There is an art in combining flavours, it brings the perfect balance of the essential flavours, sweet, sour, spice, salt and umami. Understanding these flavours and how they play on your palate is critical to developing new dishes and flavours.
In addition, as I travel around India and the world I see amazing ingredients being used on tables at home and in restaurants. These ingredients are used in traditional forms that are local to the region. Chefs like Varun Totlani, Niyati Rao, Manish Mehrotra, Johnson Ebenezer, and Prateek Sadhu are changing this formula. They sour the country and find ingredients that are unique and introduce them in contemporary dishes. These initiatives are applauded, as an Indian I am heartened by the diversity of ingredients that are amazing and unique, and tasting the amazing dishes at these restaurants shows the creativity of these chefs. Indian chefs have started to move away from being dependent on Western influences, and are bringing pride to the nation through these efforts. This is a dish I created as an ode to these master chefs, ones I admire, and some of the best restaurants in the world that I have dined in.
To me, creating a new dish starts with a concept. I wanted to highlight local ingredients that also were seasonal. Millets came first for their importance to Indian cuisine, mangoes next because of the season and finally, the highly prized Meghalaya crispy beef pickle that is unique to the Garo community on the beautiful Western Garo Hills. It also brings together the earthy base that is brought alive by the sweet-tart of mango chutney and the spice and crispness of the crispy beef pickle. The flavours and textures play an orchestra on your palate and this small bite comes together beautifully. This dish can be can served as a small starter course, but also as an appetizer if you roll it up.
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For the ragi dosa:
1 cup ragi flour
1/2 cup rice flour
6 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
10 curry leaves, minced
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon anise seed (saunf), toasted and pounded
Oil or ghee, as needed
For the Mango chutney
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 lb peeled and diced mangoes
1 teaspoon chilli powder, deggi if you have it
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
A generous pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Salt, to taste
Juice of 1/4-1/2 lime
To make the ragi dosa:
Mix all the ingredients except for the oil. Allow the batter to sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours to allow the millet batter to ferment slightly. Store in the fridge.
Heat a frying or dosa pan till very hot. Add 1/4 cup, or lesser, of the batter and allow it to spread out naturally. Drizzle with oil and cook for 1 1/2 minutes till the bottom is well browned and sturdy. Flip and cook for an additional 45 seconds till the pancake is cooked through.
To make the mango chutney:
Add the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Melt the sugar completely and add the mangoes, chilli powder and turmeric. Simmer for 10 minutes till ten mangoes are very soft and have started to break down.
Add the saffron, cardamom and salt. Mix in well and cook for 1-2 minutes. You can use a spatula and mash the mangoes as much as you desire, but I like to leave the chutney a bit chunky. Take off the heat and add lime juice. Mix in and taste and adjust spice and salt as needed.
Store in the fridge and serve at room temperature.
To assemble, heat the dosas on a frying pan or in the microwave. Add a dollop of the mango chutney and top with the Meghalaya crisp beef pickle. Serve immediately.