Chota or dosa (sometimes called dosay) is a sweet Guyanese pancake. Unlike American pancakes it is not light and fluffy but it is some what dense, almost like a roti or flat bread. When I shared chota on instagram, a follower messaged me to say that they had never heard dosas referred to as chota. Chota is the Hindi word for small or tiny. After much conversation we wondered if early Indo Guyanese called chotas, chota dosa or small dosas? Since the size of Guyanese chotas are significantly smaller than the Indian dosa this made a lot of sense.
Chota in my childhood
Growing up in Guyana my late grandmother Evelyn’s chotas were the best I ever ate. When I was younger we lived in a four apartment house. Grandmother Evelyn lived in the front apartment upstairs and we lived in the back apartment downstairs. My aunt Rhadica and my cousins also lived with grandmother Evelyn who we simply called grammother. We called her mother nani (because my mother and aunts called her that) and although according to Hindi we should have called Evelyn nani, it just never made sense to us kids.
Evelyn or grammother had a way in the kitchen. She made chotas for us kids often as breakfast and sometimes for dinner. For breakfast chotas were served with curries or stews that were mostly vegetarian. For dinner it was served with a sliver of margarine or simply as is. Chota hot off the tawa with a piping cup of cocoa tea is a memory forever engraved on my heart.
When grammother made sweet chotas they were unbelievably sweet. The sugar to other ingredients ratio must have been really high because I just remember how sweet these were. The batter for chota is simply flour, sugar, baking powder and water. Mixed together to form a pancake batter consistency then cooked on a hot tawa or skillet. These little pancake rotis were so delicious. we happily ate, dipping them in the enamel cup of tea or as a vessel to scoop up curry. The sweetness of the chota added a perfect balance to the spices in the curry. It was a match made in heaven.
On occasion grammother made a savory chota. She ground up garlic and herbs with her lorha and sill (a flat stone with a round stone that worked as a type of mortar and pestle). Then she added the herb paste to the chota batter. We ate savory chotas without any stews or curry. I wonder if she did it this way when she simply didn’t have anything else to offer. As an adult this version of chota is my favorite. I keep my green onions whole for a bit of crunch but grind up my garlic and pepper in a mini mortar and pestle before adding to the batter.
Tips for Cooking the Chotas
I made my chotas gluten and grain free because I have a gluten sensitivity. I used cassava flour for this recipe but I will include substitutions for the traditional recipe in the notes on the recipe card below.
- When pouring the batter for chota it is important to have an even pour. So the consistency of the batter is important. You want a smooth and somewhat thick batter but not a runny batter.
2. Then you may use a spoon or the back of your measuring cup to spread the batter out for even cooking.
3. Typically when making pancakes you look for bubbles then you flip with the batter still being a bit runny. With chota you flip it when the top is almost dry and not so runny anymore.
4. Keep your heat set to medium low so that your chota gets a nice golden brown color but doesn’t burn. There is nothing worst that a burnt chota!
5. Remove from the heat and place in a kitchen towel to keep them warm. Unlike pancakes these are pliable and perfect for stuffing and rolling up in a little log, similar to Indian dosas.
Save it for Later!
The Chota recipe (Gluten Free / Grain free with traditional option)
- 1 cup of cassava flour
- ½ cup of coconut sugar (reduce to ¼ cup for savory recipe)
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of water
- Oil for cooking
- 3 cloves of garlic grated (or 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic)
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1 green onion thinly sliced
- pinch of black pepper (optional)
- ½ wiri wiri pepper (optional)
- A tawa or cast iron skillet
- In a mixing bowl combine the cassava flour, coconut sugar and baking powder and mix together well
- Then add the eggs and water and mix together to make a smooth batter
- If making a savory chota add all of the ingredients for the savory option to the batter and mix together well
- Add tawa or skillet to medium low heat and bring up to temperature
- When hot brush with oil
- Next using a ⅓ cup measuring cup, scoop batter and pour onto hot tawa or skillet
- Then use the back of the measuring cup or the back of a spoon to spread the batter out in an even circular motion
- Cook on medium low heat until the top of the chota is almost completely dry
- Then flip and continue to cook until golden brown, then remove from the heat and wrap in a kitchen towel to keep warm
- Repeat steps 6 to 9 until you've cooked all of the chotas
Traditional Chotas are egg free. For that batter use 1 cup of All purpose flour, 2 teaspoon of baking powder, ½ cup of brown sugar and ⅔ cup + 2 tablespoon of water.
Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder then mix together well. Then add the water and mix together using a whisk until you have a very smooth batter. Follow steps 4 to 10 in the recipe above for cooking instructions.
Storing the Grain Free / Gluten Free version
These chotas are best if eaten fresh. I stored a few in the refrigerator over night and they were not as great when reheated. To reheat I used the microwave. Reheating them on the tawa or skillet dried the chota out.