Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Medhu Vadai (Urad Dal Vadas)

We have a tradition.  Every time we go to Chennai, the morning after we land, my mom makes idli or dosa for breakfast, and we get medhu vadais from the Udipi restaurant a couple of doors away from our apartment complex. 

Medhu Vadai (Urad Dal Vadas)

This is a small restaurant, bustling with customers at 6:30 a.m.  There is a pot in the corner, with steaming milk, ready to be mixed with decoction for filter coffee, mounds of hot vadais and steaming idlis, a big stainless steel bucket with pongal – dripping with ghee, buckets of sambar, coconut chutney, onion-tomato chutney, and masala for dosas, all visible behind the counter.  The waiters have banana leaves, newspaper, and twine – ready to wrap up any order for parcel (take-out) that comes their way.  My husband likes pongal from here too – so sometimes I get pongal and vadai for him.   But, there is nothing that comes close to idli, vadai, sambar, and chutney for breakfast – at least not for me.

Though I don’t make these vadais for breakfast here, I make them for a lot of festivals and parties.  These are really simple to make – the most basic recipe has only four ingredients.  The trick is to be able to grind the batter without using too much water.  A lot of people add more water than necessary and so end up with oily vadais.  Since I use a wet grinder to make the batter, I use very less water.  My batter ends up being really thick, and my vadais come out really crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  As you can see, they are not oily at all.  See note below, if you don't have a grinder.

Here is what you need:

(to make about 20 - 24 vadais)

  • 2 cups whole urad dal without skin
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp. jeera
  • 2 tsp. whole black pepper
  • oil for deep frying
Optional: curry leaves, chopped green chilies, minced ginger, chopped onions

Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash and soak the urad dal for a couple of hours.
  2. Grind to a smooth paste without adding too much water.  I probably add less than a quarter cup of water to make the batter.
  3. Heat oil for deep-frying.  Once the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium so that the vadais cook evenly.
  4. Add the salt, jeera, and pepper to the batter.  If you are using any of the optional items, add those too.  Mix well.
  5. Keep a bowl of water next to you. 
  6. I use a sandwich- size ziploc bag to shape the vadais. Wet your hand as well as the ziploc bag.
  7. Take some batter (about the size of a big lime) in you hand and put it on the Ziploc bag. 
  8. Shape it like a donut with a hole in the middle.
  9. Drop this gently into the hot oil.  You can fry a few vadais at a time.  Turn the vadais over gently a couple of times till they turn golden brown.
  10. Drain them on some paper towels.
  11. Repeat till all the batter is done.

Serve hot with chutney or sambar and idlis, or as part of a meal.

Note:  If you don't have a grinder, and need to use a blender to make the batter, you will need to use a little more water.  In that case, add a little semolina to the batter, after you grind it, to make the vadais.


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