International House of Pancakes! South Indian Adai

This is number 5 in my week of international pancakes, and we are off (once again) to the largest continent on the planet. This pancake is probably the least known of all the pancakes I have presented this week, at least to my western readers. In fact compared to the similarly prepared Indian cousin Dosa, this southern Indian pancake known as Adai is hardly a household staple even in India.

But I may be getting ahead of myself here. In case you don’t know Dosa is an Indian rice and dal pancake. It seems that a Dosa is often fine textured and thin like a crepe. At least the Dosa I have eaten in restaurants.

This version is called Adai and as I said is a specialty of the southern regions of India. Just like a Dosa, Adai is made with rice and urad dal (which is nothing like the mash of spiced orange lentils you may be used to when thinking of dal, but more on that later). One difference is that the cooks in the south of India include another type of dal also called tuvar dal – which according to my research is a southern staple. As typical of southern Indian cooking, Adai is spicier and more strongly flavored with the addition of hot red chili peppers, kadi patta, and ginger.


adai batterIt is also far thicker than the Dosa I am used to, and not as delicate. The rice and dal are ground, but not nearly as finely as if you were preparing a Dosa. The dal for Dosa is usually allowed to ferment some before use. The Adai pancake skips that step.

Perhaps I have used a lot of words you are unfamiliar with – maybe some of these ingredients leave you questioning your ability to read English. Believe me I understand what you are going through. Because when I set out to make this pancake I didn’t even know there was more than one kind of dal!

In fact, I have no idea how close to correct my version is to a proper Adai! I am cooking on faith and chutzpah… and just plain hoping that this is one of those dishes that is open to interpretation by every cook. It seems as if that may be the case. The recipes I came across truly did vary quite a bit.

In the end, I chose this recipe from a blog called Mad Tea Party because it is the link sent to me by Wind Attack who said he would be my new best friend if I included this pancake in my week of international pancakes. Well, who can’t use the best friend –­ old or new!

So for those of us impaired on the finer points of Indian cookery, I think I’ll include a glossary!

Dal (or dhal): In India, the term “dal” refers to any of almost 60 varieties of dried pulses and grains, including peas, mung beans, and lentils. It is also a specific preparation of orange lentils and spices and is what the author of this recipe refers to as “plain old dal”.

Urad Dal: Is a specific type of dal (grain) that is also called black gram

Tuvar Dal: Yellow lentils

Chana Dal: Chick pea

Asafoetida: A Middle Eastern seasoning that is made from the gummy sap released from the stalks of the giant fennel plant

Kadi Patta: Curry leaf

South Indian Adai  serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipes


  • 2 C parboiled rice
  • 1 C urad dal
  • 1 C tuvar dal
  • 1/2 C chana dal
  • 5 dry red chilies
  • 1 dash asafetida
  • ground ginger, to taste
  • green chilies, to taste
  • kadi patta, to taste
  • salt, to taste

adai in panSoak the dals and the rice overnight with the red chilies. In the morning grind it (coarsely) with the green chilies, curry leaves, and ginger. Add a dash of asafetida and salt to taste. Adjust consistency with a little water if needed.

Pour a big ladle full in the center of a well-oiled tava, griddle or other non-stick pan and spread with the back of the ladle. Don’t spread it thin; it should be nice and thick. Drizzle some oil around the edges and also a little in the center. Let it brown about 2–3 minutes, flip it over and cook about a minute more. Fold and serve with your choice of pickle or chutney or just plain old dal.


Greg Henry