Sometimes, you need a little help from your friends! I wanted a pretty special recipe to enter into the 'Freestyle' category of the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge, and so I gave a shout out to my foodie friends for recipe ideas that I could make for this category.
The overwhleming consensus from my friends was that I should make dahi vadas. Dahi vadas, those spiced, crisp lentil fritters, out of the pan and into a delicately spiced, sweet, hot and tangy yoghurt sauce. They are a staple street snack in India, both in the North and South. The best thing about these fritters, though, is how easily you can make up your own spice combinations and add your own special touch to a classic.
This challenge, in a way, has forced me to rethink the way I make and write recipes. Pretty much all of my recipes are classics that I have reinvented to suit the way I cook, and to avail of the fresh ingredients I get here. So while I turned to my beloved Mangalorean Ladies Club Cookbook for inspiration, I actually decided to go my own way with this particular recipe and tested it a few times to make sure I got my own brand of individuality on it. Of course, some recipes you don't mess around with, but at the same time, I do consider my cooking a canvas, on which I use my creativity and all my local ingredients to 'paint' a beautiful dish that is full of lovely, fresh flavours and, sometimes, a twist on old, classic recipes.
I rarely toot my own trumpet (hehe!) but I will come out and say that this was an amazing dish! I came up with a simple, easy recipe for the vadas, as the vehicle to soak up those lovely yoghurty flavours.
I then kept the yoghurt sauce simple, but with a beautiful balance of flavours. The toasted, lightly crushed cumin and fennel seeds offer up a smoky warmth with a hint of aniseed, and the coriander adds the clean, fresh, herby taste to the sauce. The addition of the tamarind-date chutney and the chaat masala add sweet-salty-tangy flavours, and the hot chilli powder offers up the hint of spice that just brings the whole dish together so well.
The vadas can pretty much be eaten straight out of the pan, with a splash of ketchup and some warm coconut chutney, and indeed, they are a hugely popular in the South of India as a breakfast with along with a spicy stew called sambar. However, for a special ocasion this particular dish cannot be beaten. Best of all, its a 'make ahead' dish, which means you can store it in the fridge for a day or two, assembling just before you serve.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, and make this dish and bring in all the street food flavours of India into your own home!
This dahi vada recipe is also an entry to the Canadian Lentils' Recipe Revelation Challenge. If you liked this post, and the recipe, please could you take a moment to go over to the Canadian Lentils Facebook page where I have a link to this post, and 'Like' it? And leave me a comment on this post/ their link too? It would really mean a lot to me :)
And if you're feeling particularly charitable towards me and my recipes, I have a link for my Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup with Red Lentils and my very special Dal Bukhara on the Canadian Lentils Facebook page too, just scroll down to find the posts by Food, Football and a Baby. Thank you very much in advance!!
For the lentil fritters (vada)
1¾ cups cleaned split black lentils (they will be white, not black)
2 - 3 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon salt + extra to taste
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped finely
8 - 12 curry leaves, chiffonaded (shredded)
2 green chillies, chopped
¼ teaspoon hot chilli powder
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
Enough oil to deep fry the vadas
A bowl of hot water
For the spiced yoghurt sauce
2 cups Greek style yoghurt
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
Handful fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
To assemble the dish
½ teaspoon hot chilli powder
½ teaspoon chaat masala (available at any Indian or ethnic grocers. I use the Everest brand)
2 tablespoons of date-tamarind chutney (recipe here)
Make the fritters. Soak the lentils in cold water, ideally overnight (at least 2 - 3 hours). Drain, and grind to a coarse paste, using the 2 - 3 tablespoons of water. You want to use as little water as possible, to keep the batter very thick. Turn out the batter into a bowl.
Add the salt, chopped ginger, curry leaves and green chillies. Stir till well mixed, then taste and adjust seasoning.
Heat the oil in a small, deep pot until a drop of batter rises quickly to the surface, covered in bubbles. Turn down the heat a little.
Carefully drop big spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil. Don't worry if the shapes are not perfect. Deep fry for about 8 - 10 minutes, until the fritters are golden brown.
Using a slotted spoon, lift out of the oil, and place on absorbent kitchen paper. As soon as the oil has drained out a bit, place the hot fritters into the bowl of hot water.
Make the rest of the fritters in the same way.
Leave them in the water for about 10 - 15 minutes, then take out, and gently press between your hands to drain out some of the water. Place in a serving dish.
Make the spiced yoghurt sauce. Place the 2 cups of yoghurt in a bowl and whisk well.
Quickly toast the cumin and the fennel seeds in a hot pan, and remove to a mortar and pestle. Crush coarsely, and add to the yoghurt, along with the chopped fresh coriander.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the sauce over the fritters. The dish keeps in the fridge for a day or two, if you wish. Bring it back to room temperature, erring a bit on the colder side when ready to eat.
To serve, sprinkle over the chilli powder, chaat masala and drizzle over the date-tamarind chutney.
This recipe is also heading over to Creativ Culinary's IndianFoodPalooza! Join in over there with your Indian food!