In this recipe, I will show you two ways of presenting the simple medu vadai, a popular breakfast, and teatime snack in the southern states of India. Plain vadai soaked in rasam, and thayir vadai (yogurt vadai) cooling in a bath of spiced yogurt. Both are non-fussy, no frills no fancy recipes. I don't typically beautify my thayir vadai with carrot shavings, boondi topping, cilantro, sweet and sour chutneys, or any such thing. It is soaked in the goodness of wholesome, spiced yogurt and that's it! I feel the toppings only get in the way of the authentic taste of the vadai that's absorbed the flavoring in the yogurt, namely a mix of ginger, coconut, green chilies and cilantro.
1cup urad dal /whole black gram, skin removed/muzhu ulundhu
12 inch small piece ginger
1tspSaltadjust to more or less per your tolerance
oilto deep fry the vadais
Spiced Yogurt To Soak The Vadais
1/2cupfresh/frozen grated coconut
3green chilies + a small piece of ginger
2cupstamarind extractas thin as possible, this rasam should be watery
1/4cupcooked, mashed toor dal/pigeon peas
1tspMustard seedsfor seasoning
1/2tspCumin seedsfor seasoning
Soak the urad dal for 2 hours
While it's soaking, prepare the rasam: Boil the tamarind extract with the tomatoes, salt, rasam powder, turmeric powder, minced garlic for about 10 minutes until the raw smell of tamarind is gone; add about 3/4 cup of water to the mashed toor dal, add it to the rasam, and season with mustard seeds and cumin seeds when the rasam becomes frothy
Let's make the yogurt base: Blend the chilies, cilantro, ginger, and coconut with just a little bit of the yogurt to a smooth paste; add the rest of the yogurt and blend it all together; the result will be a pretty pale green liquid;
Add salt, taste and adjust if needed, and pour into the container in which you will add the vadais, and refrigerate until ready to use
When the urad has soaked for about two hours, drain the water and blend in a grinder or a blender adding very little water. I sprinkle ice cold water while grinding
The resulting batter should be thick, creamy like butter and light and airy. The best way to do this is to add very little water while blending/grinding. The Indian grinders work best for this, but I have also used a good blender/vitamix. If too much water is used, the vadai will soak up a lot of oil during frying, so this is a very important point to note and observe strictly
Once the batter is done, add finely chopped ginger, curry leaves, cilantro, green chilies, and salt. For the thayir vadai, I never use onions in the vadai. We will save the chopped onions for making the vadais that will be eaten plain or be dropped in the rasam
Heat oil in a wide, not too deep vanali/kadai
When the oil is hot, but not smoking, start making the vadai
Take a lemon sized ball of batter in your hand on the four fingers, and flatten it slightly into a vadai shape. Make a hole in the center with the thumb, and gently drop in the hot oil. This comes with practice.
I have seen folks use a ziplock to do it, but invariably they all use water to remove it from the plastic onto the oil and the vadai ends up being super oily. I have found making it with your own hand is the easiest way to do it, and have added a video of me making it today, hope that helps.
It's important to not crowd the oil, in which case the temperate will drop and the vadais will take too long to cook, and will be oil guzzlers.
Flip the vadais when they start to get brown to evenly cook on both sides. They are done when the bubbles die down or slow all the way down
Remove with a slotted ladle/spoon (jalli karandi) and drain on paper towels before dropping into the yogurt base
If you're making just plain vadais to eat with chutney/rasam or sambar, feel free to add onions to the batter. The rest is the same!
For thayir vadai, I have seen recipes where they tell you to drop it hot water after taking it off the hot oil, squeeze out the water and then drop into the yogurt. In my 20+ years of making vadai, I have never done that, and mine always turn out super soft, airy, and never oily.
The trick to light as air vadais is to make the batter with minimum water, and to use only good quality whole urad.
You should never let the batter ferment and become sour. If you're not going to make the vadais immediately, refrigerate it until ready. Allow it to come to room temperature before frying, or the cold batter will bring down the oil temperature, and take too long to cook.
Reasons you may get oily vadais:
Too much water in the batter - this is very hard to fix
Batter too cold - fix by bringing the batter to room temperature
oil not hot enough (takes longer to cook) - stop frying, and let the oil heat up to hot, but not smoking; a drop of batter in the oil should sizzle and float right up
If you get the batter right, you can't go wrong with the vadais. If you don't get the shape right, don't worry about it, mine are still not perfect. Hope you make them, and if the tips above are helpful, would love to hear back, with pictures!
Here are a couple of youtube videos of me frying the vadais. This was my first time trying timelapse, thanks to my lovely daughter. Would love to hear any feedback/suggestions on making better videos!