Doi Bora

Spongy lentil fritters in a yoghurt dressing: a perfect, cooling, filling snack

  • Cooking time
    4 hours
  • Calories
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Dinna, my maternal grandmother, was one of the most versatile cooks I have known. She had limited means, but she would teach herself things to cook that she had only heard of, or seen from a distance, using her instincts, and experimentation. Her doi bora was one of her most prized recipes—they were soft and airy and did not have the dreaded hard lump at the centre. My mother learned it from her, and we learned it from my mother.

Do not miss the sweet tamarind chutney. It really is the dark horse here! Keep it in a jar in the fridge to drizzle on all kinds of chaat.

Besides the regular sweet and sour doi bora, we have included another one of our favourites—the salty-sour “dahi vada” that Saravana Bhavan used to serve when I worked in Chennai. If you have eaten it, you already know how fabulous it is. If you have not, please give that variation a try.

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15 boras

For the boras

  • 200 g kolai'er dal (urad/biuli'r dal)
  • 150–160 ml water
  • 4 g salt
  • 5 pcs green chillies (chopped)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (chopped)
  • 8 g ginger (finely chopped)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

For the brine

  • 100 g yoghurt
  • 1 tsp bhaja moshla
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 green chillies (split)
  • 3 slices ginger
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 18 g salt
  • 1 L water

For the tamarind chutney

  • 15 g mustard oil
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • ¼ tsp kaalo jeere (nigella seeds)
  • ¼ tsp methi (fenugreek seeds)
  • 15 g tamarind pulp
  • 50 g aakhi gur (sugercane jaggery)
  • 10 g sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black salt
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder

Sweet yoghurt mixture

  • thick, sour yoghurt
  • bhaja moshla
  • chaat moshla
  • red chilli powder
  • salt
  • sugar
  • curry leaves
  • sweet tamarind chutney

Savoury yoghurt mixture

  • thick, sour yoghurt
  • vegetable oil
  • mustard seeds
  • green chillies (split)
  • curry leaves
  • carrots
  • bonde/boondi
  • coriander leaves


Step 1: Make the boras

  1. Wash and soak kolai'er dal overnight. Drain the water over a strainer.
  2. Once dry, transfer it to a grinder jar. Add water, and grind to a smooth paste.
  3. Transfer the paste to a large mixing bowl. To it, add salt, green chillies, ginger and curry leaves.
  4. Whip the batter extremely well, for about 10 minutes, until it is light and airy.
  5. Heat oil for deep-frying. Pinch about 35 g portions of the batter and drop them in the oil. Splash oil over the top to make the boras puff.
  6. Fry on medium-low heat, turning often, until the boras are nicely and uniformly brown.
  7. Remove them from the oil and set aside to cool completely before moving on to the next stage.

Step 2: Soak in brine

  1. In a bowl or container large enough to hold all the boras, add yoghurt, bhaja moshla, chaat masala and red chilli powder.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a pan, and temper it with mustard seeds, split chillies, ginger slices and curry leaves. Add this to the yoghurt mixture.
  3. Add salt and water, and mix well.
  4. Soak the cooled boras in this flavoured brine solution, making sure to submerge them completely. The boras tend to float, so you may want to weight them down with a heavy plate. Leave them like this for at least 2 hours.

Step 3: Make the tamarind chutney

  1. Heat mustard oil in a pan, and temper it with dried red chilli, kaalo jeere and methi.
  2. Add tamarind pulp mixed with some water. Add the gur, sugar, salt, black salt and red chilli powder.
  3. Let everything bubble together until the chutney thickens slightly.
  4. Remove it from the heat while it is still runny, since it will thicken further as it cools.
  5. Strain out the whole spices, cool to room temperature and store in a air-tight jar.

Step 4a: Serve mishti (sweet) doi bora

  1. For a single serving, mix together about 100 g of thick, sour yoghurt along with bhaja moshla, chaat masala, red chilli powder, salt, sugar and curry leaves. Beat well to remove any lumps from the yoghurt and dissolve the sugar.
  2. Squeeze the brining liquid out of two of the soaked boras and add them to the thick yoghurt mixture.
  3. Coat well and serve with tamarind chutney and green chillies on top.

Step 4b: Serve mishti (sweet) doi bora

  1. Again, for a single serving, beat the lumps out of some thick, sour yoghurt.
  2. In a pan, temper some vegetable oil with mustard seeds, chillies and curry leaves. Add this to the yoghurt and combine.
  3. Add two boras (after squeezing out the brining liquid), and coat them well.
  4. Serve with julienned carrots, a handful of bonde and chopped coriander leaves.

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