The first time I had vada curry is when our friend’s mom prepared it for us. It’s not a dish I grew up eating, but the first time I had it, I absolutely loved it. I thought it was a complicated process to prepare these, but it’s a fairly easy one. First you have to soak Chana dal and then grind it fennel seeds and dried red chilies. It’s ground to a coarse paste and steamed as small vadas. The gravy for this is the common onion tomato base with the usual spices. The vada is then broken into smaller pieces and added to the onion tomato gravy.
The only difference I see in my friend’s mom’s recipe from the other ones in internet is that she keeps a little bit of vada batter aside and uses it to thicken the gravy later. In the other recipes I see coconut being used for this purpose. The smell and taste of fennel seeds here is absolutely divine. Mine doesn’t have that much fennel, so feel free to add a bit more ground fennel seeds to the gravy if preferred.
This is a typical breakfast/dinner dish and is usually served with soft thick dosas or idli. This was dinner getting packed as lunch next day for my husband:-).
Read on for the recipe.
- 1 cup Chana dal
- 2-3 dried red chilies
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, optional
- Salt as needed
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- Salt as needed
- Soak the dal overnight or for at least 3 hours. Drain the water completely and pulse it in a blender with fennel seeds, chilies, chili powder and salt. It should be a coarse paste and not a smooth paste. Remove the ground paste to a bowl reserving about 2 tablespoons ( roughly a handful) of it back in the blender. The reserved batter will be blended with water to use for thickening the gravy later.
- Take a marble sized ball from the vada batter. Flatten it and place it on a steamer rack. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Steam for 12 minutes. Set aside.
- For the curry, heat a tablespoon of oil. Sauté the onions till it’s pink. Add the ginger garlic paste and mix it in. Add the tomatoes and all the spice powders and salt. Mix everything well and let it cook until the tomatoes are really mushy and almost like a paste. You can add a little water whenever it looks dry or if the curry starts sticking to the pan.
- At this point, add 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil. Taste test and adjust seasonings.
- Break each vada into smaller pieces, roughly 3-4 pieces per vada. Add the broken vada to the gravy. If the curry is dry, add more water. You are looking for a chili like consistency.
- To the reserved vada batter, add 1/4 cup water and grind to a very smooth paste. Add this to the gravy and bring it to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds if preferred. Taste test again and adjust seasonings if necessary. Take off the heat and serve with idli or dosa or even roti.