Saturday, November 24, 2007

Masale Dose memories and mania

Masale Dose [please pronounce it as ma-saa-le though-say to be ‘kannada-like’] in the 1960s was a major attraction to people. It probably has been so, about two decades or more before the 60s. My late father is renown to have derived pleasure in eating it in hotels with friends in Bangalore during his study at the just opened “Tata Institute” [diploma] in the late 1940s [his distant cousin remembers those days even now]. My grandfather did not seem to mention it having eaten it in his younger days in the early part of the 20th century. It must have become popular somewhere in between.

Masale Dose [MD] was and is a very special dish in hotels [not as much in homes]. Fame of hotels was directly proportional to the quality of MDs prepared and served there. Such was the way it tickled the taste buds. Hotels were so few then. In fact, there was no need for them with every family having its own cooks in the form of house-wives and other elderly ones to assist life in the joint families. Lunch or dinner was not a major item in hotels as now, nor did people feel the need. People went to hotels for a ‘change in taste’ which were usually breakfast/snack items. Idli, Vade, Uppittu, Kesri Bath. But MD was the much preferred one and filling too.

Childhood memories:
Since I was living in Chamarajapuram, we had close access to Ballal Hotel [bus tickets were bought as ‘Ballary hotel’!] a famous landmark, till recently. The newer generation will only see a mall there now. This hotel owner Ballal sat at the cash counter and used to relay the orders to the kitchen from there with his typical loud voice [“moor masaale”….”! The hotel was once famous for its MD taste as well as a Radio which was another attraction.
Meenakshi Bhavan, closeby had become more famous for its Radio than its recipes. People would visit there more to listen to the ‘Binaca Geet Mala’ presented by Amin Sayani on the Radio played with a loud volume! There were listeners outside as well.

In the evening of Ballal Hotel’s life, there was no need to take a purgative. Just eat an MD here and it did the trick, soon. For various reasons, it slid down in the popularity list, faster than that ‘trick’!

There was one “Raju Hotel” near Old Agrahara Circle. Much famous for its tasty items and reputation of having famous patrons like RK Narayan, et al. We used to go there as kids when an uncle visited us from Bangalore. The entire family in a group would walk leisurely to this hotel. Jamoon, the sweet had just cast a spell. The starter was this, followed by MD, the main purpose. Since the uncle always insisted on Jamoons before MD, he was nicknamed with a prefix of Jamoon. The gullets then had to be washed only with hot coffee served in glass tumblers.

In the early 1970s, there came up an “Idli House” in Krishnamurthypuram. They became famous [it is there even now] for the soft idlies and also MDs. Each MD was 25 paise. This was often our Sunday morning breakfast – brought home either by my father or me. I think since this was cheaper by 10 paise compared to other hotels people flocked. I remember one morning returning home from here with the bag of MDs on my bicycle handle and falling down close to my house and severely scraping my knee on the tar road. The scar on the knee is gone, but the thought and aroma of MDs being parceled home lingers. Brothers Krishna and Keshava from there incidentally came to play tennis ball cricket with our team at the Sarada Vilas College grounds.

We rarely went to Madhu Nivas or Indra Bhavan and I know not why. I remember once or twice having an MD at the much reputed Hotel Dasprakash right in the Proprietor’s chamber with my grandfather. That thrilled!

Father’s liking:
My father was famous for his liking for MD [also for chewing home-made Areca and “Congress Khara Kadlekai”]. He would often go with some colleague or friend direct from his office to the hotel where he found great relish. Those who accompanied my late father cherish those memories!

The MD is unique. Consult the Wikipedia [masala dosa] if need be, for basic information on this mouth-watering dish and its variants. Not for nothing it is unceasingly popular. Variations like Paper Dose, Table Dose [Rolled into about 3 feet long tube with that ‘Palya’ inside], etc. Innovations are possible with Dose and that is why it is popular among the housewives too. If they cannot ferment the dough at home, there are now readily available too. So she can avoid the chore and still prepare at home!

