Priya Ammu stands behind the counter between the sandwich station and sushi bar at the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods, preparing what looks like a crepe.
But instead of spreading Nutella on the dough, Ammu creates a dosa by filling it with curried vegetables. If customers ask for jalapenos sprinkled in their dosa batter, Ammu will oblige, though she thinks it’s overkill.
“I don’t use a lot of spices in my cooking. I don’t want to overwhelm people with spice so they can’t taste their food,” Ammu said.
A native of Mumbai, Ammu learned to make the South Indian street food from her mother-in-law. After working in corporate hospitality and information technology, Ammu returned to her passion and started a catering company. She opened D.C. Dosa at Whole Foods last year.
Ammu said she is on a mission to change how people eat Indian food in the U.S.
In India, dosas are a breakfast food eaten plain and served with potatoes and chutney, an Indian dipping sauce. Ammu, however, converted the light breakfast food into a heartier daytime meal by filling her dosas with eggplants, potatoes, cabbage and other spiced vegetables.
She creates the dosa batter out of a lentil puree, which makes them vegan, gluten free, dairy free and a healthier alternative to Whole Foods’ pizza and burger stations.
Ammu said her clientele consists of professionals from the IMF, World Bank and Federal Reserve, and she would like more than just the occasional adventurous student to try her dosas.
The dosas are a fresh new option next to the hot food bar, which can become monotonous. Customers can customize their dosas by selecting one of three lentil batters, a combination of three fillings and one of three chutneys. The chutneys range from a sweet tomato peanut flavor to a spicy yet refreshing cilantro sesame.
Ammu recommends that her customers pull apart the box that the dosas are served in and eat the pancake with their hands, like many do in India.
Along with dosas, D.C. Dosa serves mango lassis, a traditional Indian summertime beverage made of yogurt, buttermilk and mangos. Ammu puts a twist on the classic drink by adding ginger and cayenne into the mix. The resulting flavor is a unique blend of sweet refreshing juice with a hint of spiciness.
“It’s all about having an interesting eating experience. You can travel to India without leaving Foggy Bottom,” Ammu said.