We had a party last Saturday to celebrate the 90th birthday of Honnavalli Anantharaman, the grandpa of the house. Yes, 90th birthday is a big deal and called for a nice celebration.
I had decided on a traditional Indian menu for the party. Apart from the curries and daals and desserts, I always like to have a farsan item as part of the main meal. Dishes like batata vada, khandvi, dhokla, kachori, bhajia etc. belong to this category. We had a cosmopolitan crowd and Dahi vada being a popular dish among both north and south indians, it was an easy pick. There are so many ways to eat these vadas. Vadas with a bowl of sambhar and green coconut chutney are a rage among Indians and works out well if you aren’t too fond of yoghurt. Vadas, like idli-dosas need advance preparation and require quite a bit of time and labor to grind the batter and fry the vadas. Their appeal is not just because of the taste but also for the looks. To give them that appetizing look, you have to make them round and plump, which is not easy. I have this Anjali brand dahi-vada maker, (thanks to my cousin Padmi who gave it as a gift to me) which churns out amazingly wonderful vadas, each uniform in size and shape. Trick to getting them round and plump lies in keeping the batter neither too thick nor too runny. I have been using this vada-maker for a long time and I highly recommend it. It may take a few tries to get used to it but once you do, you’ll never use anything else.
I was happy that everything turned out well. It’s very satisfying to see people enjoying your food, especially when you have made it with lot of care and thought.Thanks to the loving company of our friends and relatives, we all had a great time.
This recipe makes approx. 15 dahi vadas.
1 cup Urad dal (without skin)
1 tea spoon rice flour
1 green chili chopped very fine (optional)
1/4 tea spoon ginger paste (optional)
3 cups oil to deep fry vadas
3 cups + 1/4 cup yoghurt
1/4 tea spoon crushed black pepper
1/4 tea spoon salt for the vada batter
1/2 tea spoon salt for the yoghurt/dahi
For the Dahi:
3 cups yoghurt
1/2 tea spoon salt
1 tea spoon cumin seeds roasted and powdered
1/4 tea spoon red chili powder
1 table spoon chopped coriander leaves/cilantro
1. Soak Urad dal for about 3-4 hours and no more.
2. Drain all the water and grind it in a blender until it is just about smooth. You will need to add about 1/2 cup of water while grinding. Make sure you don’t make the batter runny.
3. Add rice flour, black pepper, chili-ginger paste (if using), and salt. Mix well. Keep aside.
4. In a medium size bowl, mix 2 cups of water with 1/2 cup yoghurt. This is the Dahi water. Keep aside.
5. In another bowl, whisk yoghurt and salt. Adjust salt per your taste. Add tadka (optional) and mix well.
6. In a big kadhai, heat about 3-4 cups of oil.
7. Make vadas. If you don’t have the vada maker, the traditional way of making them is as follows: Smear water on your palm. Take a big lump of the batter, make a hole in the center and slide the vada into hot oil. This does require some amount of expertise so be careful. If you aren’t sure, just drop a table spoon of batter into hot oil and fry until they assume a deep golden yellow color.
8. Dip the vadas in Dahi water (step 4) for 5-10 seconds, squeeze the water out very gently and arrange them on a platter.
9. Repeat for the rest of the batter.
10 Pour dahi (step 5) all over vadas. Sprinkle finely chopped cilantro/hara chaniya, cumin powder and red chili powder all over the dahi. Let the vadas soak in dahi for 2-3 hours.
There are so many ways to dress up these dahi vadas and it’s a matter of individual preference. One way to take care of this is to make dahi vadas as above and put different garnish items like chutneys, boondi etc. on the side in small bowls. Here are some suggestions.
1. Sweet chutney made from tamarind and dates
2. Green coriander chutney
3. A tadka of oil, mustard seeds, green chilies and hing/asafoetida
4. Spicy boondis
5. Cumin and red chili powder
6. Chat masala