Masala Vada Recipe (Indian Urad Dal Fritters)
Nobody can say no to fried food. These vada (Indian-style fritters) are no exception. The dish is fairly easy to make; all you need to do is soak the lentils long enough before blending them into a mixture slightly thicker than pancake batter. The batter is made of urad dal and mirchi ("chiles" in Urdu), deep-fried, then served with a cilantro chutney.
We often make large batches of vada on the weekend. The girls and I take turns manning the fry station and preparing more chutney. Frying can be a little scary for kids learning to cook, and I've found that this recipe is a good way of easing them into it. I wouldn't recommend it for small children of course, but my 13 and 14 year old sisters-in-law have really taken to it. Once you try the combination of vada and cilantro chutney for the first time, you'll know why!
Yields: 6 servings2 cups urad dal
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (see tips)
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 cup milk (or water), or more (as needed)
1 Anaheim pepper
1 Serrano green chili pepper
1 tablespoon green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1-½ tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 quart canola oil (or any neutral oil), for deep frying, as needed
Prepping the chiles: Stem, seed and finely chop both chiles. Set aside.
Soaking the urad dal: In a bowl, wash the urad dal thoroughly. Pick out and discard any badly-shaped lentils, then soak them for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Drain as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
How to make vada batter:
In a blender, combine the soaked urad dal, ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, cumin seeds, garam masala and baking powder (if used). Drizzle with a little milk for a smooth flow. Process until the batter has a smooth, yet thick consistency.
Transfer to a large bowl. Add the finely chopped chiles and green bell pepper. Season with salt. Finish with the cilantro leaves. Stir well.
Layer a cooling rack, previously lined with paper towels if you like, on top of a baking sheet (for easy clean-up of the drained oil).
In a large Dutch oven (or any regular deep-fryer), heat the oil for about 2-3 minutes over high heat. There should be at least a 2-inch-high level of oil. Wait until the oil is slightly bubbly (not too hot).
Test the oil by dropping a teaspoon of vada batter into the hot oil. It should float but not swell.
Place 2-tablespoon mounds of vada batter at a time in the hot oil. Place up to 8-10 vadas per batch.
Fry in batches. Make sure the vadas don't touch each other. Lower the heat to medium-low for even cooking and to prevent them from browning too fast. Deep fry for about 5 minutes per batch until golden. Flip each piece using a spider skimmer and cook for about a minute until crispy on both sides. Delicately lift each fritter, draining as much oil as possible and transfer them on the cooling rack. Continue with the rest of the vadas.
This recipe yields 36 fritters.
Serve immediately with the vada chutney on the side.
Using milk is not the authentic version that Baji (Lulu's late grandma) taught me how to make, but I like the creamier texture it provides. Water is usually used instead.
Urad dal can be found in any Indian store.
For optimum results when heating the frying oil, the thermometer should register 345°F to 360°F. Heat the oil over medium to high heat (for a nice golden color).
Suggestion: Once you drop the vada batter into the hot oil, you could add a small cube of nabulsi cheese in the center of each fritter. Nabulsi cheese is Persian black sesame cheese, which can be found in Iranian/Pakistani stores. It's quite similar to feta cheese but much milder and sweeter. I buy Karoun brand Nabulsi cheese.Published By: on April 1, 2010.