Dahi vada is also popularly known as dahi bhalla. To explain in a sentence what dahi vada is: When you soak lentils, grind to make thick paste, whip the paste, deep-fry as vada balls, soak them in water, immerse them in yogurt and top with chutneys, spices, and other yummy things, you transform a boring lentil into something totally amazing.
I made dahi vada numerous times, but I always felt something missing. The three problems I noticed were: either the vada balls were not as tender as I'd liked, or they did not soak up the yogurt from within, or the vada on its own was bland. Then one day, as I was busy preparing a meal for some guests, I asked Alok to whip the batter using the hand whisk. I got busy with the preparation and forgot to tell him when to stop.
After some 15 minutes he innocently asked me, "can I stop whipping now?"
That day I figured the first secret to making the best dahi vadas: whip the heck out of the batter. This makes the batter airy and creates the most spongy dahi vada. You will NOT need to use any baking soda in your vada batter if you only whip it well! When the vada is spongy, after being immersed in yogurt for a couple of hours it absorbs the yogurt and the flavors wonderfully. All three problems solved in one go.
There are two main lentils used to make the vada for dahi vada: split skinned black gram (urad dal) and split skinned yellow mung (moong dal). There are different proportions for urad dal and moong dal that people use to make the vada, using more or less of one dal over the other. Some people might use only urad dal. I would recommend using either only urad dal or a 1 : 4 ratio of moong dal : urad dal.
Dahi Vada Recipe | How to make the perfect Dahi Vadas
Makes about 20-30 vadas, serves 6-8 people
For the Vada:
1 cup split skinned black gram (urad dal)
¼ cup split skinned yellow mung (moong dal)
1 tsp chopped green chilies or paste, or to taste
Salt to taste
Water to grind
Oil to deep-fry
For the yogurt and garnish:
2-3 cups plain yogurt
Salt, to taste
Red chili powder, to taste
Roasted cumin seed powder, to taste
Tamarind chutney, as preferred
Finely chopped cilantro, optional
Fresh pomegranate seeds, optional
Thin sev, optional
1. Making Dahi Vada needs some planning. You cannot have it ready in an hour. Mix both the urad dal and moong dal in a container, and rise a couple of times, draining water each time. Soak them in about 3 cups of water for 2-3 hours or even if you soak overnight and forget it it’s fine. The dals will double in size upon soaking in water for few hours, that’s why you need to add the excess water for them to be doused in water even after they expand.
2. Now you need a good grinder, robust enough to grind the lentils to a fine paste. Drain the dal, discard water and add dal to the grinder, add the chopped green chilies/paste and salt, and using minimal water grind dal to a fine yet thick paste. It helps to start grinding with 2 Tbsp water and add a Tbsp more water at each interval as the lentils grind.
3. Transfer the paste to a bowl. Meanwhile, heat a wok with oil on medium heat for deep-frying. Using a hand whisk or a hand mixer (SO much better!), whisk the paste well until light and fluffy batter. By hand, it can easily take 15-20 minutes. By the beater attachment on a hand mixer, 5 minutes is good enough.
To test if the dahi vada batter is ready: put a drop of the batter in a bowl of fresh water. If it rises and floats to the surface, the dahi vada batter is ready. Otherwise, beat a little more.
4. When the oil is hot and ready (test by dropping a tiny amount of batter and see if it sizzles), keep the same bowl of water on one side and the dahi vada batter on another side. Wet your palms with the water, and scoop out batter (as small or large size as you want), shape it and drop in oil to deep fry. With your palms wet, it helps shape and slide the batter easily. Drop only as many vadas your wok can accommodate while allowing sufficient space to easily rotate the vada balls to fry evenly from all sides. Once the vada balls are golden brown in color, remove and let excess oil drain on a paper towel.
5. Add fresh water to your bowl, immerse the fried and drained vada balls into the bowl for 5-10 minutes, and then gently squeeze each vada ball between your palms to remove the water. This helps the vada ball soften as well as be able to soak in the yogurt next.
To assemble dahi vada:
Prep: If your plain yogurt is watery, leave it on a cloth for excess water to drain out. We are not looking for a green yogurt consistency, but the yogurt has to be medium consistency. You can choose to add your spices and salt to the yogurt (so it gives you the opportunity to taste if anything needs to be fixed) or you can choose to sprinkle each on top (so it helps with the garnish). The tamarind chutney (or tamarind-date chutney) has to be of a drizzling consistency.
Place fried-soaked-squeezed vada on your serving dish. Pour your yogurt all over it, the vada has to be totally immersed in yogurt. The vada continues to refrigerate and soak up yogurt, so start with more. Drizzle a layer of tamarind chutney over the curd. Sprinkle some salt, red chili powder, and roasted cumin seed powder. Sprinkle some cilantro and pomegranate seeds (if using), and leave it to refrigerate to chill and mature for a couple of hours before serving. If using thin sev, add only before serving (otherwise the sev will get soggy). It's all optional, you see, in the pictures here I did not add any of those (pomegranate, cilantro, boondi and sev) garnishes because I forgot to.
And oh, did I tell you can you can even stuff your vada batter with some cashew nuts and raisins as you fry each ball? Did I tell you that you can also fry patties of the vada instead of balls? Did I tell you that apart from pomegranate seeds, you can dress up and garnish dahi vada as you wish – I used sliced grapes and grated beetroot once, for example.
Enjoy.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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