A South Indian comfort food fix

Mysore Masala Dosa is a balance of comfort and complexity

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On a Tuesday evening, my friend and I found ourselves running around Hannah Plaza in a rainstorm, searching for our supper. We had a movie to make, so we abandoned the busy dinner rush happening at Sindhu, an East Lansing mainstay. A quick Google revealed another Indian option right across the way: Sree Saffron. I hadn’t been there in so long that I’d forgotten it existed, but I’m happy that circumstance and Michigan weather brought me back.  

The remarkable thing about the Mysore Masala Dosa I ordered is how much you get for your money. To outline it in plain Midwestern-ese: a potato-stuffed pancake, a bowl of soup, and two dipping sauces, all for just $12.99.  

In short, a dosa is a South Indian crepe made from a fermented batter of rice and lentils. It is a very thin, very large pancake that, when unfurled, is about the circumference of a Parisian café table top. It is folded over itself and, in this case, filled with aloo masala — mashed potatoes cooked with onion, garlic, ginger, chiles for heat and turmeric for a golden color. Cumin and mustard seeds add a nutty flavor and texture to the mix.  

The dosa was seasoned with paprika and fried in oil to a crispy, golden brown. Next to the sambar (lentil vegetable soup), and given my soaked, chilly state, it brought to mind the perfect grilled cheese next to a warm bowl of Campbell’s. Considering that a thick layer of mashed potatoes is included, you’ve got a major comfort food experience on your hands. (You should use your hands.) 

You will often find sambar served with dosa, which speaks to how universal it is to want the rich satisfaction of these textures and flavors together. Sree's sambar was a tomato soup of elevated, complex proportions with a smoky flavor and the sour twist of tamarind, with some hearty chunks of carrot, onion and squash. Really, it’s more accurately classified as a stew. 

Finally, we come to my favorite part of ordering dosa. The chutneys! You never know when ordering a dosa exactly which chutneys you’ll get or how many. Sree served up coconut and tomato chutney, which is a respectable variety (one is too few). I prefer mint to tomato, but coconut is my favorite, so I was pleased. If you ever tire of dipping slabs of crispy-outside, creamy-inside potato/dosa in your sambar, you’ve also got tangy, bright tomato and sweet yet cool-but-also-spicy coconut to choose from.  

Even if the ingredients are unfamiliar at first, the Mysore Masala Dosa is a dish that provides the balance of comfort and complexity we all crave when it’s dinner time, and our raincoat turns out to be less waterproof than advertised. 

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