Vadai or Gaarelu is a very popular snack or breakfast item in South India. Walk into any restaurant of any size, you are sure to find Vada in the menu. Growing up, Gaarelu (as called in Telugu) found their way into our home only during festivals and functions. It is one of the must-have dishes on special days of the year. Made with Urad Dal (de-husked black lentil), these are a good source of protein but rich in calories as these are deep fried goodies. I make exceptions every once in a while, for the sake of the husband who loves deep fried food. This also happens to be one of his favorites, especially with good Coconut Chutney as it’s served in Tamilnadu. The same dish in Andhra Pradesh is served with ginger chutney/Allam Pachadi and is considered one of the classic combinations. Same dish, different interpretations.
My MIL makes crispy yet soft, spongy and tasty Medu Vadai or Ulundu Vadai. I have seen her prepare batches of these awesome Vadais with ease. The hole in the center of this Vadai is not so easy to perfect but takes a lot of practice. She also adds chopped onions in her batter (which only increases the complexity) but as I made these on the day of Pongal and had to offer it to God, I skipped onions. For the best results, the batter has to be made in a wet grinder which ensures that the batter is fluffy. As I make these Gaarelu in small quantity, using a wet grinder to make the batter is impossible. I did use my mixer grinder but achieved great results – with the help of couple of tricks. Check the notes section for more details.
To make Medu Vadai | Ulundu Vadai | Gaarelu
What I used –
- Urad Dal, ½ cup
- Black Peppercorns, 1 tsp
- Curry leaves, a Few
- Green Chillies, 1 or 2 (optional, I did not use any)
- Salt, as required
- Oil, for deep frying
How I made –
1. In a bowl, soak urad dal with enough water to cover for about 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs (Don’t soak the dal for more than 2 hours). In a mixer jar, add only the urad dal and sprinkle some cold water. Pulse the batter in regular intervals until the dal is half ground. Scrape the edges of the mixer jar, sprinkle some water again and repeat the pulsing. Do not pour water but sprinkle just a little cold water each time until the batter is smooth and fluffy. Remove onto a bowl.
2. Add roughly chopped curry leaves, black peppercorns and green chillies or chopped onions (if adding). Mix well. Meanwhile, heat oil for deep frying on medium flame. Add salt required into the batter and mix well.
3. Have a cup of water nearby while making the Vadais. Wet your hand with water, shake off the excess water and spread some water on a plastic sheet or polythene cover. Take a small ball of the batter (the batter does not stick and is easy to drop by wetting your hand before touching the batter) and pat it flat on the plastic cover. Dip your index finger in water and put a hole in the center of the Vadai. Gently remove the Vadai onto hot oil.
4. Again, having a wet (but not too watery sheet) helps in easily removing the Vadai from the sheet. The oil should be on medium flame. At a time, two-three Vadais can be deep fried. When the Vadais turn golden brown, remove them onto a tissue paper. Repeat the same with the rest of the batter.
- The Urad Dal should soak strictly for only about 1.5 to 2 hours. Anything more than that, the Vadais would absorb too much oil while frying.
- While making the batter it’s important to follow the below directions –
- Sprinkle just a little water at a time, only to aid the grinding process. The batter should otherwise be thick.
- Use cold water to make the batter which helps in yield soft, crispy vadais and not leathery ones.
- Do not grind the batter in full speed but pulse through at regular intervals. This helps in maintaining the right temperature of the batter – especially while making it in a mixer grinder.
- Do not add salt while making the batter. The batter turns runny very soon.
- Add salt and chopped onions (if adding) only before the Vadais are to be made else, the batter turns runny.
- The oil should be maintained at the right temperature. Keep the flame on high until the oil is hot and turn it to medium once the Vadais are put in.
- Wet your hand and apply some water on the plastic sheet for each Vadai, to ensure that the Vadai can be easily removed onto the oil.
- I did not add green chillies as I had added peppercorns. Use both or either one as per preference.