Vada’s exquisite flavor and deep aroma brought to perfection over the centuries, evoke and accentuate the subtlest nuances of taste. Its warm appeal have long been celebrated in a cuisine which demands that the eye as well as the palate find satisfaction. Its gritty, yielding texture has been prized for being addictive in nature and gentle on the tongue. Vada varieties are many in South India, and masala vada is one of the most popular and my favorite. Composed of chana dal and spices, grounded and fried, held with the fingers, vadas are eaten like a snack or part of the main meal with much gusto.
There are several versions of masala vada and the following is from my home, a basic vada recipe without onions.
(for about 16 to 18 vadas)
2 cups, Chana dal (sanaga bedalu)
6 dried red chilli, about 2-inches long each
1/2 teaspoon each- cumin and ajwan (vaamu)
1 teaspoon, salt
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
1×1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin peeled, coarsely chopped
Peanut oil, about 3 cups to deep-fry the vadas
1. Soak chana dal in water for at least 4 hours. Strain dal to remove water. In a clean cloth or kitchen towel, spread the dal to air-dry for about 30 minutes. This helps to make the masala vadas properly and they absorb very little of oil in which they are fried.
2. Keep a fistful of chana dal on the side. Take the remaining dal in a blender or food processor or in a mortar. Add dried chilli, cumin, ajwan, salt, curry leaves and ginger pieces. Process the ingredients until they form a coarse mixture. Don’t grind too smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add fistful of chana dal we kept aside to the mix and combine well. Coarse texture and intact chana dal are the two essential elements in a memorable vada experience. (The batter can be made in advance and refrigerated before frying.)
3. On your clean palm (hand), shape the mixture into one to two inch round patties of about half-inch thickness. Heat oil suitable for frying. Gently add the vadas to hot oil and and fry to golden color in batches. This is traditional method. Alternatively, fry the vadas on a lightly oiled skillet until they are lightly browned on both sides.
Serve the vadas hot as a tasty snack or part of the vindu bhojanam. They stay good for a week when refrigerated.
Masala Vada for Manchi(u) Roju