BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — The almost crepe-like fermented dough is a staple food all across South India, but it remains largely unknown throughout the West. Leda Scheintaub and Nash Patel are hoping to change that. Patel, whose family originates from south India, makes dosas in Brattleboro for the couple’s food truck, Dosa Kitchen. He and Scheintaub are attempting to bring dosas to the nation’s cultural consciousness with a Dosa Kitchen cookbook.
Most American Indian food focuses on northern India, but south Indian food is spicier and lighter.
Scheintaub admitted that people will come to the food truck and ask for items like chicken Masala, a north Indian dish, mainly, she said, because that’s what they know to order.
“When they actually eat the food they’re happy in the end,” she said.
Traditionally, dosas are served with Chutney, but Patel and Scheintaub add variations. They serve sweets dosas, savory dosas and everything in between.
They often use jaggery, an unrefined sugar. In the cookbook, there’s an entire chapter on dessert dosas, “just for fun,” Scheintaub said.
“Dosas already have that sour kind of tangy taste,” she said. “So it actually paired really well with a bold flavor like chocolate.”
The cookbook gives direction for a blueberry cardamom syrup and a raspberry rosewater syrup.
“It’s really good,” she said.
Patel is Anglo-Indian, he eats both pork and beef, which is uncommon in south India. This helps with the variation in recipes the food truck serves and that the cookbook catalogues. At the food truck, Scheintaub said, chicken is their specialty.
“Everyone loves chicken,” she said. But sometimes, she said, Patel’s mother, Marion, will create a beef specialty dosa.
Patel’s mom has a chili beef dish in the book that has her name on it. Scheintaub also has a recipe inspired by her mom.
“I grew up a New York Jew,” she said.
Blintzes were a part of her childhood. Blintzes are crepes stuffed with sweet farmer’s cheese with blueberry syrup drizzled on top, Scheintaub said. “We made the dosa version of them with blueberry syrup and Paneer, which is Indian cheese,” she said. “It combined both worlds of my background.”
A cream cheese and lox dosa is also in the cookbook. It’s called the Second Avenue Delhi Dosa.
Multiculturalism is a theme that runs throughout the book. Patel and Scheintaub both love Mexican food. One of the Chutneys in the book is a tomatillo ginger chutney. Tomatillos, a green tomato, are popular in Mexican cooking. There is also a Kinpira (a popular Japanese cooking style) dosa, and a barbecue pulled pork dosa. There are 55 recipes overall.
Patel and Scheintaub met at a South Indian restaurant that serves dosas. Patel was a waiter, and it was one of Scheintaub’s favorite restaurants.
“Nash always came by and would tell me how to eat the food,” she said. “Then, one day I asked him out and we’ve been together ever since.”
During a trip to south India, the couple stayed with what Patel calls, “master chefs.”
“But they’re very unassuming,” Scheintaub said. “They run B&b’s.”
Scheintaub’s favorite recipe was the Tomato and Coconut Shrimp Fried Dosa that she learned while staying in south India.
Patel’s favorite recipe in the book is a basic plain dosa with peanut chutney. “That’s what I grew up eating,” he said.
The book already seems to be well received among its crew.
“Usually when I do a book I keep a manuscript and try to cook from it,” Catrina Kelty, the food stylist, said. “So I’m gonna do that, gonna try to squeeze a dosa to my husband who doesn’t like sour dough breads so we’ll see what he’s gonna say.”
Kristin Teig, the book’s photographer, said she enjoyed the many different recipes in the book. Her favorites are the Sunshine Squash Masala and the Flambay Dosa.
“I like all the crispy edging and all the filling,” she said.
Neither Tieg nor Kelty had worked on an entire cookbook dedicated to Indian cuisine before.
Janice Baldwin, who operated as sous-chef during the photo shoot, said it was interesting to her to see all the work that goes into cookbooks behind the scenes.
“It’s great to see how much work goes into the photos and then how the light makes such a difference,” she said, noting that sometimes a dish can look flat but then the light just “puffs” it.
“I’m just excited the world is going to get to see Nash and Leda’s wonderful cooking,” she said. “They put so much love into it and you can taste it in every bite.”
The two enjoyed working on recipes for the cookbook.
“Coming up with ideas together was really fun,” Scheintaub said. “Sometimes we would clash.”
“It’s very healthy, it’s healthy food,” Marion said.
In her household, she said, it was common for the family to eat dosas two to three times a week.
Her favorite part of working on the cookbook was going through all the ingredients that Patel and Scheinbaud used.
Dosas come in a variety of sizes from small “set” dosas to huge dosas spanning several feet.
It takes 12 hours to create dosas. Four hours are spent soaking and grinding dosas, then eight hours are spent fermenting them.
If you live in a city and there’s an Indian grocery store nearby you can buy the batter. “Otherwise there are no shortcuts,” Scheintaub said.
Information from: The Brattleboro Reformer, www.reformer.com