There is no South Indian celebration that doesn’t feature Vada, but now you can enjoy them baked, not fried! Baked Vada, that’s crispy, crunchy and delicious, not to mention much, much healthier!
Even though I grew up in a Christian household, my mother made sure we did not miss the fun during Diwali – so much so that on Diwali, we got to wear new clothes, burst crackers and eat a lot of delicious food! I cannot tell you how much I love Medu Vada (Lentil fritters). It’s a South Indian breakfast staple, particularly on birthdays, festivals and other special days.
My neighbour makes the most incredible Vada and I wait like a dog until she brings them over in a gigantic plate with more sweets and holiday savories. But it’s her Vada that steals the show, piping hot, straight out of the hot oil, crispy and molten-soft on the inside! Ah I can still hear the ‘crunch’ in my mind!
And they are so easy to make, except for the fact that you have to deep-fry them, which isn’t exactly difficult, but if you live in a carpeted, air-conditioned house like I do, they do make the entire house smell ‘oily’ for days! And it’s a very steep price to pay because I have to then light a million scented candles, boil vanilla and cinnamon on the stove for hours and try to exorcise the stickiness in the air. And this is such a silly reason to stay away from my favourite foods, most of which happen to be deep-fried!.
So I made sure I found an answer – the Baked Vada. This Diwali, I will make Idly and Vada for breakfast, they’ll be baked, they’ll be delicious and I won’t have to battle the ill-effects of deep-frying!
And believe me, with this recipe, you will not miss the deep-frying. These are just as crispy, just as tasty as the traditional ones. Prepare the batter as you would the traditional one, but with two additions. The baking soda + baking powder really help replicate the special crispiness that you get when you deep-fry. So try not to omit these. The remaining ingredients are flexible, you can add as much or more as you need.
This seems to be a common question on everyone’s mind, so let me put that to the rest. Whenever you are grinding Urad dal, the grinding process may heat up the batter, and the end result will be tough and rubbery. Using ice cubes instead of water while grinding keeps the temperature cool, and the vadas (or dosa) will be crispy and soft without the need to add rice flour to the batter!
Finally, you’ll need a Donut pan for this. I bought mine off Amazon. Here’s a link. If you do not have a donut pan, I think if you grind the batter thicker and just shape it in your hands like you do a traditionally fried vada, they should still come out fine. Also, be generous with the oil brushing. It really helps the crispiness. And don’t feel bad about it. It’s still healthier and less messier than deep-frying!
Update: I did bake them without a donut pan, on a regular baking tray – the shape did not hold up, but they still taste great and get crisp!
Tip: I transferred the batter to a plastic sandwich bag, snipped off one end, and used it to pipe the batter to the donut pan. Faster than using a spoon!
Halfway through baking, be sure to flip it over to crisp out both sides. It will feel a little stuck in the pan, but use the back of a spoon to wiggle it out.
Don’t these Baked Vada look just like they’re fried? They even feel fried, with the same ‘crunch’ as you bite into it. Another indulgence that needn’t be so guilty anymore! Dunk into coconut chutney and/or sambar and enjoy!
When you make these (which I really think you SHOULD!), be sure to SHARE YOUR PHOTOS with me through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I’d love to see what you cook from here and will share it with pride on my social media feeds.
Note: 1 cup = 255 ml