I was watching TV the other day, in one of those vacant states: after dinner, without any purpose, half looking at my laptop screen, half looking at the TV.
On came a Vadivelu comedy scene. In this, Vadivel walks into an empty eating-joint, and sits and orders a Uthappam.
Uthappam, as you might know, is a thick dosa with tonnes of veggies thrown onto it. Normally, at home, when the dosa batter has been lying around for a long time, and cannot be salvaged, my mom will make uthappam - as by throwing in a bunch of onions, coriander and chilli, you can mask the old/sour taste of the batter and by making it thick, you can sidestep the problem of making a thin/brown/crisp dosa. Uthappam is a great escape, a great excuse, and a clearance sale all at once. And with not so bad results, I would say.
That was my understanding of the concept of uthappam. At least until I watched Vadivel's comedy bit. As I said, he orders a uthappam in the bit. He doesn't just order - he recites the exact recipe of how he wants it step by step to the waiter. He almost makes the uthappam take form in front of you.
He starts off with the recipe, by not listing the ingredients, but by giving suggestions as to how to wash/prepare the dosa-pan. He advices to put some water on it and use an un-used part of the broom to nicely clean the surface.
(In restaurants they use a thick slab of stone or iron/cast-iron for superior heat management. By splashing water, you not only clean the surface of any tidbits stuck to it, but also bring down the temperature of the pan and reduce the chances of being stuck with an ugly looking torn-up dosa.)
Then he suggests to take some dosa-batter and make a not-so-big, not-so-small size dosa. Followed by evenly sprinkling finely chopped onions, and green chillies over it. Then comes the master-stroke: he suggests to take some idli-podi and sprinkle it (like a gentle drizzle of rain). And take about 16 ladles of ghee, and put 6 of them on the uthappam and 10 of them around the uthappam for maximum effect.
(Of course the ghee part is very important for browning the uthappam and also caramelizing the onions - if you are diet conscious and skimp on the ghee and add some micro-droplets of super-healthy refined vegetable oil instead, you can kiss a nicely browned uthappam goodbye.)
The way he narrates the recipe is pure genius. How he builds up the interest, and communicates the excitement of an impending super-tasty uthappam is so infectious. Obviously, I was moved to action by the call. And dutifully reproduced the recipe the next morning to some stunning results (particularly sprinkling the idli-podi takes it to the next level).
People who come on TV cooking shows and recite mugged-up recipes and appear half-dead should watch this bit and take inspiration.