Vegetarian? Vege-curious? You Should be Eating This

By now, you know variety is the key to any successful fitness routine. We’re talking about your workouts, yes, but we’re also talking about how you recover, particularly when it comes to your diet. After all, there are only so many ways you can throw grilled fish or chicken on a salad and trick yourself into thinking it’s something new.

In recent years, poke has become a trendy way to get that variety. It started in Hawaii, then began popping up on at high-end restaurant menus, then made its way to specialty spots, until finally it seemed like every strip mall in America had a poke shop. (Which is fine, we’re just observing the trend.)

So when we noticed dosa popping up on a few trendy restaurant menus — including Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s all-vegetarian ABCV in New York City — we wondered: Is dosa the new poke?

WHAT, EXACTLY, IS DOSA?

First, let’s take a step back. Dosa is an Indian food, often described as a sort of pancake or crepe. But unlike a pancake or crepe, it’s actually … good for you. That’s because it’s made with fermented batter, based on rice and lentils — a real dynamic duo when it comes to healthy eating. As Sidney Fry, a James Beard Award-winning dietitian, points out, “Anything that is fermented tends to be very good for the gut. It allows some of the vitamins and minerals to be more bio-available and stimulates certain bacteria.” As Fry note, those lentils are, like their relative the chickpea, a great source of protein. “And along with that legume comes antioxidants,” Fry adds, “which are very good for energy, good for anti-inflammatory.”

All of which makes dosa an especially useful option for vegetarians, given the high amount of protein. But even carnivores can appreciate dosa’s other advantage: versatility. Like a healthier version of a tortilla, it can be filled with just about anything. That means you can add delicious, healthy things as you see fit, and mix it up from day to day or week to week.

If you need ideas, consider that at ABCV, dosa comes with yogurt, avocado and sprouts. More traditionally, spiced potatoes are stuffed inside to make masala dosa. (“A lot of Indian spices are good for you,” Fry says. Turmeric, for example, is often used to treat inflammation.) Or just throw in some cooked or raw vegetables. Top it off with a healthy chutney, and you’re good to go.

NOT EVEN DOSA IS PERFECT

Now, there are some drawbacks to dosa. There are a lot of carbs, even if they are healthy carbs. Unlike a salad (or even poke), it can take a long time to prepare — because fermentation is involved, you’ll need to prep it overnight. (This is why seeking it out at a restaurant might be more attractive.) And it’s typically cooked in fat, which as Fry points out, can make it the kind of thing that’s easy to overeat.

That said, it’s delicious and, again, endlessly versatile. “It’s something you can make a large quantity of and store or freeze,” Fry says. “And it’s good any time of day — breakfast, lunch or dinner. With yogurt or with soups. Hot or cold. Plain or wrapped or filled.” So, we suspect we’ll be seeing more dosa — maybe even at your local strip mall.