture, where it was preferred as a soft and thick crepe served with a side curry (not sambhar). It has more than 100 different varieties ranging from soft and thick to paper-thin and crispy consistencies.
Sambhar, on the other hand, is not truly South Indian. It is believed to be first made in the courts of the Maratha King, Shahuji, for his guest, the Maratha Warrior, and Emperor, Sambaji, after whom it is supposedly named. Whatever the origin, over time, Sambhar has become the most commonly used side curry for Dosa, Idli, Pongal, Vada, and what-not. It is the most loved south Indian curry.
Dosa and Sambhar are the most loved and most commonly eaten dishes in Southern India. Dosa is now always served with Sambhar and coconut chutney.
But that is not the end of it. Dosa-Sambhar has emerged as a very prominent dish in India and several parts of the world. Breaking the monotony of daily life, a lot of people have embraced Dosa Sambhar into their staple, as well as a go-to dish when dining out. The proof is in hundreds and hundreds of Dosa shops being opened across the world.
Dosa is made from fermented batter of rice and lentils (black gram/Urad Dal). Rice and dal are first soaked overnight, and then in the ratio of 3:1, a batter is made. The batter is left for at least 3-6 hours to ferment.
Though there are over a hundred different varieties of Dosa, the most prominent are; Masala Dosa, Rawa Dosa, and Mysore Masala Dosa. The basic differences between the three are as follows.
Masala Dosa is prepared by the batter made of urad dal and rice. Mashed potato and onion mixed with spices and condiments serve as the masala in it.
Rawa Masala Dosa has an added ingredient, roasted Rawa (suji), in the batter. It imparts a bubbly crispness to the Dosa. The fillings can be changed as per the taste, but the most common filling is a mixture of onion and green chilli.
Though the batter of Mysore Masala Dosa is the same as regular Masala Dosa, the essential difference between the two is their spiciness. While making the Mysore Dosa, a paste of fried onions, red chillies, and tomatoes is applied before filling in the stuffing. Also, fresh coconut is added to the masala mix.
Sambhar has a consistent recipe, and any customization to it is seen as blasphemy to sambhar lovers. It is a mixture of vegetables cooked in tamarind broth and pigeon-pea lentils with a tempering of oil (or ghee) with mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida (hing) and dry red chillies.
Together, Dosa and Sambhar are the best combinations and a dish that one should eat despite their ethnicity or taste preference.