Truth be told, making Indian batters from lentils or pulses is a challenge. The Indian grinder is not available here, nor the ubiquitous mixi with its multiple contains all for a different purpose. My Indian friends pop over to India at least once a year, so their kitchens are purpose built for Indian cuisine.
You will find numerous people advise high speed blenders, like Vitamix, for grinding batters, and I bought one with this in mind (and my old blender had had its day). It was Ok, I have to say, but still hard work. At the same time I bought a popular high-mid-range food processor – high speed with a twin blade. I decided to experiment with it to make batter for these vadai, and am really happy with the result. Quick and easy, no need to use a tamper to push, as with the blender, and I wiped the batter down only twice. There was no need to add extra water. To say I am over the moon is an understatement.
These deep fried vadai, a simple form of Medhu (Medu) Vada, are made from Urad dal with a few spices. They are the type that are soaked in yoghurt for 30 mins – on their own they are a little dry. They can also be soaked in Sambar, or, as I do when I am in a hurry, serve with a bowl of seasoned yoghurt and dip each bite into the yoghurt so that you get a luxurious amount over the vadai.
Vadai with Yoghurt
ingredients for 6 large vadai
1 cup split urad dal, without skins (hulled)
1 Tblspn rice flour
0.25 tspn finely grated ginger
0.5 tspn eno or pinch baking soda (optional, but makes the vadai lighter)
salt to taste
1 cup oil for deep frying
2 cups Desi or Greek yoghurt for soaking
Rinse the urad dal and soak for 6 hours or overnight. Using a grinder, food processor or blender, grind to a thick paste without adding water if possible. If needed, up to a Tblspn or so water can be added. It needs to be a stiff dough.
When ground, but still in the blender or food processor, add the asafoetida, ginger, rice flour, salt and eno. Blend or mix again to incorporate these, and keep blending for 2 mins to make the batter light and fluffy. Divide the dough into 6.
Heat the oil in a kadhai or large pan until hot. Lightly oil your hands, or just wet them under a tap and take one of the 6 lumps of dough. Shape it into a 5 – 6 cm wide round disc and poke a hole in the middle with your finger. Slide it carefully into the hot oil.
Cook 3 vadai at a time for about 3 minutes on each side. When they are golden-brown, remove and place on kitchen paper. Cook the next 3 vadai the same.
After the vada have drained and cooled, soak them in the yoghurt for half an hour, and serve. Garnish with coriander leaves. Or serve with sambar.
Add 0.25 tspn red or green chilli when blending.
Or add a good pinch or so of pepper and a pinch of ginger powder, and omit the asafoetida.
recipe notes and alternatives
If you want perfectly round vadai with a perfect whole, there is a kitchen utensil you can purchase to form them and drop them into the batter. However, I don’t mind the rustic look.