I am a sucker for Dahi Vada. Irrespective of whether it is made the South Indian way or in the North Indian style, I love the dish to bits. Today, I am going to share with you all the way we make Dahi Vada at home.
What is Dahi Vada, exactly?
Lentils soaked and ground into a smooth batter, flavoured with chillies and ginger, then deep-fried and soaked in curd – that’s dahi vada for you. When made right, it’s a beauty of a dish. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the fried lentil batter soaks in the flavours of the curd and the end result is absolutely delectable. I definitely can’t resist the lure! 🙂
There’s the South Indian version of dahi vada (called Thayir Vadai) where the curd is tempered with mustard and curry leaves, sometimes with a green chilli-coconut paste mixed in. The North Indian version is more like a chaat, with sweetened curd, topped with sweet and spicy chutneys, sev or boondi, and roasted cumin powder. The latter – also called Dahi Bhalla Chaat – often stars in Holi parties in North India. It is this North Indian version of dahi vada that we are going to talk about today. I will share the recipe for the South Indian thayir vadai shortly, too.
This recipe is completely vegetarian, but not vegan (plant-based) because of the use of curd. It is, however, completely gluten-free.
How to make Dahi Vada or Dahi Bhalla Chaat
The making of perfect Dahi Vada is not very difficult, but it might take some practice. I have listed out some techniques which have helped me achieve great results. Please read the entire post carefully before attempting to make the dish.
Here is how we make Dahi Vada or Dahi Bhalla Chaat.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
For the vadas:
1. 1 cup whole white urad dal
2. 2 green chillies
3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
4. Salt to taste
5. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves (optional)
6. Oil for deep-frying the vadas
For the curd and assembling:
1. 500 ml fresh curd
2. 1/4 teaspoon black salt
3. Regular salt as needed, if required
4. 2 teaspoons powdered sugar or as needed
5. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or as needed
6. Sweet-sour tamarind chutney, as needed (see notes)
7. Spicy green mint-coriander chutney, as needed (see notes)
8. Sev/boondi, as needed
9. About 2 tablespoons grated carrot
10. About 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
11. Roasted cumin powder, as required
1. Wash the urad dal a couple of times under running water, draining it out each time. When the water runs clear, add in enough fresh water. Soak the urad for about 2 hours, then place in the refrigerator and soak for another 2 hours.
2. When the urad dal is done soaking, drain out the cold water from it and reserve.
3. Transfer the cold dal to a mixer jar. Chop up the green chillies roughly and add to the mixer jar. Peel the ginger, chop roughly and add to the mixer jar too.
4. Adding a little of the cold reserved water at a time, grind the ingredients in the mixer jar to a smooth batter. Do not add more than 7-8 tablespoons of water; use only as much water as is strictly necessary. Drop a blob of the batter in a glass of water – if it floats on the water, it is light and airy and ready; if it sinks to the bottom, you need to grind it further.
5. Take the oil for deep-frying in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place on high flame. Let the oil get nice and hot.
6. In the meantime, transfer the ground batter to a large mixing bowl. Chop up the curry leaves roughly (if using) and add them in. Add salt to taste. Mix the batter using your hands in a circular motion, in a single direction only, for 2-3 minutes. This incorporates air into the batter so the vadas turn out soft on the inside. Now, the batter is ready to make the vadas.
7. When the oil is hot, drop a few small balls of the batter into it and turn the flame down to medium. Fry on medium flame till the vadas turn crispy and brown on the outside.
8. Simultaneously, prepare the curd mixture. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl. If the curd is too thick, add some water to adjust the consistency. Add in the black salt, regular salt (if using), red chilli powder and powdered sugar. Mix well and keep this ready.
9. When the first batch of vadas are fried, drop them into the curd mixture immediately. Keep them soaking while you fry the rest of the batter in batches. Keep dropping the vadas in the curd mixture as and when they get ready. Do not crowd the mixing bowl – make sure all the vadas are soaking in the curd equally.
10. Start serving the dahi vadas once each batch is done soaking for a bit. Leaving them in for more than 15 minutes will cause all the curd to get absorbed. To serve, take a few of the soaked dahi vadas in a plate along with some of the curd mixture. Drizzle some sweet-sour tamarind chutney and spicy green mint chutney on top. Add some sev or boondi over this, and garnish with finely chopped coriander and grated carrot. Sprinkle some roasted cumin powder over this. Serve immediately.
11. Prepare and serve all the dahi vadas in a similar manner.
Tips & Tricks
1. I have used home-made sweet-sour tamarind chutney here. Here’s how I make this chutney.
2. I make the spicy green chutney at home too. Here’s the proceedure I follow for this.
3. Some people use a mix of moong dal and urad dal to make dahi vada. We use only urad dal. If you want to, use 1/4 cup moong dal and 3/4 cup urad dal.
4. Adjust the number of green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the vadas to be.
5. You may soak 2 tablespoons of raw rice along with the urad dal, and grind them together. This yields crispier vadas. I do that when I’m making Medu Vada (vadas with a hole, to be had with sambar and/or chutney, but skip the rice in case of dahi vadas).
6. For dahi vada, urad dal needs soaking for at least 4 hours. A tried and tested tip is to place the urad dal + water in the refrigerator after 2 hours. Let it soak in the refrigerator for the rest of the time. The cold lentils stop the mixer from getting heated up while grinding, which translates into fluffier vadas.
7. Do not add too much water while grinding the urad dal. Add a few tablespoons of the cold water reserved from soaking the lentils, if required.
8. The batter should be ground fine and thick – as stated above, when you put a blob of the batter in a cup of water, it should float. This suggests that the batter is well ground and fluffy, and that the vadas will turn out nice and airy. If the batter sinks to the bottom, it suggests that you need to grind some more.
9. Don’t forget to mix the batter with your hand for a few seconds, after grinding. Move your hand in a circular motion in one direction only. This aerates the batter and yields light and fluffy vadas.
10. If the batter becomes too runny, you can add some rice flour to make it thicker. However, do not use too much rice flour as this can alter the taste of the vadas.
11. Use fresh curd that is not sour, for best results.
12. It is important to fry the vadas on a medium flame to ensure that they are evenly cooked. Frying them on a high flame might cause them to get brown on the outside but stay raw inside. Make sure the oil is nice and hot before you start frying.
13. Some people drop the fried vadas into water, then squeeze them and add to the curd. We don’t do this as we don’t like dahi vada made that way.
14. We don’t usually make vadas with holes, while preparing dahi vada. We just drop blobs of batter into hot oil and fry. If you want, you can form holes in the vadas, as in case of Medu Vada.
15. Whole white urad dal, also called gota urad, gives the best dahi vada. I have tried this with whole and broken black urad (with skin) as well as broken white urad dal.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!