A menu of 100 different dosas. One Saturday night. A crack team of gluttons. Can we do it? Of course we can. After all, these thin, crisp South Indian crepes sit light in the stomach, each one gone in little more than 60 seconds. Two rounds of dosa, 3 uttappams, 2 portions of methu vada later, we are forced to concede defeat. Even our smallest solidier, an 8 year old child, put in her best performance. But it just wasn’t enough.
What were just enough were the 16 specimens we devoured in a happy few hours at Dosa & Dosa, a no-frills family joint which proudly proclaims to offer the ‘longest dosa menu in the UK’. Featuring subheaded sections catering for children (‘kids’ corner’), traditionalists (‘native’), carnivores (‘red arrows’) weight-watchers (‘health conscious’), and event the avant garde (‘conceptual’) I’d wager that it’s not only the longest in the UK; but also Europe and perhaps even the world.
The overwhelming offer is truncated only slightly by the removal of my much-desired Andhra MLA dosa. The odd name refers to a semolina-stuffed peserattu – the pancake that’s made from green gram rather than the dosa’s rice-and-lentil mix. We’re told that due to lack of peserattu passion, the batter was being binned daily. My own impassioned plea receives the response that I could have one – but it’d take 3 hours. I was sorely tempted.
But we are weak with hunger. We need dosa, stat. So I take one for the team, and abandon my MLA dream. Instead, a rookie, and perhaps risky, choice – prawn dosa, picked purely for my love of the diminutive shellfish I relish in homestyle Bangladeshi stews and even that Bangla curryhouse staple, the prawn puri. Blame a childhood punctuated with trips to The Forest Tandoori. But will the dosa’s characteristic tang work with a fishy dishy?
The gamble pays off; these prawns are larger and meatier than my preferred shrimpy specimens, but just as sweet. Surprisingly, it’s the masala potatoes that let the side down; lacking salt, spice, savour. They’re slightly perkier in a Mysore masala dosa, and provide satisfying squish against the crisp-chewy, covering of the rava masala dosa – the ‘instant’ semolina variety lacking the sourness present in it’s lightly-fermented classic counterpart.
This round is not a total homage to the humble spud. Those lacking the carb craving have gone their own ways; sampling the earthy, hearty raagi (finger millet) dosa that tastes far better than its foreboding grey appearance suggests, a lacy, dry-spice-powder-laced rava podi dosa, and a muttar paneer dosa that has the eater muttering their satisfaction. Cheese and onion is crisp, gooey, pretty wrong and oh-so-right.
The little one has started with an unfilled sada. It’s plain her simple choice is a canny strategy – she has her heart set firmly on the chocolate dosa and can’t afford to surrender too much belly space. The rest of us are more cavalier – but, hey, we have bigger bellies to fill, and our appetites are every bit as big as our eyes. So much so, we feel a few snacks are in order whilst we look at the list again.
A round of donut-like methu vadai might surprise Homer Simpson with their lack of sweetness, but they momentarily give us something to savour. The ubiquitous chutneys, less so – the same trio of red, green and coconut appears with every item and none are licked up with much relish. Similarly omnipresent sambhar is sheer comfort in a cup – but, then, when is it not?
A trio of assorted uttappams prove not easy to divide and most easy to conquer. Then ding ding, it’s round two. Someone must have offended the dosa gods, because rawa gobi is a penance of a pancake – filled with little more than barely-boiled cauliflower florets tossed with tomato. The chocolate dosa the tiny diner was so keen to scoff is universally scoffed at – the salty-sour batter and scrape of cheap choc does not a happy marriage make.
Lucky, then, there are six more specimens to share. Mild-sounding mushroom dosa packs a bit too much of a punch for its recipient, but he still manages to pack it away, not leaving much room for more. A virtuous vegan spinach dosa is more than it sounds; at once subtle and satisfying. Paneer butter masala is more sinful – sweet, rich, folded rather then rolled so the edges stay extra-crisp.
Which came first? The keema or the egg? Both dosas hit the table at the same time, actually, and are both hits – the brushing of beaten egg in the latter giving in the edge. The spring roll dosa comes tightly-rolled and cut into multiple pieces – ideal for the rest of us, not so much for the selector. The soy-seasoned mixed veg, egg and beansprout filling is interesting – but does little to sell the splendour of Indo-Chinese cuisine.
We’re sated to say the least. And satisfied that we’ve made a solid start. We’ve barely dented the menu, or our wallets. We’re yet to discover how well oats and wheat eat made into dosa; how unusual veggies like gongura and kadamba enter the equation; and whether ‘rocket dosa’ refers to the stuffing or the shape. But for now, we’re stuffed, and that’s enough. A dosa overdose does you no end of good and there’s no harm in that. The end.
- Dosa & Dosa is at 33 Woodford Avenue, IG2 6UF. For more information and to view the massive menu, click here.
- Do you do dosa? What are your favourites? What’s the most unusual filling you’ve tried? Where do you recommend? Leave a comment below and let me know!