Thursday, February 14, 2008

1001 Vada ( Indian Lentil Fritters)

Vada- A Primer
Vadas are deep fried lentil cakes or lentil fritters as they are known in the west.

Lentils are eaten across the world and so varieties of fritters exist in all cultures. In south India, they are normally made from the commonly available Urad dal, Chana dal and tuvar dal.

Batter made from a variety of cereals / flour are also deep fried and called vadas, but in the true sense of the term, Vada denotes only lentil fritters. So despite the name, the famous vada pav of Bombay is actually not a vada. Neither is the Madhur Vada of Karnataka, which is made from rice flour, rava and maida. To qualify as a true vada, the batter should be made from lentils and should be deep fried in oil.

This definition works well for most south Indian Vadas. But Anjali points out that a batter made from rice flour or cereals like millet are deep fried in Konkani coast. So we need a different definition of a Vada for the North. Any takers ?

Any deep fried lentil batter would taste good is the unspoken assumption behind Vadas.

Almost any type of fresh lentils, soaked and ground lentils, or boiled lentils can be used to make vadas. The taste and texture of the vada will vary with the lentil used.

Note that certain lentils (especially red kidney beans/rajma) contain toxins which are destroyed only on cooking. So these beans cannot be soaked, groundup and used for vadas. They need to be soaked, cooked and then used to make vadas.

A properly cooked Vada is not oily or laden with calories. Great vadas are possible only if you understand the the core deep frying principle - Maintain the oil at the right temperature . All tips below aim to keep the oil at the right temperature.

1. Use Peanut oil, sunflower oil or canola oil. These oils can heat up to higher temperatures without smoking - essential for cooking vadas.

2. Choose a deep,heavy skillet. Add enough oil so that it is atleast twice the depth of the food you fry. Using less oil results in its temperature dropping fast when batter is added.

3. Fry at the right temperature. Too high and you burn the batter. Too low and the batter soaks up oil and becomes greasy. If the oil smokes, it is too hot. To check temperature, drop a couple of bits of batter into the oil. At the right temperature, batter sinks a bit, but bobs right up and browns within 45 seconds.If the batter sinks, oil is not hot enough. If it dances on the surface, oil is too hot.

4. Do not overcrowd the oil. Carefully add the batter, leaving lots of space around each piece. Too much food causes oil temperature to drop and makes the food greasy.

5. Cook with fresh oil. Unless filtered and stored well, oil earlier used for deep frying may smoke or infuse a stale flavour to Vadas.

6. Cook with clean oil. After every couple of batches, filter away the particles of batter floating around.

All vadas need to be served hot, with a spicy chutney. Leftover vadas can be soaked in yogurt / rasam and refrigerated. They stay good for a couple of days. Leftover vadas can also be used to cook up Vada Curry - a restaurant innovation designed to use up the leftover Vadas. In this curry, vada is mashed up and simmered in the curry base.

And that's my first submission for Rushina's Pakora contest.

Model Recipes

These are some interesting Vada recipes I came across..

Dhivya's Banana Flower Vada
Anjali's Multigrain Vada
Kurma's Urad dal Vada
Divya's Dosai Mavu Vada - a different twist on the Vada, proving you can deep fry just about any batter and it'll taste good.


Anonymous said...

very informtive website.I luv vadas .after reading about how to prepare idlis i understood why my idlis are hard.thanks for expalining the technique along with the recipe..

ms said...

Ive been looking for this approach to food for a while now. I always thought Julia childs approach of theme and variation a nice concept to apply to indian food too. Couldnt keep all the minute variations between different idlis or whatever in my head. Do try to see if you can publish these pages as an actual book. I know i will be printing these jpgs out.

Best of luck,

Anonymous said...

Hi Priya,
Thanks for your comments. Grubstreet UK is publishing One page cookbooks later this year. Write to me if you need a soft copy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sowmya,
Glad to be of help.
If you cook up a recipe from the One page cookbook, it might be helpful if you mention the recipe number and comment on how it turned out. I'm hoping to get people to cook all these 1000 combinations and comment on them.

Sandy said...

Hi Ramki
FABULOUS CONCEPT! I love your classification of Indian cuisine into these one-page grids. Can I request a 1001 Dosas cookbook?

Anjali said...

Hi Ramki

Thanks for the inclusion in 1001 Vada.

There is another school of thought that believes that vada is more to do with shapping and the frying batter in hot oil than the base used. It does not have to be lentils. A vada could be round or flattened with a hole in the center like a doughnut or without.

Wish you luck for the publication.

Ramki said...

Hi Anjali,

Is vada a Doughnut shaped batter fried in oil ? If shape is important, then the vada mala or the masala vada get excluded in this definition

Is Vada a technique of frying a batter in oil ? If so Bajjis and Bondas can be called Vadas.

The vadas we love are mostly made of lentil batter fried in oil - which is the working definition I've used. If you have a better definition I'd love to post it.


Divya Vikram said...

Hi Ramki..
Thanks for listing my vada here..Nice blog u have ..very innovative.

Anjali said...

Ramki your reasoning is right for vada mala, bondas etc. The lentil vadas are common to the south but in Maharashtra especially konkan Vada is always made from flour mostly rice flour or mixed millet and lentils. So if you ask a konkani all votes go to flour Vada. Then may be they will tell you that Vada is a fried dough to be eaten only with chicken gravy and the combo is called Kombdi Vada. :)!

Ramki said...

Hi Anjali,

I stand corrected. Have modified the blog to include flour based Vadas. Thanks.


தென்றல் said...

Your blog is fantastic. I loved your theme "One Page Cookbook". Your blog is giving me confidence to cook :) Thanks a lot !!!

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