S tates in the USA have their own state food, fruit, vegetable and snack. Recently, after an animated debate, the New York Senate voted to name yogurt the state’s official snack. Other states in America with official state snacks include Texas (chips and salsa), Illinois (popcorn) and South Carolina (boiled peanuts).
I saw two Americans relishing a family dosa in a Chennai restaurant. I was worried that the state of California might adopt dosa or for that matter idli as the state food. California is full of Indian restaurants serving idli and dosa with chutney and sambar.
I requested my area legislator to adopt idli and dosa as the state food of Tamil Nadu before somebody else appropriated them. The lawmaker was disinterested and said, “Idli is idli”. Who can deny the popularity of idli and dosa? Many north Indians have sought the recipe for idli and dosa with chutney and sambar.
For eating idli or its cousin dosa, one needs preparation time. Correct proportion of rice and urad dal have to be soaked in water in the morning and in the evening the two are to be ground in a machine and mixed together in a large vessel. The vessel should be tall since the batter is likely to rise overnight. Next morning, the batter can be used for making idlis or dosas.
If the rice and urad proportion is wrong one will get hard idlis. In college hostels, boys used to compare hard idlis to stones that can be employed to break glass panes in the mess. If the batter is too thin, the idli will lose its shape and turn out flat. Madurai is famous for idlis and jasmine flowers. They like their idlis soft, white, fluffy and fragrant like the jasmine.
Restaurants serve three hued chutneys, green (mint), white (coconut) and red (chillies) with idlis. Of course, the ubiquitous onion and drumstick sambar will always be there. Some competing hotels also serve chilli powder mixed with gingelly oil.
When he came to Chennai the last time, my friend Monty said, “This is Chennai. Where can I get an onion rava dosa?” I took him to a swank hotel and fed him his favourite made with semolina, onion, curd and chopped chillies.
If one adds a spoonful of fenugreek seeds to the dosa batter while grinding, the dosa acquires a special flavour because of the fermentation of the batter. The batter is spread on a hot tava and sesame oil sprinkled on its edges to make it crisp. If the batter is spread thick, one gets oothappams. Like the pizza, one can sprinkle onions and tomatoes on the oothappam to make it delicious. If one places potato and onion masala on the dosa and rolls it, one gets a masala dosa.
I nudged again my local legislator to pass a resolution in the Assembly to adopt idli and dosa as the state’s food. The legislator was sceptical. “You are trying to put us in trouble. The Mysore masala dosa is already famous. If we claim ownership for idlis and dosas, interstate conflicts will erupt as in the case of river waters and dam.”