In Tamil Nadu we serve Ulundhu Vadai as an accompaniment to make a meal festive. On special occasions it is served with payasam (sweet dessert) or with ven pongal (a savoury rice dish) or idlis (steamed rice cakes). But even otherwise it makes a great all-time snack.
In my family we make ulundhu vadai mainly on birthdays or occasions when something special is called for. We always serve it with coconut thuvaiyal (chutney), which is a speciality in my family. My mother used to soak the dhal for vadai overnight, and I used to find it very difficult to grind it to thick drop batter as the dhal would have absorbed too much water by then. I read somewhere that dhal soaked in the refrigerator for a short time lent itself better to be ground to a vadai consistency. I followed this method and found that it worked really well. It cuts short both the soaking time and the grinding time. An additional benefit is that the vadais absorb relatively less oil.
The black gram dhal provides 24gm of protein per 100 gm. The oil used for deep frying furnishes a very large amount of energy. Therefore, ulundhu vadai is a high protein, high energy vegetarian snack or an accompaniment. As a bonus, the black gram dhal in the vadai is also a good source of folic acid and choline.
- 2 C Black Gram Dhal (Ulundham Paruppu)
- 1 large Onion, diced
- 1 large Green Chilli, diced
- 3 cm piece Ginger, grated
- 2 sprigs Curry Leaves, chopped fine
- 2 tsp Salt, or to taste
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- Wash the black gram dhal and drain. Add 3 cups of water or sufficient to stand at least 3 cm above the dhal. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for half an hour. Drain; set aside ¼ cup of the water used for soaking.
- Place 2 handfuls of dhal in the wet grinder, with salt. Start the wet grinder and grind to a thick paste or thick drop batter consistency adding a handful of dhal at a time. You may need to add a small amount of the soaked water if the grinder struggles.
- Add the onion, chilli, ginger, and curry leaves to the batter and grind for 5 seconds before removing it.
- Heat the oil in a wok or kadai.
- Take about a fist full of batter.
- Shape the batter to resemble a small doughnut, either on an oiled banana leaf or a small oiled plastic sheet.
- Drop the vadai gently into the oil taking care not to let your fingers touch the oil.
- Fry on medium heat, three or four at a time, depending on the size of your kadai. Turn the vadais over once.
- Remove the vadais when they are golden.
- Drain on kitchen towels to remove excess oil.
- Serve with coconut thuvaiyal (chutney).
- Thick drop batter is batter of very thick consistency that can be shaped or pushed off a spoon into the oil.
- Make sure you add very little extra water when grinding. Just dribble a few drops at a time to ease the grinder and no more.
- Sometimes coriander leaves and asafoetida are also added to the vadai batter, but I don’t add them.
- If you don’t have banana leaves, you can use an empty milk plastic sachet coated with some oil.