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 mins Cooking time: 20 mins Makes: 25-30 vadais
Vazhapoo (Banana Flower) – 1 florets picked and immediately dunked in buttermilk Kadalai Paruppu/Channa dal – ¾ cup soaked in water for an hour Onion – 2 medium chopped fine Green chillies – 2-3 Garlic with peel – 6-8 pods Fennel seeds/Sombu – 2 tsp Coriander leaves – ¾ cup leaves finely chopped Salt to taste Oil for deep frying
1.Pick the florets from the vazhaipoo and immediately dunk in buttermilk to avoid discolouration. As you peel away the big maroon petals, you’ll find thin cream coloured florets at the base of the flower. These are the florets that you’ll be using in your vadai. Pluck these florets. These florets will contain the cream coloured outer covering, a small transparent, plastic like flap in front (which needs to be discarded) and thin strands inside. Among these thin strands you’ll find one which is thin filament like with a slightly bulging top (needs to be discarded). Pluck the florets and discard the plastic flap and the filament inside. Dunk the rest in buttermilk. Set aside or refrigerate if you’re using it the next day.
2.Grind the soaked channa dal along with salt and very little water to a coarse paste. Set aside.
3.Grind together green chillies, garlic and fennel seeds to a coarse paste. Set aside.
4.Drain the buttermilk and squeeze out the liquid and grind/pulse the vazhaipoo florets just for half a minute or so. The florets should just be minced but not ground fine.
5.Mix together ground vazhaipoo, channa dal, green chilli masala and finely chopped coriander leaves and mix well. Taste and adjust salt. Don’t add water. The consistency of the vadai mixture should be similar to that of the masala vadai.
6.Heat oil in a kadai. Wet your palms lightly, take small lemon sized balls of the vadai mixture and make thin discs on your palm. Slide gently into the oil when the oil is hot. Cook on medium-high till the vadais are cooked through and golden. Continue deep-frying in batches. Remove onto absorbent paper. Serve hot.
1.Picking the vazhaipoo florets can stain your hands. So oil your hands before and wash with salt after you’re done picking.
2.While buying vazhaipoo, lift the outermost petal of the flower to peek at the florets within. These florets should be cream in colour. If they’re brown or black they’re no good, don’t buy them.
3.Soak the vazhaipoo florets in buttermilk to avoid browning. You can leave the buttermilk soaked florets overnight in the refrigerator.
4.As you get to the centre of the flower, the florets get smaller and smaller. Here you may not find the plastic flap like covering at all. Just pinch the top bulb like portion to remove the filament and use the rest. The teeny tiny florets inside you can use as is without discarding any part of them.