Think about pancakes and one would mentally drift upon a plate of stacked fluffy discs made from buttermilk, eggs and flour on the griddle and usually served with a generous pour of golden maple syrup; an enticing breakfast image made famous by the good old American diners and cafes. The South Indians however, have their own version of the pancake called the Dosa, or better known as Tosai in Malaysia.
Tosai was first brought onto the shores of Malaysia by the South Indian community during the British Colonisation of Malaya. Since then, it has become one of the favourite breakfast staples that can easily be found at most Indian stalls in Malaysia’s coffee shops. Locals would usually visit these Indian restaurants or coffee shops in the morning before starting work for a good hearty breakfast of Tosai and a cup of teh tarik (pulled tea) as it is packed full of carbohydrates and lacking in the saturated fat department.
Golden brown and crispy on the outside, Tosai is made from South Indian black lentils known as urad dal and rice which is soaked and grounded together. The batter is left to ferment which gives the Tosai its tangy, mildly sour taste. Unlike its fluffy pancake cousin, the Tosai is soft in the centre with thin edges that are almost brittle to the touch. During cooking, the batter is poured onto a flat hotplate, spread out evenly in a large circular form and panfried until slightly brown. It is folded in half or rolled before being served in order to fit onto the plate.
Usually served in a convenient metal plate with multiple indents for side dishes and dips, the best thing about eating Tosai is the variety of side dishes that are available. One of the favourites is the coconut chutney dip which is made from grated coconut, ginger and chanadahl (split chick pea). Another common side dish is the dahl curry made from lentils and spices. Though the usual Indian spices and chillies might not be suitable for young children, sugar can also go surprisingly well for the little ones and would be an absolute delight for them. Other side dishes would include mint chutney, Indian yoghurt and sambar, which is also called dahl.
A variation of the Tosai is a delicious crepe stuffed with spiced potatoes called Masala Tosai. The mixture of potatoes, peas, carrots and other spices gives the Masala Tosai an exquisite taste of saltiness, tanginess and spice. To truly appreciate good South Indian food, one can visit the Sri Lakshmi Narayana Bhavan, 26 Leboh Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where it is famous for its vegetarian South Indian cuisine.