“Whip it as long as your hands can take it, and then whip some more. That’s what makes vadas melt in your mouth” mummy would tell me with her fingers buried inside a bowl of smooth urad dal paste. Weather outside was perfect, not too hot and neither too cold, but inside the kitchen, with all that cooking marathon going on, it was steaming hot. A steady stream of sweat kept trickling down her forehead and she kept wiping it with the corner of her yellow cotton saree, which had a gold and red border. Like last year papa again promised to put an exhaust fan in her kitchen on next Diwali. Like last year she kept saying it isn’t worth spending so much money.
Sitting on a wooden step stool while waiting for the oil in her wok to be ready, she was trying to teach me how she made her ever so famous dahi vadas. I, on the other hand, found those flaky mathris she fried that morning, more intriguing. I would get a scolding for not paying attention. “You would wish you had listened to me now, when you make this in your own kitchen after marriage. So stop eating and observe carefully”, she would say. I continued to dismiss all of that and instead asked where she had kept her sweet and tangy mango relish which might go well with those delicious mathris.
She would fry more than fifty vadas for Diwali, giving every single portion of batter a good whip with her hand before dropping exactly the same size dumplings into hot oil. No measuring spoon and still all fifty of them would look exactly the same and would be equally soft. I don’t know how she did it because well, I did try doing the same in my own kitchen after marriage and failed miserably! I consoled myself – it must have something to do with the heat in her kitchen that made her vadas softer than mine. I’m sure even hers don’t come out as amazing anymore, considering papa has now put an exhaust fan AND air conditioning in her kitchen!
Last Diwali I gathered the courage of making dahi vadas again, this time for a friend. Once again, I asked mummy for the recipe. “This time tell me everything in detail” I demanded. She never follows a recipe. Its all about eye balling and experience in her cooking but she tried her best to be precise this time. I tried my best to follow. They did not come out as good as hers but they were not half bad either.
This post has been sitting in my archive from last year. Finally, I am sharing it today. Hope it takes you back to your special moments like it did for me. Have a beautiful Diwali and a spooky Halloween!
Ingredients: Serves 10-12
For the Vadas-
1 ½ cup washed and split Urad Dal (Skinless Black Gram Lentil)
2 tablespoons Ginger (freshly grated)
¼ teaspoon Asafetida
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Oil for Deep Frying
For Dahi (Spiced Yogurt):
3 cups Yogurt
1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper powder (adjust to taste)
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Chat Masala (Can also use store bought)
Hot Cilantro Chutney (to taste)
Tamarind Chutney (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Water (as needed)
Cilantro (for garnish)
Wash thoroughly and soak Urad Dal in water overnight or for at least 6 hours.
Drain the soaking water completely and transfer the soaked dal into a grinder of a food processor. Add rest of the ingredients for Vada except for baking soda. Add up to ¾ cup of water (slowly add more if needed). Grind it into a thick smooth paste. In this case try to add as little water for grinding as possible, though enough for the blades to run smoothly.
Transfer the lentil paste into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add baking soda and now using your hand or a whisk, whisk the paste vigorously rotating your hand in a circular motion in one direction. This helps making the paste light.
Heat oil in a deep fryer.
Wet your palms or place a wet plastic wrap on the palm of your one hand. Drop a dollop of Urad Dal paste (about the size of a small lemon) on your palm. Shape it into a circle.
Carefully slide the vada into the deep fryer. Fry until its golden brown in color.
Once done, fish the vadas out of the deep fryer and drop into a bowl full of water (if serving immediately) or drain excess oil in a paper towel (if planning to serve later) and drop them in water when prepping to serve.
Let the fried vada soak in water for 3-5 minutes. Then lift it in one hand and give it a light squeeze with the other squeezing excess absorbed water out. Place them on a serving dish.
For spiced yogurt (or dahi) – Mix all the ingredients together in a big mixing bowl. Add water depending on how thin you want the yogurt to be.
Pour as much spiced yogurt as you like over the vadas. Garnish with cilantro and serve.