In 2010, novelist and newspaper columnist Nilanjana Roy argued that the dosa is the closest thing India has to a national dish. We now know this is true, because nothing has mobilised more vom emojis than news that McDonald’s India has come up with a “masala dosa burger,” which launched this weekend. Did we see all this outrage for the birizza?
It’s just as well that the outcry over McDonald’s new breakfast menu contrasts with the matter-of-factness of its arrival. When we conduct our investigation on Saturday morning, there’s not a Molotov cocktail in sight (Twitter, we’re disappointed). But there are also no garlands on the new menu board, and no upsell from staff and servers.
This may be because there is no such thing as a “masala dosa burger” at all.
It is instead a “Dosa Masala brioche”: a shellacked sandwich stuffed with the potato filling of a masala dosa. Does that make it better than you expected, though?
This sandwich, while not outright horrifying, is definitely among the worse breakfasts you’ll eat not simply around the city, but inside McDonald’s itself. Forget those spongy pancakes with their humiliatingly addictive artificial cinnamon smell that can haunt your waking brain on some mornings. Forget the new “masala scrambled eggs,” whose rehydrated texture makes you feel like you’re eating deflated balloons, but whose combination of spices somehow invokes the flavours of Irani café akuri (scrambled eggs) with stunning accuracy. Forget, too, McDonald’s coffee game, which remains strong as ever (and has upgraded to science-fiction levels of joyous efficiency at our local outlet).
In contrast, this stuff is just dull, flat, and stale without ever having had a chance to be fresh. It’s not just the weird McD bread, dense but pore-less as a baby’s skin. This writer knows the shame of enjoying its unnatural smoothness when contrasted with the taste and crunch of a batter-dipped McAloo Tikki.
The Dosa Masala Brioche offers only a seared, stingy tikki of batata filling, soggy with over-boiling and heavy with cumin. Worse (or better?), the promised “molaga podi sauce” never materialises—down to its last sour-milk clutch at the back of our throat, the sauce on this sandwich is the same peach-coloured mayo that haunts every other McDonald’s burger.
The best thing to happen to us through this entire meal is encountering a jewel-green pea in the last bite of this sandwich. There’s little reason to doubt its freshness: we can see a diligent line cook preparing the masala in a pan while we wait. Nevertheless, the darshinis, Udipis and dosa-cart aunties of the world may rest easy—there’s nothing in either the price or the taste of this sensation to cause their clientele to betray them.