Thursday, May 6, 2010


Injera is considered the staple food preparation for most of the population in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Yemen while Dosa is consumed widely in southern part of India. Both are fermented and baked in open stove for eating readily. Probably those who consume these two products would be totally ignorant about each other's food and one may not like the other because of perceptible differences in taste, texture and flavor. It will be interesting to know how similar and nutritious they are in terms of their various characteristics. While Injera is made from the unique coarse grain Teff, dosa batter is prepared using a blend of black gram and rice.

Teff is the smallest grain known to man with an average diameter of 1 mm. As early as 3359 BC, it was found in one of the Pyramids and it is grown in the northern highlands of Northeast Africa. it has some unique characteristics not found in any other food grains. Being rich in Calcium, Phosphorus, Copper, Aluminum, Barium, Iron and Thiamine, it comes with hues of colors ranging from white to brown depending on the cultivar grown. It is a grain containing 14% protein with balanced amino acid profile. Traditionally the fine flour from Teff is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for 2-3 days where upon the yeast present produces a dough or batter that can be poured on to a hot griddle for baking into slightly puffy pan cake like product with a pronounced sour flavor and taste.

Injera eating is also unique in that the product with a diameter of about 30-40 cm is consumed traditionally without a plate when stew preparations and salad are placed on the freshly baked Injera. Pieces are pulled out from the periphery and the accompaniments deposited at the center are scooped with the piece for eating. After finishing the stew, the remaining part of injera, soaked in the juice of the stew is directly eaten. Modern house holds how ever use stainless steel plates for serving Injera. R & D studies have made it possible to make injera with other cereal flours, often substituting them for the expensive Teff flour to a substantial extent. Even ready mixes that can be used to make instant Injera are now available.

Dosa, basically is made similar to Injera but using black lentils and rice. the fermentation time is
some what less, about 18-24 hours under warm climate or 36-48 hours under cooler weather conditions. For obtaining good dosa batter the proportion of rice to black lentil is 2:1 or 3:1, with the lentil ground fine incorporating lot of air during the grinding operation. Fenugreek is invariably added in small proportion which is supposed to provide better fermentation condition. There are indigenously designed stone grinders that make the batter without generating too much heat, considered harmful for promoting fermentation. Modern day electric grinders invariably give a much inferior batter and dosa made with such a better does not compare well with traditionally made products.

There are hundreds of versions of dosa with different recipes, ingredients, preparation procedure, taste, texture and flavor. Traditionally dosa is eaten with the side dish chutney mostly made from coconuts or sambar, the well established Indian curry or onion-potato masala. Open masala dosa is like Injera, eaten with the masala dish in the center. Same batter with varying water content can be used make uttappam, guliyappam etc with different shape, texture and taste. Pesarattu, Adai, Aappam, Uppupuli dosa, Rava dosa, Neer dosa, vegetable dosa, Urad dosa, Maida dosa etc are variations popular with different communities.

Both Injera and Dosa get their characteristic organoleptic characteristics from fermentation with natural microorganisms. The first face of the fermentation is dominated by bacteria like Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Streptococcus faecalis, Pediococcus cereviciae, , Lactobacillus plantarum, L.brevis, L.fermentum, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens etc followed by yeast strains like S.cerevisiae, Debaryomyces hausenii, Trichosporon beigelli etc. These microbes are contributed by the grains used for preparing the batter. Instant dosa mixes being offered by the food industry is based on chemical leavening agents and the end product is invariably inferior to traditionally made counterparts.

If Injera and Dosa are almost like "cousins" from two different continents, why not one think of creating an Indian Injera or an Ethiopian Dosa? Sounds exciting? Any takers?



Anonymous said...

Its a great comparison abt Dosa Vs Injira. I love both Dosa and Injira.

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting. I wonder if there are any other major similarities between Ethiopian and Southern Indian cuisine.

Anonymous said...

how long dose injira takes to ferment ? do we need to add any thing for it to ferment?

Anonymous said...

I had dosa for the first time at Hampton Chutney in the SoHo neighbourhood of NYC. I loved it. I am Ethiopian and have forever struggled to make injera without success. And buying a pound of Bob's Red Mill Teff Flour for almost $9 at Whole Foods doesn't help either.

I am going to try to make dosa to eat with Ethiopian stews! Can't wait. Making dosas looks easier and is definitely cheaper than making injera....

Anonymous said...

I tried making injera,
just soked Teff flour in enough water (not too liquidy). let it for about 24 hr. and removed injera like dosa. I think the taste and look was more like Ragi dosa. what is the difference between Ragi and Teff then ? said...

I tried Injera at an ethiopian restaurant MESKEREM at New York last year. Found it delicious and I want to try making it with the brown teff flour that my bro-in-law picked up from Kalyustans at lexington avenue, New York. I have surfed through lots of Injera recipes and blogs and hope to get somewhere close to the original! Going to be making it with 100% teff flour Wish me luck..

Aruna said...

I was looking for info on making injera with teff and happened to see your blog-- a very good description explanation of both dosas and injera bread. I tried making injera bread, but it came out a bit crispy and not spongy enough. After reading the good health benefits of teff, I just made a very crispy and thin dosa which tasted just like any standard dosa from south India. Here are the ingredients:
1 cup urad dal (soaked and ground in a blender to dosa batter consistency);
some salt;
added two spoons of plain kefir for aiding fermentation;
2 cups of teff flour (got it from an organic store in Princeton)
1 and a quarter cup of brown rice powder

Mixed all these together and fermented overnight. I could make wonderfully tasty and crispy dosas from this batter this morning. Even my mother visiting us from Andhra liked the taste and texture and felt the taste is almost like the traditional dosa. thought of sharing this with you.

Anonymous said...

i think teff and ragi are different types of grass, they are classified differently. ragi belongs to a wide family of millets but teff oddly isn't considered a millet and is in a category of its own. i could be wrong in this.

i too can use advice in cooking teff. i got the darkest colored teff and was soaking it, and it ended up smelling very bad.
there is a specific time you have to soak at, what it is i don't know.

i want to know do people eat teff like a cooked rice? when i spoke to an ethiopian lady she said never. always they make the injera and that is soaked and fermented for a very very long time.

please any ethiopians of elder generation tell how to cook teff properly, can you cook it like a rice?

Anonymous said...

if you soak your teff and it smells very bad like for me, throw it out, don't use it otherwise you'll get sick.

i'm still looking for a source as to how to properly cooking this grain, i don't use flour i use the real teff grain that is darkest in color.

i want to know if it can be cooked like a rice or cereal, the ethiopian woman i spoke to said she never heard of anyone doing this. it is always fermented.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I know this blog is several years old now but it's interesting! I stumbled upon it because I became curious to know if there was a link between Ethiopia and India. Why is Dosa so similar to Enjera? I know this blog is about food but it's it interesting how the preparation is so similar? Yes, I am from Ethiopia and yes, you can make Enjera with rice! The Ethiopian's who live in Nairobi, Kenya make their Enjera with rice since they don't have access to the Teff seed. Anyhow, back to a little interesting's my belief that the Indian "Dosa" originated from the slave ships that traveled from North Africa to India during your slave trade. There is an Indian sect called Siddis (Habshis) that now live in parts of India and Pakistan. Now here is something interesting: You can call any Ethiopian person "Habesha" and he will tell you it's another term for Ethiopian. How crazy is that? Anyhow, sorry I know this blog is about food, but here is a link if anyone want's to read more:


Anonymous said...

Sudanese Kisra is also similar to both and sorghum flour (gluten-free as well) is used instead of teff.