Crispiest Crunchiest Masala Vadai

I tasted these masala vadais for the first time at Kanniamman Kovil, Manapakkam where we’d gone for my daughter’s first “mottai”. The Mottai is a common custom in Tamil culture. Seen Kizhaku Cheemaiyile? Typically at 9 months of age, babies get their heads shaved at a temple. This is a big occasion, a milestone in the baby’s life and is celebrated with gusto – Pongal is made on a traditional cow-dung fired stove to be offered to god, biryani is made in huge deksas and family and relatives gather to feast and gossip. People arrive early in buses and vans along with their goats, deksas and jamakkalams (a thick durry/bedspread). Menfolk chat idly or play cards, children run around excitedly and women go about preparing the pongal and biryani. My daughter’s was a very low key affair, but it was during the month of Aadi and the temple grounds resembled a carnival with merry-go-rounds and several tiny stalls selling everything from glass bangles, plastic toys and mud pots to fresh curd and Masala vadai. Ah.. those Masala vadais!

crispy masala vada,masala vadai

Now masala vadais are quite commonly made at homes, hotels and tea stalls and they’re all tasty and quite nice in their own right. But these vadais have got be the crispiest, crunchiest of them all and they’re absolutely irresistible. Every time we go to the temple, we make a dash to the vadai kadai and commission the paati sitting there to make vadais full-time for our party there while the children get their mottais, are bathed and dressed and we make the pongal. The secret to these vadais is the chana dal rava. For these vadais, you’ll need to break your channa dal (kadalai paruppu) to a rava. You can get this done easily at your nearest flour mill. Store this rava in an air-tight box and whenever you fancy masala vadais, just soak this rava in water, combine with chopped onions and green chillies and deep fry. There – you have (wait, don’t wince – one more “crunchiest” coming up) the crrrunchiest vadai in town. It’s quite ingenious really. This recipe has the advantage of being way simpler and quicker than the traditional masala vadai recipe. Try it, you’ll love it.

vada kadai at kaniamman temple
Thank you paati for the great recipe. Picture taken during my nephew’s mottai.

vada kadai at kaniamman temple
They’re so cheap too. God bless the paati who serves up these delicious vadais everyday.

masala vadai,crispy masala vada
Replicated at home. Turned out perfect.

Prep time: 5 mins (Soaking time – 1 hour)
Cooking time: 15 mins
Makes: 20-25 vadais

Kadalai paruppu rava/Channa dal Rava/Bengal Gram Rava – 2 cups (we took the channa dal to a flour mill to grind it to a rava)
Curry leaves – picked from 2 stems rinsed
Onions – 2 large chopped fine
Green chillies – 3-4 chopped fine
Garlic pods (unpeeled) – 6
Fennel seeds/Sombu/Saunf – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Water – just enough to immerse the channa dal rava
Oil – to deep fry the vadais
1.      Take the channa dal rava in a bowl and pour just enough water to immerse the rava. Set aside for the rava to soak up the water – about 1 hour. The rava would have softened nicely having absorbed all the water.
2.      Grind together garlic and fennel seeds in a mixer to a coarse paste without adding any water. Set aside.
3.      Combine the ground garlic-fennel paste, curry leaves, chopped onions and chopped green chillies to the rava mixture. Add salt and use your hands to combine everything together. Your vadai mixture is ready. The consistency should be thick and you should be able to shape it into vadais easily. If not making vadais immediately, refrigerate the vadai mixture.
4.      To deep fry the vadais, heat a kadai and pour in oil. When the oil is hot, start shaping the vadais. Wet your palm with a little water. Take a lemon sized ball of the vadai mixture and flatten it on the wetted palm to make a thin disc. Pick up this disc with the other hand and slide gently into the hot oil. Repeat making more vadais and fry in batches. Fry on medium-high heat till golden on both sides. Remove the fried vadais to absorbent paper. Serve hot.
1.      Making the chana dal rava is a breeze if you’re in India. There are these flour mills (much fewer now) that’ll beautifully break up your dals to your desired rava granularity. Ask your maid about the nearest flour mill. I haven’t seen this rava in stores but if the chana dal rava is available in stores, by all means use it. We just took the raw channa dal as is (no soaking, drying nothing) to the flour mill and asked him to break it into rava.
2.      You can omit the garlic and fennel if you wish. But the garlic (with skin) and fennel seeds add wonderful aroma and flavour to the vadais.
3.      Refrigerate the vadai mixture for upto 2 days but not more. If not frying immediately, refrigerate till frying time.
4.      Always serve vadais hot, straight from the kadai. Serve with a simple coconut chutney for a nice evening snack.

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  1. Padmapriya Pugazhendhi says:

    Masala vadai is one of my all time favourites. Channa dal rava!! This is so new to me, have not heard about it. The vada seems to be so crispy and crunchy and the color itself tells how delicious it will be. I will ask my mom to prepare this version soon!!

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