Dosa, India

Do Play With Your Food in India

| India

Remember pushing your greens around hoping they would some how dissolve into your plate? You try hiding them under your potatoes, even though you now no longer can see them, you know they haven’t disappeared. Pressing down your fork, you watch the mash potato squeeze through the prongs. ‘stop playing with your food and just eat it!’ cries your mother. Everyone must remember their parents once telling you not to play with your food. Well kids, that’s not the case in India. India has its own technique, which looks like child’s play but actually requires much skill.

A sheet of banana leaf is placed before me on the bubbling vinyl table top. I follow the locals and pour a small portion of water into the crevasse of my cupped right hand. Slowly letting the water drip from my hand onto the the banana leaf. Smearing it around to ensure the whole leaf is covered. Shaking the banana leaf, I remove majority of the lose water before placing it back down before me.

A man places a scoop of flour and water mixture onto a large hotplate fuelled by a wooden fire below. Using a flat wooden scraper he spreads the mixture into a large circle. At the perfect moment, he slowly folds the golden crepe into a generous rectangle. He picks it up with his fingers, straight off the hot plate he places the ‘Dosa’ (Large Southern Indian Crepe) in the centre of my banana leaf plate. 

Another weathered Indian older man, dressed in a white sarong with a blue short sleeve shirt on walks over to the main table and picks up one of three stainless steel pot with the edges are dripping in sauces. Spooning a scoop of yellow tomato mixture onto my plate. He returns for the second one and the the third. I end up with two different sauces and a Sambol (chilly coconut paste).

Tearing off a bite size piece of ‘Dosa’ with my right hand. I rubbing the ‘Dosa’ around the banana leaf trying to cover the bread with all three sauces. Trying to contain the soggy mess, I make the transfer from the leaf to my mouth. Sauce dripping back onto my leaf, some accidentally landing on my worn pants.

It is not a simple task to scoop the food up only in my right hand. It is a technique that Indians are born with. Picking the food using only their finger tips and scraping it forward into their mouths using their thumb. For a western traveller, I clumsily use all my fingers to pop it into my mouth, allowing the food to travel well past the a disgraceful barrier of my knuckles. I am in Indian eyes an impolite eater, just like I would find someone chewing with their mouth open.  

Breaking down the ‘Dosa’ into little pieces, they incidentally absorb the liquid sauces with ease. Even though I dislike soggy food, it taste amazing, with the tomato mixing in with the hot coconut sambol, firing up my taste buds. With the last remaining piece of ‘Dosa’ I manage to scope up everything, completely cleaning my banana leaf.

Rolling the banana leaf up, I stand up and walk over to the basin. Popping the leaf into the waste bin, I then dip a small plastic cup into a bucket of water and pour the water over my right hand, washing away any evidence that my parents could hold against me. 

This is the stall that cooked me breakfast for the last three days.