Masala Vadai

This month being Purataasi, it’s been raining vadai, pongal and payasam every Saturday. Masala vadai is an all-time favourite and a classic Tamil dish (I have done no research into this, I just feel it in my bones. If it’s not, don’t sue me). Have you seen these masala vadais stacked high at tea stalls? Those vadais are usually much bigger and thicker. The ones we make at home are thinner which means they’re crisper and tastier. I enjoy the vadai-patting and frying routine. It’s a very comforting, typical Tamil-woman exercise (remember the Paati-vadai-Crow story). Masala vadais are much quicker and easier than the medhu vadais. The dal needs to soak just for a couple of hours, so you needn’t kick yourself you didn’t do the soaking the previous night. These masala vadais are much easier to shape too. Just remember not to add water to the vadai mixture at any point during grinding or at any other time. This is a firm vadai mixture. These vadais make great snacks along with a hot cup of coffee or tea. I am sending these masala vadais to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon #33 for the theme Kid’s Delight. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 15 minsMakes: 20 vadais Ingredients Channa dal /Kadalai paruppu – 1-1/2 cups rinsed and soaked in water for 2 hoursOnions – 2 chopped fineGreen chillies – 3 chopped fineGarlic – 5 pods with peelFennel seeds/Sombu/Saunf – 2 tspSalt to tasteOil for deep frying Method 1.      Rinse channa dal in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in water for 2 hours. Then drain the water and retain the dal. Pulse the dal in a mixer grinder to a coarse mixture. Don’t add water. Make sure not to grind it too smooth. It has to be a little uneven and a few dals may still be whole. This is how we want it. Remove onto a bowl. 2.      Add the garlic and fennel seeds to the small jar of the mixer grinder and pulse till it is crushed roughly but is not a smooth paste. Again do not add water. 3.      Throw in the chopped onions, crushed garlic mixture and the chopped green chillies. Season with salt. Mix well with your hands so it is properly incorporated. 4.      Heat oil in a kadai/skillet. Pinch a lime sized ball of the vadai mixture and pat into a round thinnish...

Medhu Vadai

I was always fascinated by the huge tyre like Medhu vadais that they serve in Udupi hotels for morning tiffin. Idli-vadai, Pongal-vadai or just vadai are popular breakfast orders in hotels in TamilNadu. The Vadai is the hero here – mighty, perfectly round, golden, crispy things that beautifully complement the soft steamed idlis and smooth pongal. These are served with sambar and an assorted array of chutnies – usually white coconut chutney, an orange onion/tomato chutney and a green coriander chutney. You can’t ask for a better combination. During my B-school hostel days, this was my menu order whenever I visited home – Idli – vadai- sambar-chutney and my mom would diligently make these everytime.  I never learnt how to make vadais during those times. I was happy to eat vadai after vadai watching TV. After roti-rajma-jeera rice every day I’d yearn for the familiar Idli-vadai-chutney. I’ve never been thin in my life, the slimmest I ever was, was during those hostel days, deprived of vadai, biryani and urundai kuzhambu. Making this vadai is quite straight-forward. Just make sure to grind the batter to the right consistency – thick, smooth and light. You should be able to shape the batter with your hands. It’ll be sticky, so wet your hands each time you shape a vadai. Alternately, you can use a banana leaf or empty milk packets to shape your vadais on. You can add little pieces of chopped coconut, curry leaves or coriander leaves to the vadai batter, we usually don’t. We keep it very minimal – cumin, whole black peppercorns and salt. Adding semolina/rava to the batter gives a nice, crunchy exterior. If your batter is too thin and the vadais are drinking up too much oil, you can add semolina/rava to thicken the batter. Made these vadais today for Aadi krithigai. Aadi anything is special. Prep time: 5 minsSoaking time: 2 hoursCooking time: 20 mins (includes grinding time)Makes: 20-25 vadais Ingredients Whole Black gram/Urad dal/Ullundu – 1-1/2 cups washed and soaked for 2-3 hoursSooji/Rava/Semolina – 3-4 tbspWhole black pepper corns – 2 tspJeera/Cumin seeds – 2 tspSalt to tasteWater as necessaryOil for deep frying – about ¾ cup or so Method 1.      Rinse urad dal in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in water for 2-3 hours. 2.      Drain the soaked water and keep aside. Throw the soaked and strained urad dal in...

