Thosai 10 ways: The cheat's 'no grind thosai' inspired by this cook's grandma

Baker and cook, and MasterChef Singapore season two contestant Vasun teaches us her shortcut to scrumptiousness.
Vasun Thara

The sizzling and crackling sounds of a hot tawa (a flat indian pan), and umami-laden aromas that emanate when a ladleful of thosai batter hits the pan are the sensual triggers that instantly transport me back to my maternal grandmother's kitchen in the 80s replete with Tamil songs blaring from a transistor radio, walls adorned with calendars of Hindu deities and the sputtering whistles from her pressure cooker.

She had no expensive kitchen tools, only huge stone mortars and pestles, and a two-burner stove.

Yet, each morning she churned out the most luscious coconut chutneys, and piquant sambhars (a lentil-based vegetable stew) to accompany the thosais and idlis she had made to sell from the back of our shophouse in Joo Chiat.

In a desperate attempt to recreate those food memories after my grandmother had passed on, I turned to a "Cheat's No Grind Thosai" recipe in my new home.

Thosai made with this recipe were reminiscent of the ones my Grandma used to make as they were flavoured with a sour tang, characteristic of a good lacto-fermented thosai batter and not unlike a good sourdough.

Years later, making the cheat's version gave me the confidence to tackle the traditionally stoneground version as the fermentation technique and process is quite similar.

Making thosai at home could not be easier than with this recipe as there's hardly any work involved, except for the initial blending of flours.

When I posted this recipe on my blog and Instagram during the first Circuit Breaker, many who were new to fermentation made it successfully.

I hope you'll give my Cheat's No Grind Thosai and Coconut Chutney recipes a go!

They are great dishes to whip up for that weekend brunch sesh you've invited your friends and family to. All the ingredients can be purchased at any Indian grocery shop.

Cheat's No Grind Thosai

Ingredients:

  • Two cups rice flour
  • One cup urud dal flour
  • One cup cooked rice
  • Water
  • Half teaspoon fine sea salt

Cooking equipment for thosai making:

  • Indian tawa or flat pan, preferably cast iron with low sides
  • Thin-edged turner, like a fish turner
  • A deep scoop ladle
  • Mixing bowl

Method:

  1. Take one cup of cooked rice and blend with another cup of water until very smooth.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk one cup of urud flour, two cups of rice flour, the blended cooked-rice mixture with two more cups of water until very smooth and thick. Add one more cup of water if the batter is too thick to whisk. If you have many lumps, you can use a blender and give it a few pulses. Use as little water as possible.
  3. Pour thosai batter back into the mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix the batter thoroughly for at least  five minutes to incorporate some air. Mark the level of batter at the start so you can monitor the volume.
  4. Loosely cover the mixing bowl with a lid or kitchen towel. Leave in a warm, dark place, such as an oven that's just been switched off, to ferment for about 10-16 hours.
  5. After 10 hours, check that the batter has increased in volume by 1.5 to two times, and has a few burst bubbles on its surface. Continue to ferment if the batter hasn't increased in volume. Check every other hour after that. It should taste mildly sour.
  6. If your batter has yellowish patches on the surface, discard it and start again. Ferment for a shorter period the next round.

To make the thosai: 

  1. Scoop two cups of No Grind Thosai batter into a large bowl. Keep the remaining batter refrigerated.
  2. Add half to one cup water to the two cups of batter and using a spatula or whisk, mix until well combined.
  3. Heat a flat pan on medium heat until it is fairly warmed up. Using half an onion pierced with a fork, smear very little oil on the pan.
  4. Pour a ladleful of batter onto the pan. Using the bottom of the ladle, gently swirl to push out the batter and thin it out. If the batter sticks to your ladle, your pan is too hot.
  5. Cook the thosai until there isn't any raw batter. Drizzle a little gingelly oil, melted butter or ghee around the edges of the thosai.
  6. Using a fish spatula or any thin-edged spatula, lift the thosai from the pan and serve immediately with chutney or curry of your choice.

Green Goddess Coconut Chutney

Ingredients:

Chutney:

  • One tbsp coconut oil
  • One-quarter tsp mustard seeds
  • One-eighth tsp asafoetida powder
  • Two fresh green chillies, chopped
  • Half inch ginger, chopped
  • One-quarter cup roasted bengal gram (pottukadalai)
  • One and a half cups fresh grated coconut
  • One and a half tsp tamarind paste
  • One tsp grated jaggery
  • One quater cup fresh coriander leaves and stems, chopped
  • Salt, to taste

Tempering:

  • One tbsp coconut oil
  • Half tsp mustard
  • One tbsp split, husked black gram (urud dal)
  • One sprig curry leaves
  • Two whole dried chillies, broken into half

Method:

  1. In a large pan, heat coconut oil over a medium flame. Add mustard seeds. When they stop spluttering, add asafoetida powder, green chillies and ginger. Saute till aromatic but not browned.
  2. Add roasted gram dal.
  3. Transfer all ingredients in the pan into a blender. Add grated coconut, tamarind, jaggery, coriander leaves and salt. Blend to a smooth paste adding one-two tbsp water, or as needed. Check for seasoning.
  4. Transfer ground chutney into a serving bowl.
  5. For the tempering, heat coconut oil in a small pan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds to warm oil. When they stop spluttering, add remaining ingredients in the order given.
  6. Pour hot tempering over coconut chutney. Mix well and serve immediately.

Vasun's thosai masterclass

Want to learn more? Vasun teaches the art of making thosai from scratch at her home. She's inspired by the nostalgia of her grandma's kitchen and the exacting science of thosai fermentation.

Thosai masterclass partipants will learn the basic science of thosai, how to soak and grind the batter from scratch, master the art of swirling and cooking thosais.

At the end of the four hour $180 class, they also get to enjoy a tiffin meal with two chutneys and gunpowder podi, bring home all the food and successfully ferment their first batch of thosai.

For now, the thosai masterclass is for a maximum of two partipants, and held every Wednesday and Sunday.

For enquiries or to book a class with Vasun, email monsoontable@gmail.com or drop her a DM via Instagram @vasunthara.r

READ MORE: 10 easy 3-ingredient dessert recipes for those with a sweet tooth

This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.