Traditionally served as a snack, as an appetizer or even enjoyed at breakfast time, they will gladly add a touch of spice to your weekend brunches. And if you like to surprise your guests, ulundu vadai is for you!
What is the origin of ulundu vadai?
Ulundu vadai (in Tamil) or medu vada is certainly reminiscent of the American donut with its round shape and hole in the center, but it is completely different whether by the texture or flavor.
Ulundu vadai are savory donuts! Etymologically, the term vada designates spheres of 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Ulundu vadai is part of the culinary tradition of the Tamil people of southern India and Sri Lanka. This dish appeared in the city of Maddur in the state of Karnataka. This street food snack was made popular by Mumbai restaurants.
Ulundu vadai also have other names such as uddina vade, medhu vada, minapa garelu, uzhunnu vada, udid vada, urad vada and ulundu wade. Ulundu vadai are made from special lentils that you will find in Indian grocery stores. Those lentils are called urad dal. They are small black lentils (although they look white in the package) which will be soaked in cold water for 3 hours, then blended finely to obtain a homogeneous dough. Curry leaves, fresh cilantro, green hot pepper and ginger are then incorporated into the dough. The donuts are then shaped, deep-fried and eaten while still warm. Perfect ulundu vadai are golden brown, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are traditionally served with sambar, a vegetable and lentil stew or green hot peppers accompanied by coconut chutney.
Ulundu vadai in the world
Ulundu vadai have multiple variations! Instead of lentils, other vegetables or legumes can be used. When the donuts are prepared with chana-dal (chickpeas), they are called am-vada or aama vadai. In India, in the region of Maharashtra, you will enjoy potato fritters called batata vadai, accompanied by green hot peppers and chutney. Batata vadai are very popular in India and they are a staple of street food. They are typically used to make sandwiches and are then called vada pav.
The consistency of these lentil fritters is similar to the one of Middle Eastern falafels! Falafels are chickpeas (or fava beans) balls that are deep-fried. There is no cumin in ulundu vadai, but instead chopped curry leaves and even green hot pepper for the brave!
How to make perfect lentil donuts
The recipe is very simple if you follow these tips. I recommend that you do not add too much water in your lentils when you blend them. Otherwise, it will be impossible for you to shape the small donuts. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice flour to thicken it and let stand in the fridge for an extra half hour.
Also, please make sure that the cooking oil is at the right temperature. If the oil is not hot enough, the donuts will be very hard, and they will sink just like the Titanic to the bottom of your pan. Check the temperature of your cooking oil by immersing a wooden spatula. When small bubbles appear, it’s ready! Drain your warm donuts well on a plate linked with paper towel.
- 5 oz. urad dal or ulutham paruppu without skin (split and flattened Indian white lentils)
- 5 scallions , finely chopped
- 2 green hot peppers
- 1 (2-in) piece fresh ginger
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- 6 curry leaves , chopped
- 2 pinches asafoetida powder
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Iced water
Soak the urad dal for 3 hours (not more), at room temperature for 2h30 and in the refrigerator for the last 30 minutes.
Rinse and drain.
In the bowl of a blender, first add the ginger and the hot peppers and mix. Then gradually add the urad dal.
Blend for a few minutes to obtain a smooth dough. Add the urad dal little by little, while the mixer is running. Moisten urad dal during mixing. For this, just spray iced water from time to time to prevent the mixer from getting stuck or overheat. This process takes about 10 to 12 minutes.
Transfer the resulting dough to a large bowl and add all remaining ingredients to this dough. Mix well. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Prepare a large bowl of iced water next to the dough.
Heat a large oil bath in a nonstick Dutch oven.
Soak one hand in the bowl of iced water and immediately take a small piece of dough.
While keeping this piece of dough in the palm of your hand, use the thumb to make a hole in the middle.
Place the vadai in the hot oil by shaking your fingers slightly to remove it from your hand.
Renew the operation until all the dough is used.
Fry over medium heat. Turn vadais and fry until both sides turn golden and crisp.