There was this big mandir (temple) bang in the middle of a very busy market, in our town. A short walk from a bustling bus station, next to a row of pan walas and juice stalls, across the street from sabzi mandi (farmers market) and at the opening of a long stuffed gully stuffed with choori walas (bangle shops). This was a mad and restless street. But the moment you enter the gates of the mandir, it was a different world. As all that clamor and commotion I walked through just 2 steps back, never happened. Even as a little kid I would notice the contrast and clinching to my mummy’s pallu (corner of the saree) would look around wonder how that happened. Never quite understood the logic of mummy’s response of “that’s the magic of a holy place” but I guess that is the magic of a holy place. Its like a safe haven where you shed all your layers behind and enter into a divine space.
Although Navratri would come, the gates would open and all the lights, colors, aromas and madness would come pouring into the temple yards. Nine days of celebrating Maa, Durga, Shakti, her energy and her nine forms. Nine days of celebration and joy. Back then to me it purely meant nine days of food and frolic. Although that’s true for any festival but this was special because this is the only time when the fun was extended for days. Many people fast for these nine days, mummy did too, staying away from any kind of meat, many grains and even normal table salt. Did pooja several times a day, dragging my brother and I into, which I loathed then, but today I appreciate. Because now I know a thing or two about those rituals and now I can drag my kids into it. You know to, “expose them to our culture”! To my surprise, they enjoy it and even ask questions.
Its that time of the year again. The time for celebration, the time for frolic and most importantly the time for food. During these fasting nine days, Sabudana or tapioca pearls is one of the things mummy cooks with a lot. She’d make pudding with them, tossed them with potatoes and peanuts to make khichadi, make jalebi with it and my favorite- sabudana vadas. Light and crispy cakes, dunked in some spiced chilled yogurt and garnished with mint or cilantro. Pure delight. I just make mine a little smaller giving them shapes of tater tots for my American kids, selling tots to whom is easier than selling vadas. So please follow the recipe for Sabudana Vada Tots and please accept our warm wishes for a Happy Navratri!
1 cup Sabudana
1 boiled potato (mashed)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt to taste (substitute with rock salt if making for vrat)
Oil for deep frying
In a medium sized bowl, soak sabudana in water. Water just above the level of sabudana. Let it soak for 2-3 hrs. Sabudana will absorb all the water and puff double in size leaving no extra water to the bottom. Press sabudana between fingers to check if its soaked.
Add rest of the ingredients to the soaked sabudana and mix it well, in kneading motion bring all the ingredients together forming a dough like consistency. One tablespoon portion size at a time, form dough into small tots. Line them on a sheet while you get the oil ready for frying.
Bring the oil to 350 deg. F and deep fry the sabudana tots, not more than 5-6 at a time. If you crowd the tots close together, they might stick to each other. Fry until golden brown. Serve with spiced yogurt and a garnish of mint or cilantro leaves.