Monday, October 21, 2013

Medu vada - South Indian deep-fried lentil dumplings

Who's feeling a little adventurous today? How about we travel to South India for lunch?

Medu vada is a delicious South Indian dumpling made from urad dal (black gram), a bean from the pulse family originating from India. I grew up eating vadas because my home country, Malaysia has a minority Indian population so it's easy to find road-side stalls selling crispy vadas fresh out of the deep frier. Here in Canada: not so much. So even though the recipe seemed completely different from the stuff I'm used to making, my craving for vadas compelled me to be brave and try my hand. Now, five batches of vadas in, it's my one of my favourite snacks to make and I can almost say I'm a pro at it!

Black gram has a black outer skin, but you'll need split black gram which has had its black skin removed.

I found a relatively easy-to-follow video/recipe from the awesome ladies at Show Me The Curry. The recipe itself it pretty simple but shaping the vadas into donuts does take some skill. My advice is to just be brave and go for it! My first attempt at making medu vada only produced donut-like shapes, so I consider this recent batch a huge improvement! The green bits in the picture are cilantro (which I add to pretty much everything!) but I'd suggest using curry leaves for a richer flavour. Feel free to tune the chillies up or down according to your tastebuds' threshold for heat. I've also tried deep-frying the chillies for a few seconds before adding them to the batter; that makes the chillies crisp and not as flaming hot, which is more to my liking.

A few tips on grinding the dal: The goal is to use as little water as possible during the grinding process. This is because the less water added, the thicker the batter will be, and the easier it is to form the batter into donuts. So when grinding, be careful not too add too much water at once; add only a few tablespoons at a time as neccessary. Through a happy accident, I discovered that soaking the dal overnight (or longer) makes them absorb more water, so less is needed during the grinding process.

An important tip on shaping the vadas: The donut shape ensures that the vada cooks evenly throughout, so don't skip the step! Trust me - I'm speaking from experience. It takes a few tries to get it right, but you'll realize it's worth the effort once you bite into one of these crunchy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside deliciousness.

Full recipe after the jump.

Medu Vada
1 cup urad dal (black gram) - soaked for 4 hours or more. Drain before grinding.
1/4 cup chopped or sliced onions
1 tsp crushed ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sliced chillies, or to taste
5-6 currry leaves
Water, as needed


Soak your lentils for four hours or more. Drain soaked lentils completely.

Grind the lentils in a blender on medium speed into a paste. Add water in small amounts to faciliate the grinding. Do not add too much water!

Pour the lentil paste into a mixing bowl. Add onions, chillies, curry leaves, ginger, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

To fry:
Preheat about 2" of oil in a pan to medium-high.
Dip your hand in water. This keeps the batter from sticking to your hand.

Scoop up a palm-sized amount and try to form a round-shaped lump of batter.

Gently press your thumb into the center and move it around slightly to create a donut-hole.

Your batter should look something like this:

Gently turn your hand down and nudge the batter with your thumb to tip it into the oil. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side.

Remove from heat, drain on paper towels, garnish with a sprinkle of shredded cilantro and serve with sambar, chutney or a dipping sauce of your choice.


eaart said...

can I make this with regular lentils?

Lin Abdul Rahman said...

You could, but the taste and texture will be different. Maybe it's worth experimenting with!