My Thali Vada Recipe
The following Vada recipe is taken from My Thali: A Simple Indian Kitchen by Chef Joe Thottungal with Anne DesBrisay – available now!
Nothing beats the crunch of a great vada dunked in yogurt or a spicy tomato chutney. These are highly aromatic, lightly fiery south Indian fritters, studded with vegetables, chiles, and curry leaves and fried to a golden brown. Typically, vadas are devoured for breakfast or enjoyed with an afternoon chai, though many thalis begin with a vada as a sort of amuse bouche.
Here, we’ve shaped them into little donuts, but you could make them more disk-shaped if you’d rather not fuss with the hole.
1 cup white lentils (urad dal)
1 tsp salt
6 curry leaves, finely chopped
2 Indian or Thai green chiles, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 (1/2-inch) knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
Neutral oil such as vegetable oil or peanut oil, for deep-frying
Plain yogurt or Basic Raita
Heirloom Tomato Chutney
Soak the lentils in cold water for at least 4 hours. Drain, then rinse under cold running water.
Place lentils and salt in a small food processor and grind into a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as required.
In a large bowl, combine curry leaves, chiles, onions, carrots, ginger and cilantro. Add lentil paste and mix well. Cover, then set aside at room temperature for 2 hours.
Heat enough oil in a deep fryer or deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan to cover the patties (about 3 inches deep). Oil should reach a temperature of 350ºF.
With damp hands, scoop a golf-ball-sized dollop of the dough and make a donut shape. Insert a thumb in the center to make a small hole. Gently lower each donut as you shape it into the hot oil, a few at a time, and fry for 2–3 minutes, until golden brown on each side. If necessary, work in batches to avoid overcrowding. Using a slotted spoon, transfer vada to a plate lined with paper towels and drain excess oil. Repeat until all the vada are made.
Serve immediately with plain yogurt (or basic raita) and a bowl of heirloom tomato chutney.
Excerpted from My Thali: A Simple Indian Kitchen by Joe Thottungal with Anne DesBrisay. Photography by Christian Lalonde. Copyright © 2023 by Thali Restaurant. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.