Uzhunnu Vada / Medu Vada – Black gram Fritters or Savory Doughnuts

Medu Vada or Uzhunnu Vada
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Medu Vada is a  popular  south Indian ( and  Sri Lankan)  snack.  These are  ring  shaped  fritters  that  you could  mistake  for a  doughnut at  the  first  glance.   Vada  usually means  fritter   and  medu  vada  translated  to soft  fritter  and  that is  what  these are  – crunchy and  crispy outside  and  soft  and  spongy inside.  It is  rarely that  you  will find a  South Indian who will  say no to these.

Medu Vada or Uzhunnu Vada

Walk  down along any busy  south Indian street   on an  evening  and you  are  guaranteed  to  find at  least a  dozen of   eateries selling  these  crispy rings. Sometimes  these are  served  plain  along  with a  small bowl of  coconut  chutney ,  and  other times   time  these are  served  dunked  in  yogurt  or  sambar.  Either way  these are a  delight to  munch on .

So how  popular are  these ?  Let us  see –  these are  known  as  uzhunnu vada in Kerala ,  garelu in  Andhra,   ulundu vadai  in Tamil Nadu  and uddina vada in Karnataka. So  one  might  think that  if  you  travel  across  state lines  it  might  be  a  bit  difficult  to  order  these.  Well that is  not  the  case – just  ask for  vada vada  or  medu vada  and   you will be  served  these.   wont  that be  considered popular !

Medu Vada is  made  with  split  black  gram  or  urad  dal , and  spices.  Black   gram  looks  very  similar to  Mung   beans, but  with black  skin and   creamy  white bean.The   skinned  urad  dal is  soaked  in  plenty of  water   for   at  least  3  hours  and  ground  into a  paste.   It  should look plumped  up  after  soaking.  Just  crush one  with your  fingers  and  if  the inside  feels  hard  or  dry  soak  for  some  more  time.  To this  a  few  spices  and  seasonings  are  added  and   the thick batter  is  fried  in  hot  oil.

These are  not  just a popular  snack, but  relished  at   breakfast  time as  well.  This   was   the  reason  I was  happy to  go to  any  vegetarian hotel  in Tamil Nadu  for  breakfast – no matter  what  you order – be  it  pongal, dosa, idli  or  poori  you will get  Medu Vada on the  side.  Trust me on this  Medu Vada  makes  everything  tastes  batter.

These  fritters have a  lot  going  for  them –  other than looks  and  texture. These are made with black lentils. Like  all lentils  the  black lentils  are also  packed  with nutrients especially    protein , calcium and  iron.  And  these  are  delicious   when  cooked !

Medu Vada or Uzhunnu Vada

Healthy and  delicious – there  has  to be  catch right ?   Well  frying these   in the  doughnut shape is  the  tricky part.  Why the  ring shape  you ask ?  Well the  hole in the middle  makes  it  cook evenly, there is  no  volcanic  explosion in the middle.  Test  out   some  just  by dropping  the  same   amount  of  batter  ,  shaped  and  unshaped  and  you will see  the  difference.

But  don’t  be  discouraged  if  you cant  get  the  shapes right. The  plain ugly dumplings taste good  too. In the north  they   make  Dahi Bhalle  with these. These  are  basically  the  black gram  dal   fritters   dunk  in a  sweet and   sour yogurt mix. In the  south   too we love  these  dunk in  spiced   curd, but we would  rather  hold  on to our  doughnut  shape 🙂 .

Getting   these in the  perfect doughnut shape is an  acquired  skill :-).  So  a  few  weeks  back  when  a  company in India  came up with a packaged  batter  that  can be  poured  straight into hot  oil in  to make perfect doughnut shaped  vada – my entire    social media  universe  lost  its  collective  mind !  I am not  sure  how  many  Vada making  videos  ended up in my inbox  and  news  feeds.  It  seems  to have  died  down  a  bit –  may be  people  have  figured  out  that  the  shape is only  part of  the  charm !

There have been other dispensers just like  cookie  press , that  seem  to do the job, but  to me  as  much as  I like to get  these in  the  doughnut shape  there is a bit of charm in a  little  uneven ,hand made  creations.

Unlike doughnuts  the batter for  Uzhunnu vada is  free of   gluten. It is   made  up of a  ground  lentils  and  and  spices.   Think of  the  the batter   as a  textured  whipped  cream.  There  is  enough air  trapped in there to make  it  float in water.   So  rolling  out  and  cutting  to shape like  we  can do with  cookies  or  doughnuts  are  simply  out of  question!

Medu Vada or Uzhunnu VadaHome  cooks  have  different  ways of  shaping  these.  Some  used  to  take  small squares of  banana  leaves and  shape the  batter on it  and  invert it  gently to hot  oil.  I have  seen   it  being  made that  way , but  never tried  it  myself.    Skilled  cooks  used  to  drop  the  batter  into the oil  and  as  it  begins  to  fall  into the oil  they   punch a  in it  with a finger, making  the  perfect  shape.  I have  attempted  it , but  mine  always  turned out to be  haphazard.

