About 20 km away from Madurai, the Kallu Azhagar temple stands in the foothills of the lush Azhagar Malai (‘beautiful hills’ in Tamil). Lord Vishnu, the presiding deity of this temple, is believed to be the brother of Meenakshi Amman (the Goddess of the famed Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple), and it was he who gave the goddess’s hand in marriage to Lord Shiva (Sundaresan).
The Kallu Azhagar temple is popularly called the Azhagar Kovil (‘temple of the beautiful one’, in Tamil), and local legends abound as to how the place got its name. There seems to be no doubt, however, about just how serene and picturesque the temple and its surroundings are. Before embarking on our recent trip to Madurai, I came across quite a few blog posts about the temple, each one talking about how beautiful and peaceful a place it is. No wonder, then, that the Kallu Azhagar temple happens to be a favourite weekend picnic destination for Madurai locals and tourists alike.
Being the big foodie that I am, the one thing that leapt out from these many blog posts and grabbed my attention was the mention of Azhagar Kovil Dosai – a special kind of dosa that is prepared with black urad daal and ghee, spiced with black pepper, which is offered to the deity in the Kallu Azhagar temple and then offered to the devotees as prasadam. I have never come across dosas being offered as prasadam in any temple, ever, so this intrigued me, not to forget several people claiming that this dosa is stupendously delicious and guaranteed to disappear within minutes of the making. Sadly, though, on our holiday, we just weren’t able to squeeze out time to visit the temple, and all my dreams of partaking of this beautiful-sounding prasadam remained just that – dreams.
Once I had got back home to Bangalore, I absolutely had to try making these Azhagar Kovil dosas at home. I did, too, and they turned out to be a big-time hit. They were simply lovely, very different in taste from the regular dosas that we are used to, and they did disappear within minutes of the making. 🙂
Since I had no clue about the recipe, I sought help from the Internet, which gave me many different versions. In the end, I decided to make the dosas using one step from this recipe, one step from that.
Here is how I made the Azhagar Kovil dosais.
Ingredients (yields about 15 dosas):
- 1 cup raw rice (I used Sona Masoori)
- 2 cups parboiled rice (puzhungal arisi)
- 1 cup black urad daal (halved)
- Salt, to taste
- A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
- About 3 teaspoons pepper powder, or to taste
- A few fresh curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/4 cup grated fresh coconut
- Ghee to make the dosas
- Soak the raw rice and parboiled rice together, in enough water to immerse them completely, for at least 8 hours. I soaked them overnight.
- Soak the black urad daal in enough water to immerse it fully, for at least 8 hours. I soaked it overnight.
- When the soaking is done, drain out the excess water from the rice as well as the black urad daal.
- Using a mixer, grind the urad daal to a fine paste. There’s no need to add water, but you could add a little water if required. Pour the batter into a large vessel. (If you are using whole peppercorns, add them in while grinding the urad daal).
- In the same mixer, grind the pieces of ginger, grated coconut, raw rice and parboiled rice together, coarsely. There’s no need to add water, but add a little if required. Pour this batter into the large vessel too.
- Now, add salt to taste, pepper powder and cumin seeds to the batter in the large vessel. Roughly tear the curry leaves with your hands, and add them to the batter. Mix everything well, ensuring that all the ingredients are thoroughly combined together.
- Set the batter to ferment, covered, in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight. This takes barely 3-4 hours in hot weather and 6-8 hours or even overnight in colder climes. You will know the batter has fermented when it has become bubbly and has risen.
- Once the batter has fermented, you can keep it, covered, in the refrigerator, for later use, or proceed to make dosas immediately.
- To make the dosas, heat a dosa pan on high flame till water droplets dance on it. Spread a ladleful of batter in the centre of the pan, spread it out and add about 1 teaspoon of ghee all around the dosa. Reduce flame to medium. Let the dosa cook for a couple of minutes, and then flip. Cook on the other side for a minute or so.
- Serve the dosas hot with chutney, sambar or gotsu.
- You could use oil (preferably sesame oil) to make the dosas instead of ghee. Traditionally, though, ghee is used to make these dosas.
- You could use either whole or halved black urad daal to make these dosas. I used the halved ones.
- It is critical to use black pepper powder and black urad daal, which are what give these dosas their distinct, slightly black, colour.
- I have used a mix of parboiled rice and raw rice to make these dosas, but the original ones from the temple use only raw rice (since parboiled rice is believed to be rice already cooked, which isn’t acceptable to make temple prasadam). I think the dosas made with only raw rice would be a tad chewy, while the addition of parboiled rice make them softer in texture.
- You could use whole peppercorns to make these dosas, too, instead of pepper powder. In that case, just add them in while you are grinding the batter.
- I doubt the original Azhagar Kovil dosas contain coconut. I decided to add it, to add flavour to the dosas.
- Once the batter has fermented, do not keep the batter outside for too long, otherwise it will turn sour. Keep the batter refrigerated, if you don’t plan on using it immediately.
- This might not be the original Azhagar Kovil dosai recipe; it might come close, but this might not be it. This is my version of the recipe, based on several different posts by several different people.
You like? I hope you will try making these dosas, too, and that you will love them just as much as we did!