Medhu vada aka ulundhu (whole urad dhal) vadai is a famous south Indian snack. It is spongy, crispy fried snack which is always served with chutney and/or sambhar. It is served for breakfast with idli or pongal. It is also served during festivals and special occasions for lunch, like in every south Indian home. It is also a wonderful snack. This is the basic vada which can be had as such or made into sambhar vadai, rasa vadai or Thayir (yogurt) vadai. The urad dhal is rich in proteins. So even it is deep fried, it is quite healthy.
Medhu vada is a favorite for everyone in our home (and to many people too). I learned it from my mom, who is an expert in cooking. All my family members as well as friends too like my crispy medhu vadas and give lots of compliments. I feel very proud that I have learned it perfectly from my mom. Making these vadas in perfect shape may require practice, and hence feel free to try couple of times. Even if the shape is a little off, it would be yummy. Today, being Father's day - I made these crispy delicious delicacy as my husband, dad and FIL - everyone like medhu vada - a special snack for all the dad's.
First, here are some tips which must be followed to make crispy and delicious vadas:
1. Soak the dhal for one hour. Do not let it soak for hours together since it will result in oily vadas.
2. Adding rice while soaking gives crispier vadas.
3. To make vadas which is not oily, the key is in the batter consistency and the way to grind it. Personally, I feel that if you grind the lentils in blender, it results in a harder vadas and you may need to add a little baking soda to make it a little softer. Instead, if you grind in a grinder which we normally use for idli grinding, it gives a good fluffy batter.
4. Do not pour water in one stretch to grind the batter. It is advisable to sprinkle water during grinding. The whole grinding process would be completed in about 15 to 20 minutes. So keep an eye on the grinder. Scrape the sides now and then and sprinkle water.
5. To check the batter consistency, just drop a tiny bit of batter into a bowl with water. If it floats, the batter is perfect. For best vadas, always the batter should float (refer picture).
6. Do not add salt while grinding. It will result in loose consistency and the vadas will absorb lots of oil.
7. If you are not making vadas immediately, refrigerate the batter as it will start to ferment and vadas made with that batter would be oily.
8. Add salt or onions and mix thoroughly just before frying.
9. To make saatvik version, omit onions.
10. I usually grind chopped green chillies along with the urad dhal, so that the kids do not get those chillies. You can add it to the ground batter too.
11. A few whole black peppercorns, cumin, cashews can also be added to the batter.
12. Fry the vadas in medium flame. Keeping a low flame will make the vadas absorb too much oil.
Urad dhal - 1 cup
Rice - 2 tbsp
Ginger - 1/4 tsp, fresh grated
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - 2 -3 sprigs
Cilantro - 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Onion - 2/3 to 1 cup
Green chillies - 2, finely chopped
Oil - for deep frying
Wash the urad dhal, rice and soak for about 1 hour. Strain the water completely and add it to the grinder along with chopped green chillies. Add about 1/4 cup water and grind. Scrape the sides of the grinder now and then and sprinkle water as required (follow the tips given above) and grind to a smooth batter.
Add salt, asafoetida, ginger, green chillies (if wanted), curry leaves, cilantro and mix the batter thoroughly.
Heat oil in a pan on a medium flame.
To make shaped vadas, here are the steps - have a small bowl of water nearby. Wet your hands. With we hands, take a ball of batter and pat it lightly into a flat shape.
Dip your pointer in water and then make a hole at the center in the flat vada batter in the left hand.
Now transfer the shaped vada batter in your left hand to your right hand (make sure your right hand is wet, so you can drop the vada into oil easily without losing shape) and drop slowly into hot oil.
Four or five vadas can be fried at a time depending up on the size of the frying pan. Fry on a medium flame till one side is golden brown. Then flip and cook till the other side is also cooked to golden brown color. Take it off the oil and drain on paper towel.
Yummy vadas are ready to had as such, or chutney and sambhar. This measurement makes around 25 vadas. For parties you can make still smaller vadas.