Vadakari | Vadagari – Idli’s best companion

Yet another side dish for Idli. There can’t be enough of them. We wake up to idlis, eat them for dinner watching super singer, pack them up for long drives and even order them at Taj knowing Taj idlis. I sleep assured that 3 large steel dabbas of idli maavu (idli batter) sit in the bottom shelf of our fridge. Idli-Vadakari is my most favourite idli combination. For a very long time I thought Vadakari is made from leftover masala vadais which is probably how they make it in most hotels. But that Vadakari can be made from scratch without making masala vadais, I learnt as the first lesson after marriage. My maamiyaar (mother-in-law) laughed when I asked her if we don’t have to make masala vadais first. I didn’t know better. At home we always ordered vadakari from hotels. We’d never made it. One of the very first recipes I learnt in my new home was Vadakari and I’ll tell you this. It is simply beautiful. It can give any hotel Vadakari a run for its money. My dad thought it was great and I’ve given my mother this recipe.

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Vadakari is quite straightforward but just a little time consuming, that is if your alternative is chutney or idli milagai podi. Grinding the dal is the most important first step. Make sure to only pulse the dal in quick bursts so that it is coarsely ground. The second important step is frying the ground dal. The fried dal has to be completely dry and crumbly. This takes time, patience and a generous amount of oil. Don’t skimp. The rest is a breeze. If you get the first two steps right then you are on your way to an award winning Vadakari.

vadakari,vadagari,idli vadakari

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves: 5-6
Kadalai paruppu/Channa dal/Bengal gram – 1-1/2 cups soaked for 2 hours
Onions – 2 large chopped fine
Tomatoes – 2 large chopped fine
Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Water – 2 cups
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch piece
Bay leaf – 1
Oil – 5 tbsp
Coriander leaves – a handful chopped for garnishing
Masala paste
Ginger – 1 inch piece scraped
Garlic pods – 7
Green chillies – 3 
Sombu/Saunf/Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
1.      Rinse channa dal/kadalai paruppu in 2-3 changes of water or till the water runs clear. Soak in water for 2 hours.
2.      Grind together ginger, garlic, green chillies and fennel seeds adding just a little water. Grind to a fine paste. Set aside.
3.      Once soaked, drain the water saving it for later. Squeeze out as much of the water as possible from the lentils and transfer them to a mixie jar. Pulse in 3-4 second bursts, opening and stirring them around till the lentils are coarsely ground. They shouldn’t be ground fine. Just 2-3 quick bursts should do. Transfer the coarsely ground paruppu/dal mixture to a plate. Grind the lentils/dal in 2 or 3 batches. Dumping them all in one go wouldn’t get you the coarse texture as you’d have to grind for longer and in the process some of the lentils would be ground too fine.
4.      Heat a wok/kadai and add 2 tbsp oil to it. When hot add the ground lentil mixture and fry. This could take 10-15 minutes and quite a bit of oil. Be patient. Keep the heat on medium low and stir around the dal mixture till it is completely dry and crumbly. Add a teaspoon or two of oil every time the dal looks like it is sticking to the bottom of the kadai. Once done, it should turn a brighter yellow and should resemble crumbled boondi like below. Remove on to a plate.

5.      In the same kadai, add 1 tbsp oil and when hot add the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. After a few seconds, add the chopped onions and sauté till they’re translucent. Then add the ground masala paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Then throw in the chopped tomatoes and sauté for a couple of minutes.
6.      Now add the red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt and mix well. Add about 2 cups of water, turn heat to high and let it come to a boil. Cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes or till you no longer smell the raw chilli powder.
7.      Uncover and tip in the ground, fried dal mixture. The dal will soak up the water instantly. If necessary add a little more water. Mix well and simmer for 5-8 minutes for the flavours to blend and the vadakari to thicken. Uncover and check if the vadakari is your desired consistency. If you need it to be thicker, let cook uncovered for a couple of minutes. Then switch off. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with idli or dosai.

vadakari,vadagari,idli vadakari

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