Vazhaipoo Vadai – Banana Flower Vadai

Vazhaipoo Vadai is really special, it symbolises traditional Tamil cooking to me. I am not the only one who feels that way, even Rajeev Menon does. I love it that in “Kandukondaen Kandukondaen” Mammooty and Manivannan search all over town for Srividhya and family but are unable to find them and then they’re at a hotel and they order Vazhaipoo vadai. They taste the Vazhaipoo vadai and immediately ask to see the person who made the vadais as they know the distinctive taste of the Vazhaipoo vadai, they know that it has to be Srividhya who made those vadais. The Vazhaipoo vadai plays a key role in “Kandukondaen Kandukondaen”, definitely more important than Abbas’s role. The director did not choose Molagga bajji, Bonda or Masala vadai, he chose Vazhaipoo vadai, because it’s special, it’s sophisticated (you won’t find Vazhaipoo vadais in tea kadais), and it is made differently in different families. Picking the Vazhaipoo (banana flower) is a little time consuming, but the rest of the process is quite straightforward like your other vadais. I picked the florets the previous night and immediately dumped them in buttermilk to avoid discolouration. I put the entire thing in the fridge (florets, buttermilk and all) and then used it the next morning to make the vadais. There are a couple of ways we make these vadais – the recipe I am posting today uses Channa dal (kadalai paruppu) and this is how we make it in my husband’s place. My mom used pottukadalai (roasted gram) instead of Channa dal which I’ll post some other time. The Channa dal version I am posting today looks and tastes closer to a masala vadai. These vadais are made quite thin and the vazhaipoo florets in this recipe are not ground fine so you can taste the crispy fried vazhaipoo bits when you bite into a vadai. I love vazhaipoo vadai. I am slightly partial to my mom’s pottu-kadalai version but this Channa-dal version tastes great too and I have to consciously control my hands while making these vadais. I tend to munch on vadais and deep-fried snacks involuntarily while making them. Prep time: 30 minsCooking time: 20 minsMakes: 25-30 vadais Ingredients Vazhapoo (Banana Flower) – 1 florets picked and immediately dunked in buttermilkKadalai Paruppu/Channa dal – ¾ cup soaked in water for an hourOnion – 2 medium chopped fineGreen chillies – 2-3Garlic with peel – 6-8 podsFennel...

Cumin and black pepper seasoned Black gram Vadai – Milagu muzhu ulundhu Vadai

Specked with cumin and black pepper, this black gram vadai is crisp on the outside, a little chewy on the inside and an excellent tea-time snack. It tastes great with coconut chutney. It’s a nice way to use up your whole black gram other than Dal Makhani. I like most dals but unfortunately not the rest of my family. If you’re like me and you don’t have many takers for Dal Makhani in your family, because your family is the idli-vadakari kind and not the roti-dal kind, then here is one great way to spin the black gram.  Prep Time: 10 minsCooking time: 20 mins:Serves: 7-8 Ingredients Whole Black gram – 1 cup soaked overnight in water Cumin/Jeera – 1 tspWhole Black Pepper – 1/2 tspSalt to tasteOil for frying Method 1.      Rinse the soaked black gram in 2 changes of water. Grind the rinsed whole black gram in a mixer grinder without adding any water to a thick, coarse batter in batches. With the last batch, add the cumin, whole black pepper and salt and grind. 2.      Have a medium bowl with water handy for wetting your hands in between making vadais. In a deep kadai, add oil for deep frying. When the oil is hot, take a lemon sized ball of the batter and flatten on your palm. Make these vadais as thin as possible and make a hole in the centre of the vadai and gently drop the vadai into the oil. Make more vadais and drop into the kadai making sure not to crowd the kadai too much. Reduce heat to medium-high. 3.      Flip over the vadais halfway through. When the vadais turn golden brown use a slotted spoon to remove the vadais to absorbent paper. 4.      Make vadais with the rest of the batter and fry in batches. Serve hot with coconut chutney.
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