Our unique foursome:
It was MD that brought together our unique foursome [colleagues] to Mylari Hotel in 1983., a great cricket fan and gastronomer needed a reason to go there. He found a solid one when India had won the World Cup. He hosted to celebrate. As we were relishing Benne [butter] MD after the usual round of Idlis we unanimously decided that it would be a monthly affair henceforth, but hosting will be on rotation, for which chits were drawn after one cycle. Our group was unique. Rao was the senior most, in his 50s, Mukunda in his 40s, Ramesh in his 30s and yours truly in 20s. Wavelengths – more than for MD - had met. This went on for 17 years and beyond, even after the two seniors retired. If quality goes, customers go away. We did, again on a unanimous decision sitting there one day. It had become really awful! We had once gone on leave together for a breakfast there, followed by a ‘morning cinema’ and lunch at another hotel. Those are all memories now.

The foursome has traveled miles just to relish MD! Once we went to a reputed hotel in KR Nagar – followed by a relaxing trip to Chunchunkatte. Recently, the group traveled to Bangalore’s Gandhi Bazaar’s Vidyarthi Bhavan just for MD [with butter]. It was my debut there. The server has a unique style – he piles up the plates with MDs all along his left arm up to almost the neck and removes them to the customers’ tables! Much like the way Dagwood [cartoon] piles up his sandwiches!

Masale Dose indeed has remained an irresistible dish, so unique in its aroma. The housewife sometimes tells “Come I’ll prepare the MD at home, why do you go to hotels?” But who listens? That special, indescribable aroma that also lingers in the fingers the entire day, from the hotel-MD is the one missing ingredient at home! Perhaps also for that ‘unlimited chutney service’!!
I return to the blog to add one more item:
In our department group [office] we had one Sri Nagaraja [now retired]. He was another renown MD-relisher. Occasionally he would tell us about is younger day stories of how much of what he and his group of friends ate for a 'challenge'. Nagaraja used to host MDs to be eaten in our office for breakfast, for which he would start early from home, get them packed at PRASAD LUNCH HOME [near Old Agrahara] and bring. It went on for sometime till he moved his house away from Krishmamurthypuram to a farther place. He used to drink boiling hot coffee without a wince, in a jiffy! He was fond of saying "wash your gullet with hot coffee"!

I return to add this slideshow widget:

Dosa Eaters Group


Capt. Anup Murthy said...

I remember Ballal hotel, since I too lived nearby (remember?) and also have fond memories of eating MD at various places in Mysore. Ballari Hotel stop was famous I remember and the circle was also called Ballal circle, I guess they call it that even now although the original name of the circle is lost on me (do you know the original name Dinu?). There's planty of MD available at Indian places in SIngapore but there's always something missing. The flavor from back home has not been replicated here, even if the MD is sold as "Mysore Masala Dosai". The dosai is spelt as such because it is tamil origin here. During my recent short trip to Mysore, I did tuck into the MD at Mylaris in Kuvempunagar, just for the sake of it. Wasn't the same but close enough for me! Thanks for article, brought back memories of childhood.

Dinakar KR said...

Thanks Anup. Sometime in the last 1960s when that Ballary Hotel thing was at its peak, they named the circle as "Ashoka Circle" in a grand function one evening. I have vague memories of this. Subsequently, KSRTC buses had boards painted with that name as it was the starting and end points for a couple of route numbers. This new name never got to be used because that Ballary had been used by almost every one.

Outside Karnataka, all MDs are very poor imitations of the original. Now that Nazarbad Mylari Hotel has come up near this area.

Madhukar - VU2MUD said...

Chandra Cafe - another hotel nearby was another of father's favourites famous for the MD's. The hotel that popularised 'set masale' - a combination of two seperate dosas - one with the usual palya and the other with saagu (a mixed vegetable curry) was started by a hotel near Bidaram Krishnappas hall, just behind the present Devaraj Urs Road. Father would take me there while bring me back from school on Saturday mornings.
I too remember the special treatment at Dasaprakash Hotel. I remember a couple of visits to Madhu Nivas (not because of the similarity in names which was a joke of sorts in the family) and a MD sitting in the newly started roof garden and once in the regular area.
Indira Bhavan was probably a little out of the way to frequent. Although a visit to Indra Cafe on Sayyaji Rao Road was more frequent during the monthly shoppin at Bombay Anand Bhavan.
I did get to eat more often in Meenakshi Bhavan during 1977-79 as it was the "certified" refreshment centre for the NCC Cadets of Sarada Vilas High School. A NCC coupon worth SIXTY PAISE would get us Jamoon, MD and Coffee (the drink which I did not take).

Now the best part.

I am now a "certified" (at least at home) dosa cook. Masala, Plain, Paper (as big as the tava can accomodate), set, topi dosas are my speciality.

