Dahi Vada ( Savory Lentil Cakes in Yogurt with Mint and Tamarind Chutney)

Hi Ramit,

I have been looking at the pictures of your Delhi by Foot  walks, posted on Facebook. They show how Delhi is such a study in contrast, on one hand it is the epitome of the brash, unapologetically “in your face” new India and at the same time it is a continuity of a living tradition, a simultaneously co-existing palpable past. The upcoming Delhi By Nite: Ghost Tales & Shadows of Dilli on Saturday, 20th July, sounds so unusual and promises to give an out of the box experience . And I am sure “The City of Djinns” will provide ample spine-chilling material….how I wish I could be a part of this, you must give us a similar tour when we come there.
I may live far away, but I am a die hard Delhiite. It still is my go- to city for shopping, for food, for losing myself in history. It is the place where I have left behind my younger self. You may have come across her in your excursions, there I am, sketching at Feroze Shah Kotla, catching the bus to Delhi Art College, window shopping in Lajpat Nagar or making my way through Chandni Chowk. Frozen in time. Forever. The couplet of Zauq reverberating in my mind “Kaun jaye Zauq phir Dilli ki galiyan chhor kar” whoever in their right minds would desert the by-lanes of Delhi.
I even think that your love for exploring the city may have its seed in the many Sunday outings my father took us on. If you remember we would pack a brunch of boiled eggs and bread-butter, and then explore Humayun’s tomb,or Qutab Minar and many other historic sites. Now you have turned your passion into your profession, and can be seen eating your way through Delhi with single minded regularity! Talk about having the cake and eating it too.
My dear brother, today’s recipe is for you and in memoriam of the many wondrous street food that only a multi cultural melting pot like Delhi can provide, and which I miss like crazy.
Although this is an Indian snack, it can also be a side dish to any meal.

Dahi Vada with sweet- tangy tamarind chutney and hot-spicy mint chutney

Dahi Vada with sweet- tangy tamarind chutney and hot-spicy mint chutney

Ingredients for Dahi(Curd) Vada (Lentil Cakes)

For The Vadas(to serve 6)

3 cup urad dal (split black lentils without skin )
1/2″ piece of ginger
2 green chillies ( or to taste)
salt to taste
oil for deep-frying
5 cups curd (dahi) , whisked, seasoned with a little salt and sugar and refrigerated


For the sweet-tangy Tamarind Chutney (see post on exotic Indian Chutneys)

For the hot-spicy Mint Chutney ( see post on exotic Indian Chutneys)

For The Garnish

chilli powder
cumin seeds (jeera) toasted and powdered
Rock salt/plain salt
(use all according to taste)

Method For the Vada

soak the lentils

soak the lentils

Soak the urad dal (split black lentils) in water for 3-4 hours.
Wash and drain the urad dal (split black lentil)

grind to a thick paste

grind to a thick paste

Combine the lentils , ginger and green chillies and grind to a smooth paste in a blender, without adding too much water.
( The batter should not be watery but be able to hold soft peaks.)
Add the salt to the Lentil paste.

beat till fluffy

beat till fluffy

Next, with a manual egg beater /your own hands, beat till the batter is light and fluffy. Add a little water if required.

to test, the batter should float

to test, the batter should float

( to check drop a spoonful into a bowl of water, if it floats then its done, otherwise you need more elbow grease! Or do what I do, recruit my husband with the promise of a large helping of the dish! )

deep fry in hot oil on low flame

deep fry in hot oil on low flame

Heat oil for deep-frying.
Wet your hands and scoop some batter with your fingertips.
Slide in slowly, into the oil.
Deep fry in hot oil on a low flame till the vadas are golden brown.
Drain from oil and immerse immediately into a bowl of water.

the golden brown hot vadas go directly into water

the golden brown hot vadas go directly into water

Repeat with the whole batter.
After 10 to 15 minutes in the water, gently squeeze the Lentil Cakes between your palms to exude most of the water.
Then drop them in 3 cups cold seasoned curd, reserving the rest 2 cups for later.

Tip: Wetting the hand constantly, while dropping the lentil paste into the oil acts as a repellant.
Don’t drop the batter from far, the hot oil may splatter and burn.
Immersing the vadas into water straight from the hot oil makes them extremely soft.
Don’t fry on high flame, or the vadas may remain raw in the centre.
Do not over fry the vadas, they should be just golden brown.

To serve

Arrange the vadas (Lentil Cakes) along with the curd on a serving dish, top with the reserved whisked curd.
Garnish with the chilli powder, cumin seeds powder and rock salt
Liberally douse with serve with the tangy sweet Tamarind Chutney and the hot-spicy Mint Chutney.

Watch your friends polish off their plates in minutes if you leave any for them! 🙂

Love Didi

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