In the Indian-American communities of Edison, Iselin, and Jersey City, you’ll see one food offered more than any other—the dosa, a crêpe made from ground rice-and-lentil batter, rolled or folded over a filling of mashed potatoes, vegetables, or cheese, or eaten plain. In largely vegetarian South India, dosas—with their golden-brown, shiny-crisp surface—find their way into almost every breakfast and dinner. They can be small as a piece of toast or, more commonly, as much as two feet in diameter, large enough to be meals in themselves.
Garden State dosa shops usually offer the big version, served with sambar (a spicy vegetable-and-lentil sauce) and chutney. Dosas are addictive and fun to eat. You can tear off pieces with your fingers or switch to a fork when needed.
Start with a basic masala dosa, filled with mashed potatoes usually seasoned with some combination of mustard, turmeric, curry leaves, chili powder, and fried onion. At Dimple Khasiyat Fast Food, a warm, friendly snack shop in Iselin, a masala dosa costs $6.95. Golden Paper garlic masala dosa, at $9.95 the most expensive dosa on the menu, is more than two feet across and gets its name from its extra-thin crepe. The masala comes on the side. The dosa itself explodes with spicy flavor thanks to a paste of garlic and chili pepper spread inside. It has a heat more like barbecue than traditional Indian.
At Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House in Jersey City, a storefront a few blocks from the Journal Square PATH station, you choose a table, order at the counter, and serve yourself some sambar (spicier than at Khasiyat) while you await your food. Here you design your own dosa. To a masala dosa ($4), you can add ghee (clarified butter), chopped fresh chili peppers, channa (chick peas), paneer (fresh white cheese), green peas, American cheese, palak (spinach), chopped raw onion, or all of the above. ($4.50 to $6.50). There are paper dosas and rava dosas, which are made from a batter containing semolina flour for a lacy appearance and even more crispness.
“Dosas are healthy, it’s a good type of business,” says Rasuri Venugopal, the chef’s son and pretty much the only English speaker at Sri Ganesh. Pointing to his mother, Madhavi, as she prepares batter (her own recipe), he adds, “everything is fresh, that’s all it takes.”
Dimple Khasiyat Fast Food
77 Middlesex Avenue, Iselin
Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House
809 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
1349 Oak Tree Road, Iselin
1980 Route 27, North Brunswick
2 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Somerset
1670 Oak Tree Road, Edison
777 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
296 Route 46 West, Parsippany
3029 Route 27, Franklin Park