Food

A crispy frisbee of a dosa

A DOSA WITH A DIFFERENCE: The delicious ‘Azhagarkoil dosas’

A DOSA WITH A DIFFERENCE: The delicious ‘Azhagarkoil dosas’   | Photo Credit: A Shrikumar

You don’t have to travel 20 kms to the hill temple to feast on the famous 'Azhagarkoil dosas'. An old household on Kamarajar Salai has been making a similar brand of the delightful dosa for almost four decades now.

What the laddu is to Tirupati, the ‘Azhagarkoil dosa’ is to Madurai. The crsipy fried dosa that is the prasadam of the Perumal temple is something unique and not found elsewhere. And it's also not everyday that one can travel 20 kms across the city to eat the much acclaimed dosa.

But there's one place in town where dosas similar in taste, texture and flavour of the Azhagar temple prasadam are available. It comes from the antique house of 70-year-old T V Viswanathan. The address is 112, Kamarajar Salai, adjacent to the Sourashtra High School. On the wooden door outside hangs an obscure hand-written board saying 'Azhagarkoil dosas' and it has been the only advertisement for over 35 years now, ever since Viswanathan began dishing out his trademark dosas from a small corner of his house. Residents of the area know him and his speciality too well.

“I worked at the temple kitchen as a storekeeper for two years in the 70's and learnt making dosas from the head cook. I used to watch him prepare the batter carefully and fry dosas on a panchaloha pan every day. The dosa is the evening neivedhyam and popular among devotees and tourists alike,” says Viswanathan. “Once I tried making the dosa at home and everyone in the family was delighted with the result. That's when I started it as a small business. Slowly, the name and fame of my dosas spread in the city and I developed a band of dedicated customers. The taste of the dosas I make speak of my skills as indicated by the growing number of customers over the years.”

The Azhagarkoil dosa is more like a large vadai, with a crispy coat and a soft core. Golden brown in colour, glistening with ghee/oil and the size of a frisbee, it requires no accompaniments like chutney or sambhar. A single dosa can be eaten by two or three people, as it's heavy and filling. “The key is the proportion of raw rice and urad dal in the batter. The samba variety of rice is only traditionally used and hence the dosas are also called 'Samba dosai'. We continue to hand-pound the rice in ural, to achieve the taste. Coarsely ground urad dal is added and mixed to the rice batter and left to ferment for a couple of hours.

Tempered pepper, cumin, dry ginger, asofoetida and salt is added later. If the consistency is too watery, the dosas may not come out perfectly,” explains Viswanathan, as he pours a bowlful of batter into a pan of hot oil. Within minutes, the dosas spring up like big vadais and once the edges turn crispy brown, he flips the discs for another round of frying. Unlike regular dosas, the delicacy is not cooked on a tawa but in a flat-bottomed pan. “I have been using the same silver kinnam for measurement to get it right every single time. Each dosa weighs around 250 grams and I can make 16 dosas from 1.5 Kilograms of rice.”

“The dosas served in the temple are fried in pure ghee but I use a mix of oil and ghee to make it affordable at Rs.25. I also offer a smaller variant for Rs.15 and Rs.10 for parties and evening meetings,” says Viswanathan.

“The dosas can stay fresh for a day if packed properly. I let them cool down before wrapping them in papers to be parcelled. Some of my customers carry the dosas to Chennai, Bangalore and other cities.” The place is open 10 am to 8 pm.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:59:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/an-old-household-on-kamarajar-salai-has-been-making-a-similar-brand-of-the-delightful-dosa-for-almost-four-decades-now/article24163010.ece

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