Dahi Vada

Prepared in advance, made from dhuli urad dal, there isn’t a time when this wouldn’t be welcome addition – at a lunch, served as a side dish at a sit-down dinner, or the traditional late-afternoon combo snack known as chaat in my nani’s kitchen.

1 cup dhuli urad dal, soaked
1 32-ounce plain yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chaat masala
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

1) Drain dhuli urad dal (hulled split urad) thoroughly and place in a food processor fitted with a sharp metal blade and add 1/2 teaspoon chopped ginger.
2) Proceed to pulse until the mixture turns into a coarse paste. Turn off the blender and scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 1/8 to 1/3 cup water little at a time to facilitate the blade. Process until the mixture is smooth (almost resembling sticky dough).
3) Empty the batter in a mixing bowl. Cover the bowl and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Just before deep-frying the vada or round fritters add in a generous pinch of salt, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice. Stir to mix thoroughly.
4) Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet and gently drop a heaping tablespoonful of batter for each vada onto the heated oil, frying 4 to 5 vadas per batch and leaving room between each vada for expanding or spreading, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat the process until all the vadas are deep-fried.
5) Place the vadas in a bowl filled with cold water. Let them soak for 3 to 4 minutes and gently squeeze out the water without breaking them.
6) In a medium-size bowl, combine yogurt (dahi), lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon chaat masala, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add a generous pinch of roasted ground cumin if needed.
7) Place vadas into a non-metallic shallow dish and pour half of the seasoned yogurt sauce on top. Refrigerate covered until time to serve.
8)To serve: Spoon a little yogurt onto each plate, spreading it around in a spiral fashion with the back of the spoon to form a large circle. Carefully place a vada onto the circle made with yogurt, drizzling a bit of additional yogurt over top if desired, and garnish as needed.

Tip: The ideal way to serve dahi vada is buffet style with a combination of samosa, sev and chaat where everybody can make their own plate according to their taste. Tamarind or date chutney, plain yogurt, chaat masala, roasted ground cumin, ground red chili powder, cayenne pepper, chopped green chilies and additional black salt are often served with this dish.

Note: While preparing seasoned yogurt sauce it is advisable to add seasonings to only 2 cups of plain yogurt and serve the remaining yogurt as needed along with the additional spices.

Yield: 12 to 16 Dahi Vadas.

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