While vadais are easy enough to make, there is some skill required in shaping these savoury lentil donut-shaped snacks – a knack mastered after many years of misshapen almost-there attempts.
Traditional recipes call for vadais to be made with just urad dal (black gram dal/ulundu) and soaked for at least three hours. However, this recipe varies from the original with the addition of raw rice (pacha arisi) and toor dal (pigeon peas/tuvaram paruppu) for additional crunch and calls for a shorter soaking duration.
The recipe makes 30 vadais — if you’d like to make less, you can halve the recipe. Any leftover batter can be frozen for up to two months. To use again, defrost by leaving out for a couple of hours.
2 cups whole urad dal (black gram dal/mulu ulundam paruppu)
2 heaped tablespoons raw rice
1 flat tablespoon toor dal (pigeon peas/tuvaram paruppu)
Water to soak and grind (about 600 ml)
Salt to taste (about 2 ½ teaspoons)
Canola oil/Sunflower oil/Vegetable oil for frying
1 onion, minced
2 green/red chillies, minced
10 curry leaves, minced
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns, coarsely ground
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (jeera), coarsely ground
¼ tsp salt
1. Wash the urad dal and the rice well, and soak together for one hour. The water should be about 1 inch above the soaking ingredients.
2. After 50 minutes, add the toor dal to the urad dal and rice and soak for a further 10 minutes.
(Cook’s note: Do not soak the toor dal for more than 10 minutes else the vadai will soak in too much oil while frying.)
3. Drain 200 ml of the soaking water and reserve.
4. Add the soaked dal and rice mix and 100 ml of the reserved soaking water to the wet grinder and start grinding. While grinding, add more water, about 20 ml at a time, until the batter is smooth and fluffy. The grinding process will take about 40 – 50 minutes depending on the grinder.
5. Once the required consistency is reached, add the salt and let the grinder run for a few more seconds until the salt is mixed in.
(Cook’s note: To check the consistency, take a little bit of the batter, roll into a ball and drop into a bowl of water – it should float up.)
6. Turn the grinder off and scoop out all the batter into a bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
7. To make the vadais, heat oil in a deep-frying pan and take out the batter from the refrigerator.
(Cook’s note: To test if the oil is hot enough for frying, pinch a bit of the batter and put into the oil – if it floats up, the oil is hot enough for frying.)
8. While the oil is heating, keep a bowl of water (big enough to wash your hand), a sandwich sized Ziploc bag and a frying spoon/skewer ready.
(Cook’s note: Some people prefer using a frying spoon, but I prefer using a skewer to turn the vadais over.)
9. If using the optional ingredients, mix them in a bowl and add to the batter.
(Cook's note: You could leave out any/all of these ingredients, depending on taste preferences.)
Tradition has it that the prasadam for the Gods must not have any added ingredients, so I always make a few without any of the optional ingredients and then add them to the rest of the batter.
10. To fry the vadais (watch the video for the detailed process):
- I am right-handed, so I’m going to explain this for a right-handed person. If you’re left-handed, reverse the hands.
- Use the Ziploc bag like a glove on your left hand, palm face-up, fingers together, slightly cupped.
- With the right hand, wet the surface of the bag with water, and using the same hand pinch off some batter (about the size of a small lime) from the side of the bowl and put it on the open surface of the Ziploc bag, on the palm.
- Scrape any excess batter sticking to your fingers on the side of the bowl of batter and dip the fingers in the bowl of water.
- Use the fingers of your right hand to pat and flatten the vadai on the Ziploc bag and, using your forefinger, make a hole in the centre like a donut.
- Tip the vadai from the Ziploc bag onto the fingertips of your right hand (make sure the hand is free of any batter and the fingertips are held together) and then slide it into the hot oil.
- Repeat the process again and add the next vadai to the frying pan – depending on the size of the frying pan, 5-6 vadais can be fried at a time.
(Cook’s note: There are various ways to make the vadais depending on levels of expertise but this is one that has worked for me.)
11. Fry each vadai until the bottom is slightly cooked and doesn’t stick to the spoon, then turn over and cook the other side.
12. Keep doing this until both sides are golden brown. Remove and serve hot with chutney/thuvaiyal of choice.
(Cook’s note: Taste the vadai once fried, if it requires additional salt, add it to the remaining batter.)
Makes: About 30 vadais
Apprentice rating: Difficult, needs a few tries to get the shaping right.
Additional Cook’s notes:
Watch the recipe video here:
- If you don’t have a wet grinder, the batter can be blended in a blender/mixie. However, the soaking time must be increased to 4 hours, discard the soaked water and use ice-cold water for blending. This is because the blender overheats the batter which may lead to the vadai soaking up too much oil while frying.
- Other optional ingredients that can be added are grated carrot and minced, blanched spinach to make a vegetable vadai.
- If the vadai soaks in too much oil while frying, add a tablespoon of corn flour or cornstarch and mix in. Similarly, if the batter is too watery and hard to shape, corn flour does the trick again.
- Any leftover batter can be frozen for up to two months. To use again, defrost by leaving out for a couple of hours. The batter may become watery on defrosting - if it does, add up to a tablespoon of cornflour to thicken again and then shape and fry as normal.