Vadai is one of the most famous ‘South Indian’ dishes. Anybody that is not from South India, if you would ask them what South Indian food they like – there are three dishes: Idly, Vada and Sambar. This is my absolute favorite dish as well. I love eating these on Diwali day, along with sukiyam. Although I don’t celebrate Diwali per se, we are surrounded by so many friends and neighbors who treat us like family and share their foods and invite us to celebrate this festival with them. I used to ask one of my neighbor aunties, why do you strain yourself on Diwali day to make vadai, sukiyam etc, when you have prepared so many sweets and savories like adhirsam, murukku over the past few days. But she explained to me: ‘pandigai anniku ennai chatti adupula vekkirathu aidheegam’, i.e. that just as getting up early, having oil bath, doing pooja and bursting crackers are all customary for Diwali, making deep fried foods such as vadai and sukiyam is also customary, and part of tradition. Now, who am I to contradict tradition – especially when I get to eat it – and it is so darn tasty. 🙂
I miss Diwali back home in India. Although, I do have some very good friends here, there is not as much fellowship as it was back there. To make up for it, I make some goodies on Diwali day. Here is a recipe for Vada, if you plan on partaking this tradition this year.
1 1/2 cups white skinless urad dal(makes 12-15 medium sized vadas)
1 tbsp rice
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
salt to taste
oil for deep frying
Soak the urad dal and rice for about an hour, but no longer than 3 hours. Grind the urad dal and rice by adding very less water, until you get a smooth batter. Add the whole black pepper, chopped ginger and cilantro to the batter along with salt and mix to combine.(If planning to store the batter, do this just before making the vadas).
Heat the oil over medium high heat. To form the vada shape, keep a bowl of water nearby. Wet the palm of both your hands, scoop a small portion of the batter, place it on your other palm and form a small disc. Dip again your index finger and make a hole in the disc, just like a bagel or a donut. Gently lower the vada into the oil. Since your palm is wet, it will slide right out.
Fry on one side until golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. Drain onto paper towels. Save as is, as a side, or with sambar and chutney as an appetizer.
Tips and Tricks for newbie vada makers:
* If you add too much water while grinding, it will soak up more oil while frying.
* You may make the batter ahead of time and store it for a day or two, but the stored batter would give out water. Blot out the water with a paper towel before frying.
* Don’t salt the batter, if storing it.
* Stored batter, soaks up more oil while frying.
* For a crispy vada, omit the tbsp of rice while soaking and add a handful of cooked rice to the urad dal while grinding.
* For variations, omit the black pepper and add finely cut green chillies to taste. Add a shallot, cut fine to the batter for an oniony bite. Add curry leaves and asafoetida instead of the cilantro and ginger, or add everything.
* Keep the oil on a medium high heat all the time. Be patient while frying, or else you will get the ouside cooked too soon, before the insides cook.
* Set up your kitchen workspace with a bowl of batter, a smaller bowl with water for dipping, a plate lined with paper towels for draining the fried vadas and a slotted spoon to use.
* If you have a hard time making the holes in the vada, not to worry, just scoop out the batter using an icecream scoop and fry away.
* If planning to make vadas for a party, and you need to make it in advance. Drop the vadas in the hot oil and remove when slightly cooked, while they are a very light golden. Just before serving, re-fry the vadas to a perfect golden brown. This not only ensures that you have fresh vadas at the party, which are hot and take very less time to cook, but adds to extra crispiness. This trick is used in most of the famous hotels in India.
Verdict: This crispy, crunchy snack is perfect for a party appetizer, a festive offering or just on a cold rainy day with a cup of cofee. My vadais did not absorb too much oil and made me feel less guilty eating them.
Sending this to the following events:
1. Serve it – Festival potluck
2. My Legume Love Affair – event by Susan.
3. My Diwali – My Way
4. Diwali – Festival of Lights and
5. Food Palette – Series Finale – Rainbow Colors