Sunday, December 18, 2011

Recipe of the month - Vada Sambar

Vada also known as wada, vade or vadai is a very popular savoury doughnut-like snack from South India. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just as an evening snack along with a steaming cup of coffee. Medu vadas (in pic above) are extremely versatile in that they can be eaten just like that or with a variety of accompaniments. They can also be transformed into the equally popular rasam vada or dahi vada. 

This was one of my first few attempts at making Medu Vada. The shape and contour is not as perfect as I would like it to be but since these bite-sized snacks are so yummy, I have plenty of opportunities to get more practice! The strange thing is that I hadn't bothered trying to make vadas for several years because I was plagued by the notion that it was a very cumbersome affair and required overnight fermentation of the batter and all that. How wrong I was! A chance conversation with my mum on the subject erased my misconception. The urad dal used to make the vada just needs some soaking (ideally 3-4 hours) and after that, you can start to prepare them immediately. Usually, I soak the dal the previous night and then make the vadas the next morning but if I wake up and suddenly decide on impulse to make them for breakfast, I soak the dal for 2 hours in warm water. By the time I finish making the sambar and chutney (while the dal is soaking), the vada preparation can be started. So you see, it isn't really elaborate. 

All those wasted years.....sigh!

One more detail - I used to grind the urad dal for the vada in the mixie but I had to do it in 2-3 installments because my mixie jar is pretty small. It used to take too long so I started using my wet stone grinder for the same purpose - so much easier and you don't have to add much water either. I agree it is a pain to wash but it gets the job done much quicker and with far better results. 

Without further is the recipe. Hope you like it.

Vada Sambar

Preparation time: 45 min
Cooking time: 5 minutes per batch (I usually fry 4 vadas per batch)
Recipe category: South Indian/Breakfast or Snack
Recipe level: Easy
Serves: 2-4
Recipe Source: Amma :)

1 cup whole urad dal
1-2 tbsp rice flour
5-10 crushed black peppercorns
2-3 minced green chillies
1/2 inch piece minced ginger
few curry leaves, finely chopped
1 small bunch coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh coconut, finely chopped Optional
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) Optional

For the Medu Vada:
1. Soak urad dal for atleast 3-4 hours. Wash and drain the dal and grind it with very little water to form a thick fluffy paste (the more water the vada mixture contains, the more it will soak up oil).
2. Add the rice flour and mix well. Now add crushed black peppercorns, chopped coconut, finely minced green chilies, ginger, curry leaves and coriander leaves. Add salt and baking soda. Mix well.
3. Shape with wet palms into ping-pong sized balls (for beginners) or donut shaped vadas (for the more experienced) and fry in hot oil till golden brown.
4. Serve hot with sambar and/or coconut chutney.

For the Sambar:
You can prepare sambar in numerous ways but I find this recipe the simplest. I do not measure out ingredients while making sambar and generally eyeball everything. Keep tasting and adjusting accordingly and you will be fine.
Pressure cook toor dal in ample water with a little turmeric and tsp of ghee. Mash the dal with a fork/whisk or blitz in a blender for a few seconds. In a skillet, heat some ghee/oil and fry some curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Add in chopped onion (alternatively you can use peeled whole baby red onions i.e. sambar onions), slit green chillies and saute for a few mins. Add in some peeled and cubed potatoes and fry till almost done. Add in chopped tomatoes and cook till soft. Add sambar powder (I use a combination of MTR sambar powder and homemade sambar powder), salt to taste and sugar/jaggery to taste. Mix in the mashed dal and boil for a few mins. Add more water if required to get the desired consistency. Garnish with lots of fresh coriander and serve hot with the vadas.


  • To make soft and fluffy vadas, use good quality urad dal and when you grind the dal use very little water to make a fluffy paste.
  • Use medium hot oil to fry the vadas. The outside of the vada should be crispy and golden brown while the insides should be cooked through.
  • The inside of the vadas should not be too dense. Adjust the quantity of baking soda and test fry one to get the right consistency and texture. 
  • To make dahi vada, soak the deep fried vadas in warm water for about 45 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Arrange the vadas on a serving dish and top with whisked plain yoghurt (to which a pinch of sugar and salt has been added). Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving. Garnish with chilli powder, cumin powder, chaat masala and chopped coriander leaves and serve with tamarind-date chutney. Dahi vadas are a great idea for potluck parties since they can be made well in advance.



  1. I can make these things only on weekends that too if hari makes the sambar lol! Btw d contour of ur vadas r quite fine! Yummy kaansatthe

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  3. hey ur post has been really helpful to me...even i had the misconception that the dal needs to be soaked atleast for 6 to 8 hours before making vada...its 11 30 now n im gonna make vada with aftrnoon tea today...Thanx:)

  4. Thanks Chaitra. I hope they turn out well! :)


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