Indian Breakfast

Light and delicious, and packed with Ayurvedic goodness, Indian food makes a lovely meal for breakfast

Traditional Indian cooking is not only delicious but is known for its Ayurvedic functional properties. Ayurveda has been around since 700BC and aims at the holistic wellbeing of mind, body and soul. Every spice, herb and ingredient comes together in a method of cooking that “does something good” for keeping the balance of your health and lifestyle.

When I’m away from Singapore I sometimes crave for a dosai with its coconut chutney and sambal. Or a spongey idli. For a sugar hit I love UFO-like appom or puttu mayam with grated coconut and orange jaggery sugar.

A Chat with “Spice Queen” Devagi Sanmugam – chef, cookbook author, businesswoman

What are your favourite 3 Indian breakfasts?

1.Dosai – I only eat dosai using millets or other grains as they are low in glycaemic index

2. Idli – again I usually use any kind of millet or red rice flour

3.Corn or Ragi or red rice flour puttu or idiappam (puttu mayam)

What drink goes well with a lovely dosai?

Hot coffee or tea – both are good. I prefer black coffee.

Do I need a special frying pan to make dosai?

A thick cast iron flat pan of about 28 cm will be ideal. Cast Irons give great heat retention and they also develop a natural non-stick coating over time if you treat them correctly. A non-stick pan is also good. I have both.

A number of these food items have a fermentation element like toddy, coconut water, yoghurt, rice etc (appom, dosai). Traditional Indian cooks must have known about the health benefits way before the kefir/kombucha craze. Or is fermentation mainly for flavour?

There are quite a number Indian dishes that requires fermentation. It is for health benefit and for flavour too.

Fermentation of batter can be done with the addition of toddy, coconut water, yoghurt, cooked rice or cooked flour (like a roux). Some Indians even put one or two seeds of tamarind (still with the pulp) into a prepared batter to trigger fermentation.

Fermented batter is also used for making Indian sweets like jalebi and jankari and there are also fermented drinks like kanji made from fermented beetroot.


Devagi’s cookbook I am a Rice Cooker! published by Orange Inkk showcases a myriad of Asian cooking techniques, and recipes and anecdotes her love for rice. The cookbook was top in the cooking schools category of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Devagi has published more than 20 cookbooks.


RAGI DOSAI (Millet Dosai)

200 g whole white gram, washed and soaked for 6 hours

15g fenugreek, washed and soaked for 6 hours with the white gram

80g cooked rice

1100ml water (estimate)

400g ragi (finger millet) flour or buckwheat or red rice flour

100g atta flour (fine wholemeal)

15g salt


1. Place drained white gram, fenugreek and cooked rice into a blender. Add in the water and blend till very smooth.

2. Pour the blended mixture into a deep pot. Add in both flours and salt and mix to form a lump free batter.

3. Cover and leave it overnight or for 12 hours, to ferment.

4. After it is fermented, stir the batter well and test to see if it is of pouring consistency. It should be thick-ish but fall off your spoon easily.

5. If not add a bit of water to dilute the batter.

6. Lightly grease an iron griddle with the oil. Pour about one ladleful (1/2 cup) batter to the centre of the griddle.

7. Using the back of your ladle, gently spread the batter with a circular motion from the centre towards the sides of the tawa.

8. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of oil around the edges of the thosai if desired.

9. If your griddle pan is greased adequately and is not sticky, the edge of the thosai will start to come off the pan

10. Using a spatula, flip the thosai to cook the other side.

11. Fold into a semi-circle and serve.


1 tablespoon cooking oil

2 teaspoons white gram

3 tablespoons Bengal gram

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon oil

200 g onion, chopped roughly

3 garlic cloves

15 dried red chillies, cut into 2 cm pieces and soaked

3 cm ginger, sliced

2 sprigs curry leaves

700 g ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped

½ teaspoon asafoetida powder

1 ½ teaspoons salt

50 g tamarind mixed with 300 ml water


1. Heat oil and fry the two lentils and the mustard seeds till golden brown.

2. Remove from wok. Heat remaining oil add in the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, curry leaves, tomatoes and asafoetida powder and saute till the rough smell of raw smiles goes off.

3. Cool thoroughly.

4. Put the sautéed ingredients, salt and tamarind water into a blender and blend till almost smooth. Add in the fried lentil mixture and grind coarsely.

5. Serve with dosai, idli etc.

Selected photographs courtesy of Devagi Sanmugam

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