If you happen to visit Kamarajar Salai in Madurai, you may stumble upon a dosa shop that is as humble as it can get. A handwritten sign, reading “Azhagarkoil dosas” will welcome you to an old house where 70-year-old TV Viswanathan will be frying dosas.
Yes, you read that right, fried dosas!
Anyone familiar with the Perumal temple in Madurai must also know about their delicious evening Prasadam—the Azhagarkoil dosas.
A speciality of the temple, devotees and tourists flock to the place in the evening to taste the delicacy. This specially prepared dosa is a meal in itself and is unique to the temple.
Except of course, if you visit the Viswanathan’s house where he has been selling the same speciality for 35 years now!
Speaking to The Hindu, Viswanathan says, “I worked at the temple kitchen as a storekeeper for two years in the 70s and learnt to make dosas from the head cook. I used to watch him prepare the batter carefully and fry dosas on a panchaloha every day. The dosa is the evening ‘naivedhyam’ and popular among devotees and tourists alike.”
After he left the job, Viswanathan decided to try and cook the speciality at home. Unlike the usual dosas that are spread out on a pan with hardly a spoonful of oil to lubricate the dosas, this dosa is fried—either in oil or ghee. Tempered pepper, cumin, dry ginger, asafoetida and salt are added to enhance its flavour.
If you have never seen this kind of a dosa, imagine a vadai (or medu vada) but with a dosa batter.
“The key is the proportion of raw rice and urad dal in the batter,” Viswanathan says, adding that “Traditionally, only the samba variety of rice is used and hence the dosas are also called ‘Samba dosai’. We continue to hand-pound the rice in ural, to achieve the taste. Coarsely ground urad dal is added and mixed to the rice batter and left to ferment for a couple of hours.”
Viswanathan has been very consistent in making these delicious Azhagarkoil dosas. He has even been using the same silver utensils for the past 35 years to get the measurements right.
Viswanathan has a loyal client base that includes old and new customers, and even though he is incredibly popular, he sells the dosas for a meagre price.
“The dosas served in the temple are fried in pure ghee, but I use a mix of oil and ghee to make it affordable and sell them for Rs 25. I also offer a smaller variant for Rs 15 and Rs 10 for parties and evening meetings,” he says.
So the next time you are in Madurai, why not try this delicacy—a unique dosa that is fried like a vada!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)