Drop in with appointment to savour them ;)

Praveen G K said...

Sir, Nice write up!! When it comes to MDs, the only place that can elevate me to an unexplainable feeling is CTR in Malleswaram. The Benne Masala Dose there is truly unbeatable :-)

Nice writeup :-)

Dinakar KR said...

I've missed Chandra Cafe, Gayatri Bhavan [which was a few feet away from Bidaram Krishnappa RM] across Narayana Shastry Road. Besides dishes, Chandra Cafe's attraction was the statue of Godess Lakshmi "pouring" coins! It was a joy to go there esp. to bring the parcels to nearby home.

Dr. M.S.Narayan of Bangalore had told [to prevent children from getting into the habit] that if dark coffee was taken by children, it would make our fair skins dark!! The Dr's advise sounded real, but the brave continued with the 'habit'!!

There are other hotels popular for their specialities which people talk about. But opportunity has not yet been strongly created to visit there. Davangere Benne Masale somewhere near KG Koppal rly bridge, Thatte Idli hotel in Old Agrahara.

Another MD incident [office] has been added in the blog.

Asha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asha said...

Hi Dinakar, just found your blog. My husband Arvind and his brother Sharath both were in CKC too, 1-7 in boarding school, went HS in St.Philomena's and I was there in CKC just for one year for my 5th grade.
My dad is from Chamarajanagara, a lawyer then, moved out of there when he became a judge and so did I from CKC!:)
My dad knows many old dose and Idli places in Mysore since he went to college there long tome ago ofcourse!:)
Good to read your blog, reminds me of home!:)

Rajendra said...

I studied in CKC from 1967-1973. Left after completing my sixth class when my father was transferred to Bhubaneswar. Your blog is my only connection to a part of my life that I cherish very much. I remember many of the names I come across, like Sr. Margarita, Sr. Prudentia (Also had Sr. Alberta and Sr. Olivia in the 4th class). Still remember Leela Miss who was a fantastic Hindi teacher and Nirmala Miss who taught me Science. Keep up the great work. I do not ever remember having seen you but Ballal Hotel, Pavilion Pitch, Krishnamaurthypuram et al remind me a long bygone era that was full of innocence, joie-de-vivre and camaraderie.

Suresh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suresh said...


Things which I remember of Mysore 1961-1966

1) CKC School had taken us to watch the movie Junglee - Shammi Kapoor movie.
2) I watched Skebenga a movie at Ganesha Theatre for 25 paise
3) Free entry to Mysore Zoo on Childrens day November 14th and saw double humped camel for the first time in my life
4) Watched Hatari movie and then tried to catch cows in the field using the same Pole and rope method
5) The Idli shop 3 paise per Idli on 5th Main Krishnamurthy Puram
6) Ganesh festival and going to 100 houses to see Ganesha and get sweets.
7) Listening to Cricket Match on my Jeyrad Radio and hearing that Bill Lawry and Simpson keep on hitting runs and not getting out. Many two hundred run partnerships between these two great cricketers
8) Happy to hear that South Africa beat Australia. The Pocock brothers were great.
9) The Song "Iludu Baa Thaiyi Iludu Baa" Sung by a music group during Ganesha festival.
10) The gooseberries dipped in Salt water sold by Thathi near the Church at CKC.


Dinakar KR said...

Thanks for leaving some recollections here. I don't know where you are, Rajendra, Asha and Suresh... wish you left some contact clues along with your comments. I have a separate blog going on CKC. Hope you have read that.

Rajendra Penna said...

Hello Mr. Dinakar:

I am based in Silicon Valley, California, USA. It is a pleasure reading your blog.

Dinakar KR said...

The world's longest dosa

A friend sent this link to me on e-mail. Thought I would add here. I hope the link works even after 2 years from now.

Dinakar KR said...


There are many ways to eat a masala dosa ..What ever the way one eats; there is a very good reason for doing that. It shows some traits of the person that is you...

Case 1: People who open the masala dosa and eat it: These are the people who are very open about their life. Everyone one the persons friends would know all about him/her. I have generally seen guys do this rather than girls. Some people think that it is a gross way of eating but in truth, these people are just portraying who they are and how their life is.

