15 March 2012

Masala Vadai from a tea shop in Mannargudi : Guest post by Bharath M.

A few days ago, Nandini & Ajit, Bharath and me decided to cook up a mega Tambrahm feast for dinner. The menu was:
Cucumber Salad
Masala Vadai
Cabbage Koottu
Radish arachuvitta Sambar
Jeera Rasam
Arisi Appalam

Banana Chips (from Hot Chips)
Semia Payasam
Out of this list of delicious items, it was Bharath's Masala Vadai that stood out. He got the batter ready at his place in the morning, refrigerated in his office and got it to my place by evening, where he fried the vadai fresh and served it with drinks. Such delicious vadais, I've never tasted. I pestered him enough to share the recipe, so I may do the first guest post ever, on my blog, in six years!

Bharath in the kitchen 

Bharath is a train enthusiast, an impulsive traveller, amazing photographer and a most evocative writer. Go through his blog Puri Subzi and you will know what I mean. And more than anything, he has grown to be a friend I can always depend on. And in his own words, he is a "Photographer of faces, writer of bus travels, driver of trains, lover of pongal, purveyor of seedy bars."

So here's Bharath's Masala Vadai for you, written in his own words...

Masala Vadai - Freshly fried

"...but this is against TamBrahm culture. How can you put onions and garlic in an aamavadai?", my amusement disguised as a protest.

"Sssh, this is not aamavadai. It's a masala vadai. The inspiration comes from some tea shop in Mannargudi", my mother's indignant voice peaking.

"You had masala vadai from a tea shop in Mannargudi?", I bait

"Please don't be so righteous. Everyone eats from weird places once in a while. Now shut up and tell me how it tastes"

Crisp. Light. Golden brown and d-e-l-c-i-o-u-s. "I am sold, ma, I am sold". That chubby grin finally shows itself.

It may be against TamBrahm way of life, but by god, this vadai is brilliant. Goes well with beer. Or a single malt.

Here's how you put it together (I've made a few changes to the basic recipe from my mother's original)


For the batter:
2 1/2 cups channa dal (soaked in slightly salted water for a good 4-5 hours)
1 teaspoon saunf (fennel seeds)
1/4 inch ginger
3 cloves of garlic
A generous pinch of black pepper powder

For the flavouring mix:
1/4 inch ginger, finely cut
2 cloves of garlic, finely cut
2 largish green chillis, finely cut
A handful of coriander and mint, coarsely cut
1 large red onion diced finely (2 if they are small to medium)
Salt to taste
A small pinch of red chilli powder (if you need the extra kick)

For the frying:
Some groundnut oil or rice bran oil.


  1. Drain the water completely from the soaked channa dal. Dunk the, by now slightly soft, dal into a mixer along with the fennel seeds and the rest of batter ingredients. Add a tablespoon of water and start grinding. Initially for about 20 sec and then pulse 3 times for about 5 sec each. The batter by now should be quite coarse and the fennel, garlic, ginger and pepper incorporated. If the batter resembles a gooey paste, then you've gone too far. The ideal batter should have a mix of pulped dal, coarse dal and almost whole dal. Scoop out a bit in your hand - if it feels grainy and stony, then it's perfect.
  2. Transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for 30 min.
  3. Chop all the flavouring mix ingredients according to the instructions above.
  4. Remove the batter from the fridge and all the flavour mix, except for the onions and salt. Let this now rest until you are ready to fry them up.
  5. 2-3 min before you ready to fry, add the onions and salt and give everything a thorough swirl.
  6. Heat the oil and drop a small roundel of the batter to test. If it raises to the top, the temperature is right and you can start.
  7. If you are comfortable patting the batter nice and thin, please do so, else shape it into small roundels. The later is much easier if you are doing all of this on your own!
  8. Fry until a nice golden brown.
Serve with either coconut or coarse coriander chutney.


Srimathi said...

A very interesting post. The vadai's must have tasted great because I had a friend who made out of the world nasal vadai's with similar ingredients. Enjoyed reading the post.

Vandana said...

Shocking Indeed... Masala Vadai from a tea shop... but after reading this, will def try this at home; better yet, will try and visit this mannargudi tea kadai :P

Shilpa said...

looks yummy,have had masala-vada with onions, never tried ones with garlic..have to give it a try.

Jagruti said...

In Odissa, we have such similar masala vadais only without the fennel seeds in them.We refer to them as "piyaji". Thanks to this post for taking me down memory lane :)

notyet100 said...

Umm this looks so yum..perfect with tea,..:)

Soumya Bhat said...

I am waiting for the next chance to make these. Garlic and fennel in masala vadai, exciting!

saffrontrail said...

Do let me know how they turn out for you.

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Vaishnavi said...

Hi Nandita,

I have been a silent observer of your blog for a couple of years now. Have tried many recipes from your blog. It always turns out good.I was benefited a lot from your blog during my early years of cooking and your blog still inspires me.I owe you big time. I tried the masala vadai recipe and it turned out absolutely yummy. Exactly like you would eat in a restaurant. Thanks for sharing it. You have a wonderful blog!

Anon said...

 what is "nasal" vadai? sounds yuckkyy! where does it come from??

saffrontrail said...

Thank you for delurking and leaving your words of encouragement, Vaishnavi. I shall pass on the compliments to my friend, Bharath!

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