Thosai — healthier alternative to roti canai

Thosai and teh tarik served at an Indian eatery in the city.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, June 18: Eating roti canai at the mamak stall is a popular Malaysian past time due to its convenience and value for money.

However, those watching their calorie intake are understandably wary of partaking of this favourite Malaysian dish due to the relatively high number of calories in roti canai.


A search online reveals that one piece of plain roti canai (roti canai kosong) is estimated to contain as many as 300 calories, sans curry sauce.

So what’s a roti canai lover to do if the cravings hit?

Why not opt for the healthier alternative of thosai?

Thosai or dosa might not be as popular as roti canai, but this light southern Indian dish is available at many Indian eateries in the city.

Thosai deserves a second look from those looking to reduce their calorie intake but find it difficult to give up their roti canai fix.

For one, one serving of plain thosai is below 200 calories on average. For another, it is prepared and cooked using less fat and oil.

Thosai being cooked on the griddle at an Indian eatery in the city.

Thosai is made from a batter of rice and various beans which is fermented.

“The batter mixture is made of blended rice and beans such as mung and chickpea (white gram) that would be left to ferment for a few hours,” a food operator at an Indian restaurant here told DayakDaily.

“All blended ingredients are mixed with herbs and allowed to ferment for six to eight hours. If you want to consume the next day, it would be best to leave the mixture overnight.

“To prepare and to cook, the batter is scooped and then spread thinly on a greased griddle until it turns light brown before it is removed and placed on a metal tray with sauces on the side,” he further explained.

Thosai is usually served and eaten with coconut chutney and vegetable-based sauces like lentil curry, and tangy fish curry sauce.

The food operator said that diners at their eatery are more familiar with roti canai and that thosai, chapati and naan dishes are not as popular, unlike in West Malaysia.

“In this eatery, we sell more roti canai than these other dishes. But people could always try it.”

Thosai is usually served with (from left) a vegetable or lentil curry sauce, coconut chutney, and fish curry sauce.

He said that thosai has a few varieties and is quite popular in the Indian subcontinent from where it spread to Malaysia long ago.

He also said that he preferred roti canai eaten with lentil curry sauce and joked that thosai is not very filling.

“In our eatery, it is sold at RM2.50 per piece. You could have the dish for breakfast and mid-morning meals. If you have a big appetite, you could order two pieces. Just order a double thosai. Our staff will know and take your order.

“This is a value meal that is filling, if you like Indian dishes. With a glass of our ‘teh tarik’ at RM2.20, it is less than RM5 per meal. Perhap the next time you have a meal at an Indian eatery, or prefer something lighter in calories, do ask for a thosai dish and give it a try,” he said. — DayakDaily