Chennai 3: Dosas at dawn
If anything typifies Tamil cuisine it's the dosa - a pancake made from fermented batter. Rice and black gram are traditionally the main ingredients of the batter. In dosa joints in London, the dosa is usually crisp and outsize, and wrapped around aloo (potato) masala - that's the famous masala dosa.
In Chennai, more often the dosa isn't crisp but soft, a little like an appam from neighbouring Kerala. It's eaten above all at breakfast time with coconut chutney, often homemade, and sambar, a lentil-based curried vegetable dish, a bit like a spicy vegetable stew. And yes - it's good!
On the Madras Inherited heritage walk I've just been on around Royapettah in downtown Chennai, we all were invited in to a suite of old houses - only to discover this elderly woman cheerfully cooking dosas. Lots of them! It was barely seven in the morning and she was presiding over quite a production line - as you can see ...
Three houses here shared a courtyard and at first I imagined that she was cooking dosas for everyone in these households. But just after I finished filming, a man came to collect all the cooked dosas in the container by the door - I guess there were twenty or more of them - to take them, as far as I could gather, to a local tea stall for sale as a freshly-cooked breakfast.
The cooking of dosas didn't halt - I reckon this woman could easily make fifty in an hour. They sell for 10 rupees each - that's a little more than ten pence. So this is quite a cottage industry.
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