Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Ultimate Superbowl Snack, Savory Little Donuts, Gluten Free!

   The first time I ever saw vadai I thought, "Wow donuts! Who knew Indian food included donuts?! I am so there." It turned out that my inner Homer Simpson was wrong. Those weren't donuts I was salivating over, they were vadai, savory little gluten-free donuts made of ground dal and spices. Served with a variety of chutneys and raitas, they're the perfect, bite-sized finger food made for a crowd.
   This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. People will be putting out their chicken drummettes, and Buffalo wings, dip and chips, guacamole and nachos, all the usual suspects. For a really different snack, how about a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and absolutely delicious healthy treat?  Okay, so it's fried. So nobody's perfect. Anyway you don't want to frighten the menfolk away by offering them something they think is too healthy.
   Vadai are a specialty of the South Indian kitchen, and there are almost as many ways of making them as there are cooks with imaginations. The basic ingredients are dal, soaked and ground. Sometimes as a variation, potato is used. There maybe a combination of other spices and vegetables chopped and added, and there is always a tasty chutney, raita or even salsa could be served as a side dipper. Remember these are finger foods... perfect for parties and game days.
   For my Foodbuzz 24 x24 dinner I served masala vadai, basically a spiced vadai seasoned with onion and cilantro. One batch of batter made a whole pile of vadai. The batter makes up fast in a food processor and then can be kept in the fridge until you're ready to fry. Easy peasy.


Here's what to do:
 In a large bowl filled with 9 cups of water soak for 1 hour:
 1 cup of toor dal
 1 cup of urad dal
 1 cup of chana dal
  When it's done soaking, drain off the excess water and put the dal into a food processor or blender with 12 dried red chilies.
Blend it into a thick batter, then toss in:
1 cup of finally chopped onion...
...a bunch of chopped cilantro
...a few curry leaves
 a 2 inch piece of chopped fresh ginger
6 finely chopped fresh green chilies
Salt to taste
Mix it all together well.
Stick it into the fridge until ready to use.

Cooking the Vadai:
   I don't do a lot of frying, okay like almost never, so I don't own a deep fryer. Those of you who do are in luck with this one. I fried my vadai in a kadai, but any deep skillet will do.
   Fill the skillet with vegetable oil and get it nice and hot. You want the oil very hot so the vadai fry up quickly and crisp.
  While the oil in heating, fill a small bowl with water, cover a plate with a paper towel and place a cookie sheet in the oven and heat it to 200 degrees.
  Once the oil is hot (be careful!) take a large spoonful of the batter, dampen one hand with a bit of cold water so the dough doesn't stick, and shape the dough into a round little patty. You can fry these but I prefer to give them the donut shape because... well, they're just cuter that way. Poke a hole through the dough with one finger, shape the little donut and then gently slip the vadai into the hot oil.
 Turn the vadai in the oil so that they get brown and crispy on both sides, then lift them out of the oil and place them on the paper towels to drain.
 The vadai can be kept warm on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven until they're ready to be served.
  Use your favorite chutney or raita as a dipping sauce and watch them fly off the plate.
  Here are a couple of ideas if you want to make your own chutney: Apple Chutney, Mango Chutney or a cooling Coconut Raita like this one I found online and prepared for my dinner last Saturday night.
   I had so much fun making vadai and they were so popular, that I'm going to be featuring them at my annual Oscar Watching Party, my birthday party and probably any other excuse for a celebration that's going to come my way. There certainly are enough vadai recipes out there to take me a long way. 


  1. I wouldn't be able to put these down!! I'm coming to all your parties....

  2. I am salivating here!! Look So yummy!

  3. Thank you for sharing such a delish recipe. Love the idea of an indian treat made like a donut. Enjoy the upcoming weekend!

  4. those are sooo cool! i maintain that everything ring-shaped inevitably tastes better- case in point- the onion ring. incidentally, why are we always frying things shaped like rings? Hello, donuts... I still can't believe what an insane feast you pulled off for the latest 24x24. epic.

  5. What wonderful idea! These sound very good Kathy!

  6. What a great looking dish! I am deep-frying averse, and wonder if you could pan-fry these in shallow oil.

  7. @angela FRS,
    I don't fry either but I made an exception with these vadai. Since they cook like donuts, it seems they must be deep fried...unless someone else has an idea.

  8. @penny aka jeroxie,
    they tasted sooooooo good!

  9. Hard to believe you are non-indian :-)
    These are perfect.



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