Case 2: People who start from both end and approach the masala later: These are the people who like to wait for the exiting things to come to their life. Sadly when the times comes, they are not too interested or just do not know how to enjoy it to the fullest. These are the folks who just want life as either dry or exiting. They just do not know how to phase their life and enjoy it no matter what. There are two types of people within this group

Case 2.1: People who do not finish all the masala: These folks just do not care as much for the fun times as they are already brought down by the harsh reality of life. The dry periods in their life has left them with so much scars that they do not want to be really happy when the time is right. They just take only as much as they needed and end their life. A very sorry state indeed.

Case 2.2: People who finish all the masala with the little dosa they have: These are the folks who just are the extremes. They just go all out in life. No matter it is dark or bright. They may not enjoy life to the fullest but they sure make sure that they get every single good and bad thing out of life. Sometimes these folks are really hard to get along with. They are either your best friends or your worst enemies. They do not have a middle path at all.

Case 3: People who start from the middle and proceed to both ends: These are the people who like to get right to what they think is their best part of life. Usually these guys finish of the good portions in a hurry and get stuck with nothing but worst parts of their life. The thing to note among these people is that the tendency to burn out very early in their life. Like the above case, there are two kinds of people in this group too.

Case 3.1: People who do not finish the dosa: These folks are really the saddest of people. They are the ones who tend to end their life as soon as it hits the bad patch. For them, they only need and want the best things in life and nothing more. Typically, they are not prepared or tuned to life as a whole. They just want to enjoy from first till last. Sadly, no one in the world can live without even an ounce of sadness in life. Not even the richest of the richest. But to self destruct at the mere sign of distress is very bad. That is what these guys tend to do. Some learn to live life but most of them do not.

Case 3.2: People who do finish the dosa: These folks are the typical human beings. We all enjoy the greatest of times in life and push the sad parts thinking about the great times in life. Typically the plate is clean and nothing is left for fate or in life. Happiness and sadness are part of life and these guys know that and are kind of prepared for it. Life is not always happy but there are moments of happiness here and there.

Case 4: People who eat the dosa making sure that the masala lasts for the whole dosa: These people are very rare. These are the people who like to attain balance in their life. It is hard to displease these people and it is hard to make them really happy. They like their balance and are very protective of it. Sadly these are the people who tend to be lonely as anyone else may upset the balance of their system... Perfectionist to the core and are very careful. These guys do not make the best company but are needed in any group to make the group from going hay wire.

Dinakar KR said...

Case 5: People who do not share and eat the dosa as if it is precious: These folks are very protective about their life. They do not want anyone to come and interfere in their life. They like to hide their true nature and intensions for their benefit. Beware of such people as they are in every group for their own need and nothing else.

Case 6: People who offer their first bite to others: These guys are overly friendly. They do anything to be part of a group and make everyone feel like the group is important than the individuals. They are the glue that holds any group together. They are very friendly and bring the best of all the others in the group. They go out of their way to help other friends. Most groups should have a person like this and they are the ones who plan the group outings and other group activities. Once this person is out of the group, typically the group slowly falls apart.

Case 7: People who take one or two bites and then offer the dosa to others: These guys care about friends and friendship but they take their time to get into the group. They take their time in making friends and they typically are very committed once into the friendship. These guys like to always be in the side lines and typically do not jump into anything in life. They always take their time to analyze the situation and then make a decision. These guys take the better safe than sorry approach.

Case 8: People who wait for others to make the offer first: Typical people I must say. They are unsure about everything. Even if they wanted to offer, they will wait till the other person offers the food first. If the other person is silent, so are these people. They are the followers. They do terrific idea, they will pitch it to someone else and get their advice before proceeding. Sadly, most of the elderly world like these types of people.

Case 9: People who offer dosa only when they cannot finish it on their own: You all may be familiar with these kinds of people. People who are very generous only when all their needs are fulfilled. These folks are selfish but at the same time not misers or greedy. They just want to satisfy themselves before they give it to the world. They typically do not stuff themselves nor do they tend to starve. They are very good people who would give you the best of advices in life. They would make sure that you are not sad following their advice.

Case 10: People who offer the whole dosa and eat from others plates: These folks are other extreme. They know what they want, they get what they want but they cannot enjoy what they want. Instead they tend to settle for other things in life which satisfies the needs but does not satisfy the person completely. These guys are termed as born losers cause even when they have the thing they wanted, they can't stop others from stealing it from them.

So next time you sit with a person eating a masala dosa, look closely and see if he falls into one of the above categories. You may be surprised as how much it reveals about the person*

Enjoy eating Masala Dosa