A south Indian food, vada is a type of fritter or doughnut made of ground lentils or beans, called dal, and spices. Usually eaten as a snack, vada is a popular festival food in many areas of India. These deep-fried fritters can also be eaten for breakfast or another meal. There are few differences between versions of vada, but most deal with the type of lentils used.
Dal is the main ingredient in vada. Urad or chana dal is usually used, though sometimes urad is also mixed with moong dal. Urad dal, also called black gram, is a type of bean common to India. Vada made with urad dal is normally called uzhunnu vada, whereas if chana dal, or black chickpeas, is used, the dish is called parippu vada. Whichever type is chosen, the dal is ground into a paste before being included in the dish.
Onions and green chilies are also normally added, and several spices are usual additions. Salt and black pepper, as well as curry leaves and ginger, are normally included. Some versions may add garam masala and cumin seeds as well. Baking soda is also frequently added.
To make vada, the dal is first rinsed and then soaked for several hours. After soaking, it is ground in a blender with a small amount of water to make a thick paste. Some versions will add salt and continue to grind the lentils. Most simply mix the other ingredients into the paste once it is removed from the blender. Often, the mixture is allowed to rest briefly before being shaped or cooked.
Once complete, the paste can be made into patties. Patties can be solid or can be worked into thick rings, similar to doughnuts. Afterward, they are deep fried in oil. If patties were not formed, the batter is simply scooped by the spoonful into the hot oil. These Indian doughnuts are fried in portions until they are a golden color. Then, they can be drained on a paper towel before serving.
Vada is normally served with a chutney — often coconut — or with sambhar, a type of vegetable stew. When eaten around breakfast time, chutney is the most popular side, but for heartier meals, sambhar is often the desired choice. Rasam, a kind of soup, may also be chosen to accompany these fritters. Vada is frequently served at festivals and is particularly popular during the Hindu festival, Onam.