Questions you might ask!
Where is the cuisine from?
What is curry?
What is the San Francisco healthcare mandate?
Where is the cuisine from?
DOSA serves cuisine that is primarily from the Southern states of India, which include Karnataka, Tamil Nadu (where most of our chefs are from), Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Goa. (Note that though tourism brochures often lump in Goa with the Southern states because of its geographic proximity, though it is culturally quite distinct from the other states).
The South is inhabited by about 300 million people with an unofficial count that is probably much higher. People of South Indian descent are found all over South Asia including Sri Lanka and Malaysia Geographically, South India’s coastal plains are backed by a ridge of low mountains, called the Western and Eastern Ghats that in turn lead to the Deccan Plateau, which occupies much of the central Southern peninsula.
(Here are some general comments on South Indian cuisine; however, there are many regional and household variations).
South Indian food is not exclusively vegetarian though there are many outstanding options for vegetarians. South India has hot, humid climate and all its states are coastal. Rainfall is abundant and so is the supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, and rice, which obviously drives the cuisine. The South also grows a lot of tea, coffee, and spices. Some of the common dishes of the South include steamed rice dumplings (idlis), roasted rice crepes and pancakes (dosa & uttapams), Sambar, the everyday food of South India, made from lentils and rasam, a tangy, spicy tamarind and tomato-based soup with lentils.
South Indian chutneys are made of tamarind, coconut, peanuts, dal, fenugreek seeds, and cilantro. Coconut, either in a shredded, grated, or blended form, is found in most dishes here and coconut water is drunk for its cooling effect. Meals are followed by South Indian-style coffee prepared with chicory. South Indian dishes are seasoned with toasted mustard seeds, red chiles, curry leaves and oil, a process known as “tempering”. Coconut oil is most commonly used for cooking and frying. Other vegetable oils like sunflower and canola are also used and ghee (clarified butter) is often used in daily meals or on special-occasion dishes.
Andhra Pradesh produces fiery cuisine, which is largely vegetarian yet also includes a wide range of seafood. Some of the spiciest dishes in India are found here. Fish and prawns are curried in sesame and coconut oils and flavored with freshly ground pepper. Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, has a cuisine that has a direct influence from the kitchens of the Mughal rulers from the North though they differentiate themselves with local influences. (The Mughals came from Persian ancestors who started filtering into India from the eleventh century A.D. onward and then more markedly from the sixteenth century A.D. when they came to power. As a result, Persian and Afghani influences, along with the vibrant spices and ingredients of the predominantly local Hindu people, dominate a lot of the cuisine found in Northern Indian).
Tamil Nadu has Chettinad cuisine, which consists of meat and poultry cooked in tamarind and roasted spices and is one of the richest and most flavorful of all Indian foods. The ‘Tamil Lamb Curry’ served at Dosa is such an example. Oil and spices are used liberally and most dishes have generous amounts of peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, nutmeg, and green and red chiles. The word “curry” is derived from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which meant “sauce”.
Kerala gives us Malabari cooking with its seafood dishes; it is noted for its variety of pancakes and steamed cakes made from pounded rice. Because many of the Hindu Brahmins are vegetarian by religion, and because Kerala has large minorities of Muslims and Christians that are predominantly non-vegetarian, Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, and consequently, grated coconut and coconut milk are widely used in dishes and curries. Kerala’s long coastline and strong fishing industry has contributed many fish-based delicacies.
Historically, Kerala was split into the kingdoms of Travancore and Kochi in the south, and the Malabar district in the north and the cuisine from each region has its own distinctions. Malabar has an array of non-vegetarian dishes such as pathiri (a rice-based pancake, usually paired with a meat curry), porotta (a layered flatbread), and the Kerala variant of the popular biryani. In contrast, traditional Travancore cuisine consists of a variety of vegetarian dishes using many vegetables and fruits that are not commonly used in curries elsewhere in India including plantains, bitter gourd, taro and Ash gourd.