My go to method  is  to   drop the  batter  by spoonfuls   into the  hot  oil. Before  the  batter sets  I poke a  hole  in the middle  using  the  handle  of  a  wooden  spoon.  This   is  the  one  that  has  worked  for me  for the  most  part. What  I love  about  i this  is that my hands are  free  and  I can  multi task, and  I did  not  need  to  buy any special  equipment !

Another one  is to wet  you palm  lightly and  shape  the  batter  into a  doughnut  shape over  the   fingers and  invert  into the  hot oil.   The  moisture prevents  the batter  from  sticking to your  fingers  and  it just slides  off  to the  oil   with a  gentle  nudge – remember  I mentioned  above  that  the  batter  floats  in the water!

Medu Vada or Uzhunnu Vada

Couple  things  to   keep in mind  when making  the  vada  batter –   The  vada  should  be  made as  soon as  the  batter  is  made. A  few  minutes  of resting  time  is  not  going  to  make  things  go bad, but  an   hour  would.  The  longer  it  rests , the  more  oil it  will absorb. So when the  cooks had  to make  large  batches   they used  to  split  it  and  make  the  batter in batches.

The  packaged  batters  in  stores, seem to  question  this  reasoning, especially when  they claim to have added  no  preservatives or  additives.  If  true  then  I imagine  the  degradation of  the  natter  has  to do with oxidization or fermentation breaking   down the  bonds  between  the  particles  in the batter. Following  that   reasoning  we  should  be  able  to preserve  the  batter  just  by keeping  it  in a vacuum  sealed  environment  it – or  keep it  in a closed container and  cover  the  top of  the batter  with  a plastic  wrap or wax paper.  This is  purely conjecture a t this  point –  no experiment has  happened  yet. If  anyone  does, I will be  really interested  in  knowing the  results .

And  finally – there are  many home  cooks  who  swear  by their  wet  grinder – for   those  who don’t  know  these  are powerful kitchen  grinders that use granite  grinding  stones  grind  grains  and  seeds. I   have   made the  batter  in  my  blender  and  the  wet  grinder , and  frankly I prefer  the   blender.   The  only thing  to keep in mind is  not  to get  the  grinder   and  blender  jar  get  hot.  Luke  warm  is  Ok , hot  definitely is  not.

Medu Vada
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Soaking Time
3 hrs
Total Time
35 mins
 

Crispy  doughnut  shaped   fritters made  with seasoned  black gram (lentil) batter. 

Course: Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 1 C Urad Dal Notes
  • Water As Needed To Soak
Seasonings
  • 1/2 Tsp Minced Ginger
  • 2 Tbsp Onions Finely Chopped
  • 5- 6 Black Pepper Corns Crushed
  • 1 Pinch Asafoetida Optional
  • Salt To Taste
  • 3-4 Curry Leaves Torn
Other Ingredients
  • 2-3 Tbsp Cold Water
  • Oil To Fry
Instructions
  1. Soak the  urad dal in plenty of  water  and  for  at  least  3  hours.

Make the batter
  1. Drain the soaked urad dal and grind into a smooth paste in a blender using as little water as necessary (2 to 3 tablespoons of  chilled water). If the  blender  seems   to heat up  turn off  the  machine and  let  it  cool  before proceeding.  

  2. The process of grinding incorporates air into the batter making it light and fluffy like whipping cream. Drop a  little batter in  a  bowl  of  water.  The  batter   should  float.   

  3. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the chopped onions, pepper, curry leaves, ginger , asafoetida and salt to it . Mix well, taste and adjust salt as necessary. 

Fry
  1. Pour oil into a  frying pan   covering  the bottom  by about  1 inch.   Heat  the oil  to almost  its  smoking  point.  Drop  a  little  bit  of  batter  into the hot  oil , if  it  sizzles and   floats to top the  oil is   ready  for  frying. 

  2.  Wet the fingers and scoop a lemon sized  ball of batter. Make a small hole in the center and slip it into the waiting oil . Repeat and make a few more vadas.  (see pictures above)

  3. Keep the heat at medium to medium low and fry the vadas turning a 2 to 3 times to brown all sides evenly.  

  4. When all sides are light brown , take off the oil using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels.   Repeat the process until all the batter is used up.

  5. Serve wit coconut chutney or sambar.

Recipe Notes
  • Use  skinned  urad dal.
  • Make the  vada batter  just  before  frying.  
  • Wet  the  fingers  every time before  scooping  batter.
  • All the  seasonings  except  salt  are  optional ! 
  • The vada batter can be  shaped on a parchment or  grease proof  paper  and  transfer to the  oil.
  • Alternately drop  one  scoop of  batter  into the oil  and  push   the handle of  a wooden  spoon right in the center  to create a  hole. Twirl the handle a few times  to make the  whole  wider.  
  • Asafoetida might  contain  traces  of  wheat -  so if  you  are  looking  for gluten free  versions do not  use  it. 

 

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Medu Vada or Uzhunnu Vada

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Parippu Vada

 


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