I have always talked about the feelings we Indians have about fried food. We may loathe it and tip toe around it but secretly we love things that have been fried in hot oil till deep brown and crunchy. There is something that the bubbling oil does to food that is just so hard to resist.
The fact that one can smell these goodies being cooked on every street is India is hardly an advertisement to restrain from them or the state of our overall fitness. You just cannot avoid being tempted to buy some hot Vadas, Kachoris or Samosas straight from the wok and relish with a chutney or dip of some sorts.
Australians do eat a lot of fried food, but the lure of your neighborhood Halwai (sweetmeat shop) is something that will never happen here. It is hard to imagine a sweaty pot bellied uncle sitting in his lungi (a type of sarong worn by Indian men). Scratching his belly or worst digging his nose frying things on the clean streets of Australia. Having said that you can find some Australian’s wearing the shortest shorts that one can ever imagine having a BBQ in the neighborhood park. And even though I try and resist fried food, apart from the instances where my Punjabi soul craves for Bhature (deep fried bread), I sometimes give in and make other things too.
Also a gloomy, depressing weekend with the rain pelting down sheets of ice, making our bones freeze did not help. And gluttony won over health and these delectable Medhu Vadas happened. A very popular South Indian snack these lentil fritters are like a savory Indian donut. Usually eaten with a delicious coconut chutney or drowned in a bowlful of Sambhar they made a perfect treat for my very cold heart which needed some thawing today.
The recipe makes 15 medium sized Vadas and the batter can be made a day in advance and left to ferment outside, unless you live in hot and sunny Mumbai where I would definitely not recommend leaving the batter to boil in the sun.
I personally feel Vadas made of fermented batter taste better but it is completely your choice. Another thing to note is that the vadas are not too oily, which is a respite because one anyways feels guilty gobbling these delights.
Recipe (cooking time 10-15 minutes)
For the Vadas
1 1/2 cup Urad dal
2 -3 green chillies finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped curry leaves
1 tbsp freshly desiccated coconut (don’t fret if you do not have coconut, the Vadas will be good without it too)
1 tbsp freshly chopped green coriander
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp freshly grated Ginger ( do not use store brought ginger as it will alter the taste)
Vegetable oil to fry the Vadas
Wash the dal under cold water and let it soak for 4-5 hours in 4 cups of water. Since it was freezing in Perth, I left the dal to soak overnight.
Throw away all the water and grind the dal to a thick, smooth paste. You may need to add a little warm water while grinding the dal. However, keep in mind the batter should not be runny. It has to be thick enough to make small donut shape balls and deep fried.
Add the curry leaves, green chillies, coconut, cumin seeds and ginger to the batter. At this stage, you can leave the mixture to ferment for a few hours. If cooking straight away add some salt to taste.
When ready to fry heat oil in a deep bottomed wok (kadhai). Take a small portion of the batter in your hand and roll it, now using your thumb make a hole in between that goes right through, just like a donut. It is ok if you don’t get a donut like shape, the vadas will taste great nonetheless.
Gently put the Vadas in the hot oil one by one and fry till crispy and Golden. As the Vadas start cooking, they will float in the oil so you will know when to turn them around.
Drain on a kitchen towel and serve hot with Coconut Chutney or Sambhar. The Vadas stay fresh in the fridge for 2 days. You can heat them in a microwave before serving.