I am still trying hard to bring out the exact English translation of the Tamils' Masal Vadai.
Spiced up lentil dumplings? lentil patties? dal patties? extra spiced version of paruppu vadai? the step brother to Malayalee's Parippu Vada? I am unusually losing words for a simple description for this humble snack!
Hope the one on top with title which am (still) editing is fair enough :)
Paruppu vadais used to be and still are a regular tea-timesnack in my in-laws' house. Ma-in-law makes them in a jiffy. I see her entering the kitchen and breezing out with a plateful of hot vadais in the evenings, at least once a week. Honestly I had never been a fan of those paruppu vadais those days or even until this moment. They were bland, non-spicy with a gross flavour of dal that they were devoid of onions, garlic, ginger or even cilantro; the natural flavour enhancers of a South Indian recipe.
Neverthelessly the vadas were crispy enough while hot and the imperfectly shaped patties added to the taste while washed along down the throat with hot sips of chai those days.
Probably this was the only Tamil Paruppu Vada recipe I knew ever after amma's Parippu Vada (I liked them slightly better, comparatively) back home in Kerala.
It was around a couple of years back my taste buds hit an instant love affair with Masala Vadais in my friend Prabha's house. The medley of ginger, garlic and the spices with the dal was perfect! There wasn't the overpowering dal flavour in those crispy perfectly shaped coin sized vadas and I couldn't stop munching them as batches! (Prabha still makes fun of me which I heartily ignore :))
I got the recipe from her (cook to be precise ;)) which got scribbled in my grey matter in a casual way.
The neurons hesitated to budge as I tried hard to recreate back home because it had been months since I wanted to try and the cook had left my friend's house by then when I called up. I didn't want to do a google search for the recipe support either and adamently wanted to recreate the snack I first savoured!
After some very hard squeezing, the brain cells surrendered. I was able to recall the main ingredients and the Vadas eventually came out delicious. Ever since I make them at least twice a month for my son back school as he loves them!
The recipe down here is adapted along as I make over the months, with a bit of changes in ingredients, to suit the personal and family taste. It's a very flexible and an interestingly easy recipe with which you can play with the ingredients once you get the hang of the consistency of the batter and the knack for the crispy end product!
Masal Vadai /Masala Vadai
Yielded 20 small sized vadas
Get ready :-
Channa dal/ Kadalai paruppu - 1 cup heaped
Green chillies -1-2
Red chillies - 2-3
Garlic - 2-3 cloves
Ginger- a one inch piece
Fennel seeds/sombhu - a tbsp
Salt- as needed
To mix along
Big onion, 1 medium sized- chopped fine ( for better taste, use a handful of chopped small onions instead of big onions)
1/2 tsp garam masala (optional)
Hing/perungayam - a fat pinch
Curry leaves - a sprig
Cilantro, chopped fine,- 2-3 tbsps
To deep fry
Edible oil - 1.5 cups
Wash and soak channa dal for at least 2 hours.
Give another rinse after it has soaked well. Drain away the water completely and transfer to your small mixie jar. Throw in the ginger, garlic, chillies, salt and fennel seeds. Pulse at very short intervals adding very less/minimum water. Too much of water messes up the consistency, so be careful.
Also,a little dal should stay whole at the bottom of the mixie, and the rest of them ground coarse but combined well. Do not grind into smooth paste! We need at least a tbsp of dal as whole ones :) (you can either reserve some soaked dal, before transferring the whole dal to the mixie to pulse. I don't do this but be careful while pulsing) You should be able to make a ball which holds shape after grinding. Add along chopped onions, curry leaves, cilantro, hing and mix well to combine. Check salt.
Add garam masala if you like and mix well. This ball should be able to be flattened as patties with you finger tips as you see in the picture. If you ever try and blog about this, wish to take a picture on your own, make sure you don't use a dslr with a wide angle lens that makes your back break with umpteen efforts to perfect with you left hand zooming your alien right palm posing impatiently with the patties ;)
Slip the patties as you shape, carefully in hot oil, one by one and 4-5 for a batch. Be careful with the flame. Let the oil not be smoky. Flip the vadas carefully over, to let cook the other side. Drain in paper towels once browned and crisp.
Enjoy hot Masal Vadas with steaming hot tea or south Indian decoction coffee preferably on a rainy evening while scanning your evening news paper. Bliss!
I shape the patties casually with rough edges. Thus they are not perfect round ones with smooth edges and sides. Roughly shaped ones get fried soon and are crispy and delicious! So don't be too careful while shaping them out. Personally I prefer smaller bite sized vadas too :)
I also chill some batter and make vadais after 3-4 days. The dough stays well. This works decent for unexpected guests!