I can hear the Indian and Srilankan Aunties shreek in horror as they hear about a ‘baked’ Vada. “Who would have heard of such a thing?”. “How can you bake a Vadai?”. “Surely the taste won’t be the same?”. “What’s the point of THAT!”. I am giggling just thinking about all these comments and the expressions on these aunty’s faces, but feel happy that I can answer every one of them.
The “Vadai” or “Vada” can be likened to the western doughnut, but is savoury in flavour and has very simple but delicious ingredients. It is deep fried to allow it to have a lovely crisp coating, a soft doughy centre and is often served with a coconut and/or tomato chutney. It’s origin are from South Indian homes but can be seen as a street food in the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka. There are two types of Vada – “masala vada” made from chana dal (split de-husked black chickpeas), and “medhu vada” made from urad dal (de-husked black lentils.) Sliced green chillies, curry leaves and onion can also be mixed into the vada batter and medhu vada batter contains rice in addition to these. While the masala vada is circular and slightly flat, the medhu vada is doughnut-shaped with a hole in the middle. Both can be served with south Indian chutneys of various kinds, but the medhu vada is also often seen dunked in sumptuous “Sambhar” or “Rasam”.
There are other types of vada made from other ingredients like semolina, different lentils etc. but the Masala and Medhu Vada are the two are probably the ones which you would come across the most. Vada is often made for religious festivals and the Tamil New Year is definitely one festival when you would be treated to these delicious snacks. But nowadays many people are more health conscious in both India, Sri Lanka and abroad, but the Vada is one snack which people would find difficult to make without deep frying in oil. Until now!
Having parents, relatives & friends who need to keep their cholesterol levels to a minimum, I decided to research a method by which they could still enjoy the taste of a Vada without worrying about the results of their cholesterol test at the next Doctor’s appointment. I first thought about the type of Vada to make and decided that a Medhu Vada would be the easiest to bake as the urad dal would not become too dry during the baking process, whereas a Masala Vada uses channa dal which would need a lot of oil to ensure it’s cooked through. I am yet to experiment with a Masala Vada, so let’s see! I then found a doughnut baking tray at my local supermarket which answered my dilemma about how I would make a baked Vada with a hole in it!
My first attempt of the Baked Medhu Vada was not successful and the ingredient quantities didn’t work out and the Vada was too dry. The second attempt involved me grilling the Vadas after baking which made them burn easily and they looked awful! So it was third time lucky. They look very similar to a deep fried Vada but due to the shape of the baking tray the baked Vada do look more like doughnuts. However, most importantly, the taste is not compromised! We enjoyed these with a coriander chutney and the recipe for my baked medhu vadas can be found here.
Please do comment – I would love to know your thoughts!