Such was the advice imparted by my mother-in-law one muggy winter morning in Kolkata. We were making dosa, and it was my turn after watching her deftly apply batter to pan a few times; using nothing but the back of a small ladle to smooth out symmetrical, thin crepes. As one might imagine, I was skeptical of my abilities.

After assembling the batter – 2 parts rice to 1 part urud dal soaked in water for four hours, blitzed in the Mixy (blender), and left to ferment overnight – all you really have to do is fill the cooked crepes. However, that’s where shit gets crazy. Professor X and I tried one afternoon a while back, and ended up with something more like lumpy, torn/misshaped pancakes. Some were undercooked as well, and we ended up just eating the potato filling. One tip that we either deliberately ignored or completely missed was rubbing the heated pan with an onion wedge to prevent sticking. Another helpful hint was not to get the pan too hot. The most important one though was to spread the batter out boldy, and with pressure, in an increasingly large circular pattern. This is how you get the right diameter and right thinness.

The first dosa made with Dr. Mother-in-Law at my side had holes and was thick in the middle with burned edges. It turns out that boldy, and with pressure, does not mean dainty little circles. You cannot hesitate with dosa. The second try yielded only slightly better results. I applied more boldness and more pressure to the third, and it tore. At this point, I started thinking I should just stick with uttapam. Thankfully, the instructor was patient and encouraged my effort by  repeating the key tip – “Boldy, and with pressure.”

I wish there was a success story at the end of this tale. Unfortunately, my expert-guided dosa attempt generally failed to result in crisp carby envelopes that carry spiced potatoes, sambar, and coconut chutney to your face. My technique vacillated wildly between too timid and too bold. I did, however, discover that “boldy, and with pressure” applies to playing cello as well. Thankfully, no one will go hungry if a version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” doesn’t quite work out.