The History Of Benne Dosa, From Davanagere To The World

Buttery, crisp and served up with mouthwatering chutneys, what's not to love about the benne dosa? Follow the journey of a beloved South Indian culinary delight, the Benne Dosa, from its humble origins in Davanagere to its global recognition and how this buttery delight became such a favourite of Karnataka cuisine.
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Benne Dosa

Dosas are always a popular way to start the day, and you can find a decent dosa in just about every state in India. But when it comes to getting the OG flavours, south India is the place to be. There are many stories behind the origin of this iconic dish, and there are also many variations to explore, one of the most popular being the Benne Dosa from Karnataka. A buttery, crispy creation that has since become one of the most popular orders in cities like Bangalore. But to understand how benne became the norm, it’s important to revisit the origins of the original dosas.

History Of Dosa

Food historian P. Thankappan Nair asserts that Karnataka has triumphed in the debate over the origin of dosa, claiming it originated in Udupi, Karnataka. This is supported by the frequent use of 'Udupi' in the names of South Indian restaurants famous for dosa. Chalukya King Someshvara III, who ruled Karnataka around 1126 CE, recorded a dosa recipe in his 12th-century Sanskrit encyclopedia, Manasollasa, under the name dosaka.
On the other hand, food historian KT Achaya argues in his 2003 book, "The Story Of Our Food," that dosa, known as dosai, has been part of Tamil culture since the 1st century AD, rooted in the ancient Tamil territory that includes parts of modern-day Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala, Lakshadweep, and sections of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, as per Sangam literature.
Additionally, a popular legend suggests that a Brahmin cook from Udupi, in a bid to escape religious strictures and experience the effects of alcohol, attempted to ferment his own using rice. Failing in this endeavour, he poured the mixture onto a hot pan, inadvertently creating the dosa. The term 'dosa' derives from the Kannada word 'dosha,' meaning vice or offence, reflecting the Brahmin's transgressions.
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Benne Dosa

Origin Of Benne Dosa

In Kannada, "benne" simply means butter, but the Davanagere benne dosa is so much more than a conventional butter dosa and is renowned for its distinct texture and flavour. This unique dosa variety emerge from the city of Davanagere, Karnataka. As the popular story goes, in 1928 Chennamma, a migrant to Davanagere, established a small eatery near Savalagi Drama Theater, renowned for her unique dosa, chutney, and potato palya.
Initially, she used ragi batter, but by 1938 her sons Shanthappa and Mahadevappa transitioned to rice batter, puffed rice, and dal, generously adorned with butter, quickly captivating the locals. Shanthappa's eatery, "Shantappa Dosa Hotel," founded in 1944 near Clock Tower, remains the oldest Benne Dose establishment in Davanagere, currently managed by his son Ganesh, while Mahadevappa's legacy is continued by his sons Ravi and Viji, with eateries on Church Road and Dental College Road respectively.
SInce the recipe for Davanagere benne dosa remains simple, typically consisting of rice, urad dal, pounded rice and butter, its widespread appeal doesn’t really add up the way it should. The dosa is served alongside coconut chutney and additional accompaniments like potato palya and sure, it's buttery and crisp, no dosa of that sort could be called bad. But aside from its unique texture, it doesn’t have all that many distinguishing characteristics. But, perhaps it is precisely this simplicity, combined with the delightful combination of dosa, onion-potato mixture, butter, and chutney, that has propelled its popularity, captivating the taste buds of all who indulge in its comforting flavours.
Today benne dosa are still found most often in Karnataka, but you can also find it in cities across the country. The combination of creamy butter and crispy dosa is loved by all, and benne dosa is quickly becoming a staple of the beloved South Indian breakfast.
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