Masala Vada, such a great combination with piping hot tea!! But, it is also made traditionally by deep frying in oil. For those who love this dish, yet looking for a healthier version, can try this less- oil-consuming, yet delicious version!!
Masala Vada, of course, uses the fabulous chana dal – the dal that is quite superior in nutrition, compared to others as explained in the Dal Nutrition Analysis post.
Do’s and Dont’s
Soaking the vadas
Ok, I have a mini-rant about this 2 hour soaking business. In this day and age, who has time to soak the lentils, turn up 2 hours later and then complete the cooking. Right??? How cruel is that? Our parents, followed this protocol, because, well, they are soooo much more patient than us (No arguments there!!)
But, I am sorry to inform you…I have no way around this constraint for the masala vada. You see, the chana dal absorbs just the right amount of water in around 2-4 hours mark. Lesser than this, and the batter does not stick together well. More than this, and the lentil soaks up so much water that the vada’s crunchiness is no longer supreme.
You can still make a fairly decent vada with overnight soaking….BUT for top-notch crispiness, it is best to capture the dal in its perfect – soaked-but-not-too-soaked state: 2 – 4 hour soaking period.
Baking the Vadas
So, first trial run I tried baking the vadas entirely in the oven. This ended with cooked vadas all right, but without the outer crispiness we all love masala vada for. It felt more like a dry, sad pakoda.
Then I thought…Hmmm, maybe – it must be the parchment paper. Of course, I need direct heat to caramelize the edges. This should do the trick…
Nope…While better than parchment paper, the sides were still not crispy enough as a traditional vada.
A few days later, I was watching Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyan on Netflix (a great show by the way!!) when I watched a lady in a village making makki ki roti on her wooden stove. She first pan-fried the rotis to get the crispy outside, then stuck them in the heat underneath to complete the cooking.
Lightbulb!! It is then I realized that nothing can quite compare to the direct contact of vada to heat + oil. So I shallow-fried the vadas and then put them in a very hot oven to cook the insides completely. Vola…Awesome baked vadas ready!!
Healthy Masala Vada (No deep frying)
- 1 cup Chana Dal
- 2-3 Green Chillies (Finely Chopped)
- 1 in Finely Grated Ginger
- 1 Large Onion Chopped
- Salt (per taste)
- 4 tbsp Oil
- Few Curry Leaves Chopped (Optional)
Clean and soak dal for 2-4 hours.
Drain water, grind the dal to a coarse paste. (While some whole dal pieces give good texture to vadas, you must also grind it enough to be able to shape patties without crumbling.)
Dump the paste into a bowl. Mix all other ingredients into the bowl. Mix well. Shape them into round patties. The THINNER, the BETTER and CRISPIER.
Pan fry them on a medium-high heat pan for 2-3 minutes on each side. You must get a nice caramelized layer on each side.
Place the pan fried patties in a well-oiled sheet metal pan and place the pan in 475F (250C) oven for 5 minutes. Open oven and flip the side and place it back in oven for 5 minutes.
Serve while hot!!
Step by Step Pictures
First soak lentils, grind lentils and add spices as per recipe instructions.
Then pan fry the batter 2-3 minutes on BOTH sides until you get a crispy edge. Pop it in a 475F (250C) oven for 5 minutes one one side. Flip and finish baking 5 minutes on other side.
I hope you try to make these masala vadas. Masala Vada comes in various flavor profiles, I have posted one of the more traditional styles. You could use any style – Add in garam masala, or garlic-red chillies, maybe use fennel seeds etc.
Another point – this vada like traditional version, tastes best when hot. However, if you have leftovers, do not be worried. Crumble them and saute them with cabbage, onion or beans and you have instant paruppu-usali recipe.
Post your thought/comments below. I look forward to hearing them.