Jaffna Thosai / Dosa

Doss on plate with coconut sambal.

I have been trying to make Dosa using my mother’s recipe for quite some time. Even though I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to learn my mother’s recipes or cooking techniques; I have my visual memories and memories about the taste. I am scouting through some old recipe books to help me out. Dosa is a type of food that is in appearance looks like a crepe or even a pancake. In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, this Dosa is called Thosai. The main ingredients to make these Dosas are Black Gram (Urad Dal) and Rice. These two ingredients are then made in to a batter and is left to ferment. The lightly fermented batter is made into these lovely round Dosas. Now here comes the twist: my mother’s derived style of this Dosa has a different touch than the original one.

Wheat flour, Black Gram, turmeric , fenugreek seed and salt on a table.

Instead of using Rice, she uses Wheat Flour. This is a very common method of making Dosa in many Sri Lankan-Jaffna households. But lately for some reason, we don’t hear much about this style anymore.

Three Dosa on a serving plate.

The Dosa meal will work perfectly for a breakfast or a dinner. The best part, this is a fermented food and it is rich in probiotics. We all know how we want “our gut” to be healthy and well. This food will easily get that covered for you. Making Dosa requires some prep work but most importantly the weather need to cooperate, and it plays a big role in achieving the best batter. Warm weather speeds up the fermentation. During winter days we just have to get more creative to achieve a fermented batter.

Dosa and coconut sambol on a plate.

Generally you will soak the Black Gram for 6-8 hours. You can buy the whole Black gram or the split and skinned Black Gram. I have bought the skinned Black gram as it is easy to clean and it also soaks faster. You will then grind the soaked Black gram and mix it with the steamed flour to make a batter. Let the batter fermentation happen overnight and you are done with the prep work. Now you get to bed and dream about your Dosa meal for the following day. If the batter didn’t ferment overnight or by 8-10 hours we have some scheming to do. One work-around is, you can place the batter in the oven and turn the Oven light on, and let the batter sit inside for an hour. In any case, do not turn the oven on. Too much heat/warmth can get the batter ferment instantly and create too much acidity in the batter. Trust me, I did learn this lesson the hard way. For this method to work, you need one of those ovens that has an old fashioned internal light that generates a little bit of heat. Another way is to use direct sunlight. Even during the winter months, you will have rays of sunlight falling into the house. Just pick that spot and keep the batter in that natural sunlight for 1-2 hrs.

Non stick pan and dosa batter in a spoon.

Now that we have made the batter, we need a good pan to make this round Dosas. Traditionally, round iron pans/griddles were used to make them. A good option nowadays will be a round cast iron griddle. I only own a non stick crepe pan and that has been working fine for me. Remember to flip the dosa on both sides to cook evenly .

Dosa cooking in a non stick pan.

I have used Turmeric in my batter and again it is what my mother introduced me to. You can totally omit it. Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Personally, I am a fan of turmeric in most of my meals.

Dosa, coconut sambol plate.

Finally, these Dosas will pair perfectly with a spicy Coconut Sambol / Sambal and if you fancy you can make a vegetable Sambar(stew) to go with it. This is a perfect meal for the kids as well. My eldest like these with some Vegan butter and some sugar sprinkled on top. My little one goes all in with the spicy Sambol. I will share my easy Coconut Sambol in another post. Do try out this Jaffna Thosai and enjoy it with your family.

Dosa, Coconut sambol, Sambar spread on a table.

Jaffna Dosa

Serves 4-6 | Prep Time 8-10 hrs | Cook time 30 mins


  • 2 Cups of Skinned Black Gram.
  • 4 Cups of Steamed Wheat flour.
  • 1 tsp Fenugreek seed.
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Water as required.

Method :

  • First wash the Skinned Black Gram and then soak it overnight or for 6-8 hrs with the Fenugreek seeds.
  • Steam 4 cups of Wheat flour and let it cool down.
  • Grind the Black Gram and Fenugreek seed to a fine paste and keep it in a large bowl.
  • Add the steamed Flour to the grind Black Gram paste with some water and make into a smooth, clump free batter.
  • Cover the large bowl and keep in a warm place in the kitchen counter to ferment overnight.
  • Add Salt and Turmeric powder to the batter right before preparing the Dosa.
  • Dosa batter should be in a flowing, spreadable thickness but not too runny. Add more water to the batter, if the batter seems too thick.
  • Use a ladle to scoop out the Dosa batter and pour it over the heated pan. In a circular motion spread it round and flat. Cook on both sides until done.


  • When grinding the Black Gram, you can use a blender which requires liquid (water) to make a fine paste. If you only have a food processor, grind the Black Gram first and you can add the water later to create a smooth batter.
  • Use of Fenugreek will attract the wild yeast and kick start the fermentation process. Also, it helps with the digestion of food.
  • I steam the flour by simply taking a muslin cloth(or clean cotton cloth) placing the the flour in and tying a knot. Now keep the flour ball in the steamer and steam for 10-12 minutes.
  • Use clean hands to mix the flour and Black Gram paste. This helps with the natural fermentation process.
  • Do not cover fully or air tighten the batter mixture bowl. To help with the natural fermentation process, loosely close with a lid/cover.
  • You can keep the batter in an area where it gets natural light to ferment. If the batter did not ferment overnight, you can keep the batter in the oven with “only the oven light turned on” for 1 hr. Do not turn on the oven during this process.
  • If the batter is already fermented and you are not ready to make the Dosa yet, refrigerate the batter until it is time for cooking. Keeping the batter inside the fridge will slow down the fermentation process. Overly fermented batter will make the Dosa taste too sour.
  • A cast iron pan is perfect to make dosa, but I use a simple non stick Crepe pan and it works well every time.

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