May 14, 2012

Ulundu Vadai/ Medhu Vadai

    Vadai or vada is a south Indian delicacy.Serving up a meal with vadai and payasam is considered the ultimate in 'Athithi Sanskar' (hospitality) in the south.So much so, wedding feasts are considered incomplete without  the vadai...either urad dal (ulundu) or channa dal. Ulundu vadai or Medhu vada is truly versatile.....you can add onions and peppercorns to it, serve it up plain with coconut chutney or sambar, soak it in sambar to create sambar vadai, soak it in lots of home made curd and serve it up with chaat masala and imli chutney to make the mouth watering dahi vada.....the ulundu vadai will never disappoint you :) I learnt to make this vadai from my mom and in true tradition, I used to make the vadais as soon as I ground the soaked urad dal(ulundu).The general belief is that the batter would become watery if the vadais are not made immediately, due to the salt added to it.Apparently, this is not true and I improved my vadai making skills by watching Vahchef Sanjay Thumma on the internet.The secret of making light, crispy and fluffy vadais is to beat the batter by hand to incorporate air after mixing salt and other ingredients.So, here is the recipe for plain vadai.....eat it as is or with coconut chutney.Enjoy!


Ulundu or Medhu vadai with coconut chutney

Ingredients:

Urad dal without the skin (whole or split) - 1cup
Onion - 1/2 (finely chopped)
Curry leaves - few
Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp (you can use whole peppercorns too, instead of the powder)
Salt - 1/4 tsp (the batter should not taste salty )
Hing(Asafoetida) - a pinch
Oil - 1 to 1 1/2 cup for deep frying
Water- about 1/3 cup for grinding and 1/3 cup to soak hands while making vadai

Method:
1) Wash and soak the urad dal in water for atleast 1/2 hour. You can buy this at the Indian store and it is commonly called 'black gram' or 'white lentil'.You don't need to soak the dal for too long.I usually soak it upto a maximum of 2 hours.

Urad dal before soaking
 
2) Grind the dal in a mixie or blender.Add a little water at a time,taking care not to add all the water at one go.Grind to a smooth but slightly thick paste like consistency (the ground batter should not be of a flowing consistency like dosa batter).Transfer batter to a vessel.
3) Now add the chopped onions, curry leaves, pepper powder or whole peppercorns,hing and salt to the batter. Use your hand to blend in all the ingredients.Check the taste of the batter and add more salt if needed. Just keep in mind  that the vadai should taste of all the condiments added to it, not just of salt.Moreover the quantity of salt is kept to a low in this vadai to bring out the flavor of the chutney/sambar/dahi accompanying it. In case you get a salty batter, just add more chopped onions or balance it with more pepper powder.

Ulundu vadai batter ready to be fried!

4) Now comes the trick! Once you have added all the condiments to the batter and mixed it all once or twice with your hand, continue to mix a while longer in a manner so as to incorporate air into the batter. Let the batter rest for about 5 minutes.You can also make this batter a day ahead, refrigerate it and then make vadais.Don't worry...it will not become watery.You just need to leave it outside the fridge for about 15-20 minutes before making the vadais.Also remember to first allow the batter to cool down to room temperature after grinding it, then store it in the refrigerator.
5) Next, heat oil in a kadai or heavy bottomed saucepan on high.To check if oil is hot enough, spoon a little batter into the hot oil.If it sizzles and floats on the top, then the oil is at the correct temperature to fry the vadais. Keep a little water in a glass bowl handy, to soak your fingers into while making the vadai.Wet all the   fingers and using your right hand scoop a little batter out onto your left fingers.Make a hole in the batter and place it in the hot oil. Be very careful while doing this.You could reduce the flame while placing the batter in the oil.Don't worry too much if you don't get the perfect vadai shape.To me, the taste is more important than the shape and it takes a little practice to make perfectly round vadais.
6) Once the vadai turns golden on one side, flip it over and fry till the other side is golden in color.Remove and drain on paper towels.You should be able to fry about 3 vadais in one go.Serve with sambar or the all time favorite, coconut chutney.

Variation: Try adding a few chopped green chillies in lieu of the pepper. Or try a few finely chopped pieces of ginger and finely chopped fresh coriander.

Note: This recipe will make about 15 medium sized vadais.Frying the vadais may seem a little messy process. But I'll bet, you won't stop with eating a few crispy vadais....you will definitely long for more!
 








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