Chattambades are a delicious street snack from the Malabar coast. I thought they were pretty unique to Mangalore, until I had the Masala Vada in a London Kerala/ Sri Lanka restaurant (yes, really, the place is called the Palm Palace and its bang opposite Quality Foods in Southall!) and realised they were one and the same. Of course I then wanted to eat them constantly, and when my mum showed up in England, I was constantly badgering her to make them. She's a lovely mum, and she did. And they were delicious and tasted just as I remembered from Mangalore.
For some strange reason, for the past few days I had been craving these chattambades. The problem with making them is that they are really not a spur-of-the-moment snack. While chana dal or yellow split peas and curry leaves are a staple in my pantry and freezer, you do have to be fairly organised to soak the dal the night before, as its are ground raw with the seasonings. As usual, I tend to keep the spice down as Aditi doesn't really enjoy very spicy food but loves these chattambades. So feel free to increase the spices to your taste.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got myself organised, and I soaked the dal the night before. The next day yielded these delicious crispy, chewy snacks that we all gobbled down with coconut chutney and hot cups of chai.
Now that is what I call beating Old Man Winter flat down :-)
1 and half cup chana dal (yellow split peas)
1 or 2 long mild red chillies (alternatively, substitute 1/4 tsp hot chilli powder)
3 - 5 whole peppercorns
1 or 2 green chilli, chopped
1 sprig of curry leaves, fresh or frozen, chopped roughly
1/2 tbsp gram flour (chickpea flour)
1 tbsp rice flour (opt)
Salt to taste
Enough oil to deep fry
Soak the dal with double the volume of cold water, overnight if possible, otherwise, at least 6 hours. The dal will fluff up a little bit, as it absorbs the water.
The next day, drain the dal well and grind coarsely with the red chilli or chilli powder and the peppercorns, WITHOUT adding water. Don't process into a smooth paste as you want pieces of whole dal, it really adds to the texture of the finished vadas.
Scrape out the ground dal iunto a bowl, and add the chopped green chillies, curry leaves, gram and rice flours. Mix thoroughly, then season with the salt to your taste.
Shape into small balls, then flatten slightly using the palms of your hands (chatte (flat) ambade (vada), hence, chattambade)
Heat the oil until a drop of the vada batter rises quickly to the top covered in bubbles. Then drop in the chattambade, and deep fry until they turn golden. Take out of the hot oil, and drain on kitchen paper. The chattambades should be crispy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside.
Serve hot with coconut chutney or ketchup and a hot cup of chai!!! Bliss!!
PS - I've been told that authentic chattambade does not have gram flour in it. I do know that, and I don't claim any authenticity with my recipes. They have been worked out by trial and error, and are based on what we like to eat. Also, as with all recipes, every single household will have their own for almost everything, a teaspoon extra here, a tablespoon over there, and that's how it should be :-)