Kerala cuisine offers many vegetarian breakfast dishes that are relatively unknown outside the state. These include Puttu (a cylindrical dish made of rice flour and grated coconut), kadala (a curry made of chickpea) and Idiappam (rice noodles). Unlike other states, many people in Kerala prefer parboiled rice (rice made nutritious by boiling it with the husk). Kanji (rice congee), a rice porridge and kappa (tapioca) are also popular in this state. Common non-vegetarian dishes include stews (using chicken, beef, lamb, or fish), chicken curry, fish moilees and fried fish.
The cuisine of Karnataka comprises diverse vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines. Mysore Masala Dosa and Medu Vada are popular in South Karnataka. The Coorg district is famous for spicy varieties of pork curries while coastal Karnataka boasts of many sumptous sea food specialties. In some parts it is a tradition to start your meal with a dessert and end your meal with Dahi (curd) rice. Across Karnataka there is some diversity in core food habits driven by locally available ingredients. For instance, while dishes in northern Karnataka have sorghum and rice as the primary cereals, the south uses millet and rice.
Food in coastal Goa has been influenced by the Portuguese. Local dishes like the spicy vindaloo and xacut (a curry, usually chicken, with white poppy seeds and red peppers) are evidence that Goa was a Portuguese colony until 1961. Pork vindaloo is a spicy concoction of red chiles, garlic, vinegar and hard palm sugar served with plain boiled rice. Rice, seafood (including crabs, lobsters, tiger prawns) and coconut are the basic components of the typical Goan cuisine. An essential ingredient in Goan cooking is coconut milk made by grating the white flesh of a coconut and soaking it in a cup of warm water. Equally important is kokum which imparts a sharp and sour flavor. Spicy red Goan chiles are also a must for most dishes, as is tamarind. Goans make their own version of vinegar from toddy, which is distilled from the sap of coconut palm trees.
Though there are two separate traditions in cuisine influenced by the respective religions of Hinduism and Christianity, there are some meeting points that present interesting harmony. While Hindus like lamb and chicken, Christians seem to prefer pork. However, both prefer fish and seafood to any other protein.
The Christians prefer to use vinegar, while the Hindus use kokum and tamarind to get the tang in their respective cuisines. Northern Goans grind their coconuts and masalas individually, while the southern Goans like to grind them together, and then pass it through a fine muslin cloth to retain flavor.
What is curry?
Curry is an all-purpose term devised by the English to cover the whole range of Indian food spicing. Indian cooks have at least twenty-five spices on their regular list and it is from these that they produce curry flavor. The spices are blended in different proportions to produce specific dishes. The difference in each dish is in the blend of spices, which are broadly divided into two categories: powdered spices that have been freshly ground, and the whole spices such as clove, cardamom, mustard seeds, nutmeg, and others. These different combinations of spices can produce thousands of variations!
Curry is an English word most probably derived from the South Indian word Kaikaari. Kaikaari, or its shortened version Kari, which means vegetables cooked with spices and a dash of coconut. It may have become the symbolic British word for Indian dishes that could be eaten with rice.
In India curry means spiced gravy. Note that in many parts of Asia, particularly India, Malaysia and Singapore, the word “gravy” is used to refer to any thickened liquid part of a dish.
In America, many believe curry is an Indian spice which is not surprising since curry powder is sold in many supermarkets. Many dishes in America call for curry powder, which is actually a blend of spices that is mixed with coriander powder and turmeric.
Needless to say since each household can make its own blend there are countless variations of “curry”. So DOSA has a blend of curries that are distinctively South Indian with the chefs own personal touches.
To confuse matters further, there is also a plant, that has curry leaves or in Hindi, meetha neem or Kadhi leaves. They look like miniature lemon leaves and grow wild in most forest regions of India and are used as a seasoning.
What is the San Francisco Health Care mandate?
DOSA is proud to be in San Francisco, the first city in the country to recently enact a new set of mandates to provide universal health care. To cover the significant costs associated with the significant benefits for our employees, we have chosen to add a 4% pre-tax fee. Here’s a little more on our position, if you’re interested!