Vadai is a deep fried snack, generally made with soaked and blended lentil. The most common of the Vadai Varieties are –
1. Ulundhu Vadai or Ulundha Vadai made with dehusked black gram and
2. Aamai Vadai or Paruppu Vadai made with bengal gram.
These two in themselves have different names. Ulundhu Vadai is also called ‘Medhu Vadai’ meaning Soft Vadai; Aamai Vadai is also referred to as Masala Vadai and they also possess many more names. Quite interesting though – that’s why the topic ‘Vadai’ can be a great research title!
One can also hear different versions of the same name – Vadai, Vada, Vade, Bada and I think in Punjab it is called Bhalla as in Dahi Bhalla, Thayir Vadai (Vadai soaked in curd) in Tamil.
Different Kinds of Vadai
ulundhu vadai – dehusked black gram vadai
That is not all! While we make Ulundhu Vadai with dehusked black gram and Aamai Vadai with bengal gram, there can be various kinds of Vadais made with different combinations to these two core ingredients.
- Vazhaipoo Vadai – with Banana Flower
- Keerai Vadai – with Spinach
- Milagu Vadai – with Black Pepper
- Thavalai Vadai – with combination of lentils
and many more innovative crisps by chefs at home. Vadai is served with chutney and/or sambar.
vaazhaipoo vadai – banana flower vadai
Apart from combining ingredients, there can also be other impressive ways of serving Ulundhu Vadais – the softer among the two.
- Sambar Vadai – vadai soaked in Sambar – the lentil curry
- Rasa Vadai – vadai soaked in Rasam – the digestive soup (for easy comprehension)
- Thayir Vadai – vadai soaked in yoghurt with mild spices
Aamai Vadai/Paruppu Vadai made with bengal gram is crispier and enjoys special place in a few curries like-
- More kuzhambu – yoghurt curry that has paruppu vadai in place of veggie
- Vadai Curry – an exotic spicy curry with ground spices, wherein the gravy is thickened by soaking the deep fried vadais. The taste of the spicy curry mixed with the flavour of fried vadais is a great hit with Idli and Dosai.
The Versatile Vadai
Vadai can fit in all places and occasions.
Any traditional festival, celebration or happy occasion would be half done without these for sure.
Breakfast – with Idli, Dosai or Pongal, Vadai makes the breakfast a complete ‘Platter’
Lunch – served with the three course Vaazhai Ilai Sappadu (traditional meal served on banana leaf) -the phrase actually is – ‘Vadai-Payasam’ – vadai and payasam/pudding to make the traditional meal a respectful finish
Dinner – who would say no to Vadai soaked in the lunch sambar or rasam, which is now a converted sambar vadai or rasa vadai for dinner..
Evening Snack – any guests for coffee/tea? – this snack can be simple and exotic, traditional and trendy – served with coconut chutney or any other chutney
Starter/Finger food – a grand dinner party – made smaller in bite size shapes, vadai can be an ideal starter or finger food
Street Food – it can be a sort after street food at any tea joint, or in bus or train stations
Live Kitchen – it could also be an eye-catchy as well as an appealing live display snack in Restaurants
The Balancing Factor
In addition to these impressive qualities, I find the essence of Vadai might be a culinary balance in festive occasions. For any festival, event or celebration, the quintessential flavor is sweet. Different kinds of or atleast one sweet dish is prepared for any special occasion. When enjoying food forms part and parcel of the day to day activities of an Indian household, the place of food in festivals is ultimate. The concept of making an occasion happy by distribution and consumption of sweets can sometimes be a painful practice for the self proclaimed ‘sweet toothers by birth’ too.
Here is where the role of Vadai stands appealing. When there is heavy downpour of sweets that smoothly glides into one’s tummy, there is always the quite bland and crispy/semi crispy salted vadai which is served with spicy chutney to give relief from the overdose of sweets. It certianly does great justice in soothing one’s palate during those essential times.
Hence, Vadai always forms part of festive food, to ensure a Balance might be.
Vadai-like ‘Akara’ in Nigerian Cuisine
While reading the recent article posted by dear fried Oz of ‘kitchen butterfly’, she had mentioned she tasted Vadai in Dubai and it tasted like ‘Akara’. I was anxious to know about akara.
Akara is a deep fried Nigerian Snack and breakfast meal made with ground de-hulled(peeled) brown or black-eyed beans and spices.
It is a very popular snack that can be eaten anytime of the day. Although Akara is popular as a breakfast meal, it can also be eaten as a snack or taken with Pap(ogi), custard or Agidi(eko) as a light dinner
Akara is also known as Acarajé, Fried Bean Cakes, Koose or Fried Bean Balls.
Almost the same, with the different lentil. Black Eyed Pea is called Karamani in Tamil. I also found ‘Karamani Vadai’ recipe posted by fellow south indian bloggers. Learnt many things here. Akara and Karamani sound similar too!
Thanks Oz for aiding me know about akara and nigerian cuisine through that comparison.
Ulundhu Vadai is made with dehusked black gram. The lentil is soaked and blended to a thick foamy consistency. For binding, rice flour is added while mixing with salt and other ingredients like onions, green chillies, black pepper and curry leaves. I prefer to soak little rice with black gram and blend together. This I feel gives a better texture to the batter.
The speciality of this type of Vadai also lies in its shape. This is a doughnut shaped snack. Hence, little extra effort is needed in bringing in the exclusive shape.
One can also make basic vadai with three ingredients – lentil, rice or rice flour and salt blended with water and deep fried. Adding onions, chillies and curry leaves enhances the flavor of this snack.
Ingredients (makes appr. 15-20 vadais)
dehusked black gram
batter with chopped ingredients
- ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram – 1 cup
- arisi/rice (any non-sticky variety) -2 tsp
- uppu/salt – as needed
- vengayam/onions – 1 medium chopped or 4-5 shallots chopped
- pachai milagai/green chilli – 2 no.s coarsely cut
- kariveppilai/curry leaves – 7-8 leaves randomly split
- inji/ginger – chopped or grated – small piece
- perungayam/asafoetida – 1/4 tsp
- yennai/oil – for deep frying
place batter on wet palm or banana leaf
make a hole in middle
Method of Preparation
- Wash and soak black gram and rice for a minimum of 2 hours
- Remove water and grind into a thick yet foamy batter by sprinkling very little water
- Add salt and all other chopped ingredients and mix well
- Place hard bottomed pan on stove and heat oil for deep frying
- For the doughnut shape of the vadai – keep water in a small bowl
- Wipe palm of your hand or banana leaf with little water, take little batter, place on palm and make small hole in middle
- Gently slide the vadai in oil and fry till golden brown
- Take out and place the vadais on kitchen tissue to absorb excess oil
- Serve hot with spicy chutney
fry in hot oil