What the Adai is that?

What the Adai is that?

Hint. Think Dosa.

What the Dosa is that?

Think south Indian food, think savoury crepes.


But without any flour, eggs, milk and butter.

You call that a crepe? Ha! What kind of a crepe is that?

A vegan crepe.


Round 1 to the Adai.

People of the world, meet the Adai dosa – a raw rice and multi-lentil crepe that packs a low calorie, nutritious punch that can tackle anytime-hunger pangs without the guilt. Am I sounding like an advertisement here?

Traditionally eaten as ‘tiffin’ – the word the British used during the days of the Raj to describe a mini-meal/snack had between meals – it was born directly as a result of boredom.

Eating the “same-old, same-old” plain dosa every second tiffin time had become de rigueur for more than a millennium (the first documented reference to the dosa goes back to the 6th century AD in Tamil literature).

And the few variations that were offered didn’t stop anyone from complaining.

A statistical aside. Mothers should note that children have been fussy eaters since the dawn of mankind, and because of that, they have been driven up the tree/cave/wall since then. Obviously, the occasional urge to smother the little cretins is not new.

Then about a quarter into the next millennium, one such anguished mother became inventive somewhere in Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, India.

She mixed a few lentils with rice and chillies and ground it into a batter and slapped it down on a hot griddle or tawa. No fermenting overnight, no fuss, no waiting. Instant dosa, instant nirvana. Voila, a new taste. Family likes. Problem solved. Tiffin time stays happy time. She exclaims ‘Adai!’ in joy. I jest here when I refer to how it got its name.

Besides its anti-oxidant and nutritive values, the Adai contains lots of protein, and that too ‘vegetarian’ protein. Do I hear meat eaters scoffing? It’s sadly true.

So how exactly is this protein-filled, low-calorie vegan delight made? Here’s the recipe.


¾ cup raw rice; ½ cup chana dal (yellow gram); ½ cup urad dal (black gram); ½ cup toor dal (red gram); 1 ½ tbsp dry red chili flakes; ¾ cup red onion, chopped; ½ cup curry leaves, chopped; ¼ tsp asafetida (hing); 1 ½ cup water; salt to taste.

This is what the batter looks like after grinding all the rice and dals


Soak rice and dals for 45 minutes, then grind them to a coarse mixture. Add chili flakes, onions, curry leaves, asafetida and salt. Then slowly add in the water and mix to make a batter.

Heat a griddle/tawa and baste with a little oil. Rub half a sliced onion all over the surface of the tawa. This is important because it prevents the Adai dosa from burning so remember to do this for the next Adai too. Ladle out a measure and smoothen the batter to a circular shape and let it brown for a few minutes. Flip over and brown the other side too. Fold and top with a dollop of white butter. Watch as the butter melts, watch the drool too.

Spread like a dosa, it might take some practice to get a perfect round but it's not rocket science

Flip over and brown other side, yup it's got to be slightly crisp

It’s traditionally served with three accompaniments: a spicy powder – fondly referred to as gunpowder – doused with sesame (gingelly/til) oil, tomato chutney, and crushed jaggery.

The protein rich, full of anti oxidants delectable Adai dosa ready to be ravished

The sweet, sour and spicy accompaniments go brilliantly with the Adai dosa and one is incomplete without the other.


For the lazy amongst you who don’t want to try this at home, or if you are culinarily challenged, step out and head to Matunga (in Mumbai) and try the Adai dosa here:

Mani’s Lunch Home, Tel: +91 (22) 24127188/24021112 . Café Madras, Tel: +91 (22) 24014419

It is served only on Sundays though.


5 thoughts on “What the Adai is that?

  1. Okay, Sanjiv, this used to be a staple in my house… In case you’ve forgotten,I’m the transplanted Ghati who grew up in Vizag, Chennai… if you like adai, have you tried the Telugu delight called pesarattu? I love eating my adai with a chutney made of tamarind, garlic, dried red chillies, coconut…mamma mia (or ammma!) really the stuff that make Sunday brunches memorable.
    A slight riposte to the comment about kids being fussy eaters: depends on the household. Our son is as at ease with foie gras as with pani puri at Elco… and tapas in seedy bars in Bilbao and at Paul Bocuse’s Brasserie Le Sud in Lyon. Kids are as fussy as their parents allow them to be 🙂 but… for his veggies and grains, he is biased towards the Indian/African/Asian way of cooking.

    • yea, i’ve tried the pesaruttu, am liking it too …
      and i guess you’re right about parents allowing kids to be fussy eaters.
      yup, food tour still on …

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