Come Summer and Mambalam Mamis would be out in force on their terraces, laying out these vathal/vadams on Mama’s dhotis. Most of the vathal/vadam preparation happens during peak summer – April and May when the sun is at its scorching best and there are no winds to blow dust on to the drying vathals. It’s one big open-air, preheated oven, un-affected by voltage fluctuations and power cuts.
I am late as usual. I made these in early June when Kathiri was already over and the brief summer showers were just around the corner. I am perpetually late – for classes, for aerobics, for my own wedding reception and now for my children’s school. It was no surprise that I was late for the vathal season as well.
Vathals turn out best when they’ve had 3-4 days of blistering sun. In Chennai, that’s never a problem, usually. But when I decide to debut in the vathal arena, even nature colludes against me. The day we made these vathals, the weather was dark, cloudy, windy and un-characteristically pleasant. Even better – the next couple of days, Chennai received nice, sometimes quite heavy showers. Chennai was rejoicing and radio stations were playing rain songs while I silently fumed. It’s as if god was saying “Don’t try this, spare the vathals, at-least”. But if anything I am stubborn. Vathals I did make and they turned out really good thanks to my mother who did vathal duty shuttling them in and out (while I worried in office) and Rajee aunty who initiated me into the vathal club. The vathals tasted just like the vathals that the mami friends used to give us every summer. These vengaya vathals – onion vathals are nice and crunchy with lovely bits of fried onions and are a great accompaniment to rice and rasam. These vathals are extremely handy when you feel a meal is just short of a dish – deep fry these in a jiffy and you have a tasty and crunchy side-dish ready in minutes. I am sending this to Srivalli’s summer special Mela.
Prep time: 20 mins + 1 hour laying them
Cooking time: 20 mins
Makes: Enough to last 6 months for a family of 4-5
Raw rice (Maavu rice) – 1 kilo
Javvarisi/Pear Sago/Sabudana – 200 gm
Green chillies – 250 gm (around 15-20)
Salt to taste
Onions – 1 kilo chopped fine
Water – 4X times the flour
1. Grind together the raw maavu rice and javvarisi together in a flour mill. Ask for Maavu rice at your provision store as this rice is more gummy and ideal for making vathals. If unavailable, use just whatever raw rice is available.
2. Measure out the flour using a large bowl or whatever container suits you best and make a note of the number of bowls of flour you have.
3. Now using the same bowl measure out water – 4 times the amount of flour. Pour the water into a large broad vessel and bring to a boil.
4. Grind together green chillies and salt along with a little water to a fine paste.
5. When the water comes to a boil, add the ground chillies and stir well. Then add the flour and stir well with a long handled karandi to break up the lumps. As the flour cooks, the mixture gets thicker and harder to stir. It’s a nice workout for your arms. Keep stirring till the mixture is almost lump free. This would take around 15 minutes or so. The mixture would have thickened well to a nice thick gummy batter consistency that you can drop from a spoon with a little shaking. If the mixture is still runny at this point, don’t worry – just add in some rice flour (any rice flour available in stores) till you get the right consistency. Switch off. Let cool till it is warm.
6. Add the chopped onions to the warm vathal batter and mix well.
7. Use a plastic sheet or any cotton dhoti or dupatta for laying these vathals. Use bricks or heavy articles to hold the sheet/cloth in place. Place teaspoon sized mounds of dough on the sheet/cloth using your hands. When placing these vathal mounds, have a small bowl of water handy to wet your hands and to wet the vathal batter which tends to dry out. Make sure to break up tiny lumps in the batter with your fingers before laying them on the sheet. I used up 4 metres of plastic sheet for laying these vathals.
8. Let dry in the sun. Retrieve them by sunset and store them indoors. Dry them in this fashion for 3-4 days or even 5 days till the vathals are brittle and totally dry.
9. Store in air-tight boxes for up to a year or more.
10. To fry these vathals, take oil in a kadai/skillet and when hot drop in the vathals, they’ll puff up almost immediately. Remove using a slotted spoon to absorbent paper. Serve as an accompaniment with rice. or as a snack
You may also like my super easy potato vathal