Monday, July 4, 2011

Vada Curry (Steamed Lentil Cake Stew)

Vada curry is a rich and flavorful stew made for special occasions. Vadas are lentil fritters. I would not be surprised if this curry had its origins from another delicious instance of our thrifty mothers in action making use of leftovers - leftover vadas. There are two ways of making the vada part of this curry; it can be either fried or steamed - steaming being the healthier of the two ways.

6 - 8 Servings


For the Vada:
1 cup Toor dal
1/2 cup Chana dal
2 Dry Red Chilies
1 pinch Asafoetida
2 sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 medium Red Onion, finely chopped

For the Stew:
2 Tbsp Oil/Ghee
2 large Onions, finely chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp Ginger, minced
1 or 2 hot Green Chiles, cored and minced
1/2 tsp Turmeric
4 large Tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
2 cups fresh or canned Coconut milk
1 tsp Garam Masala (optional)
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

1 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Asafetida
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves


Sort the dals, wash well, and soak in water to cover for 2 hours.

Drain the dals (save a little of the soaking water for grinding if necessary), reserve 2 Tbsp, and grind with the rest of the vada ingredients using a food processor into a coarsely ground paste. Do not add any water if you can manage to grind without adding water. Add the reserved dal and just pulse to mix. Mix in the onion.

Spoon the batter into an oiled pan and place in the steamer and steam for about 15 minutes or until cooked. Let cool and cut into pieces. Another way is to form the batter into tiny balls or patties.

Alternately, deep fry teaspoons of the batter into marble sized vadas. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels; add to the stew.

Make the stew:

Heat the ghee/oil in a heavy bottomed pan and cook the onions and ginger with a pinch of salt until onions turn golden brown and are caramelized.

Stir in the tomatoes, turmeric and salt and cook until tomatoes are soft. Add a cup of boiling water and mash the tomatoes well. If it is too chunky, carefully use an immersion blender to puree a little.

Add the steamed vadas crumbs and all to the stew and simmer gently for a few minutes until hot but not vigorously boiling.

Stir in the coconut milk and heat through until very hot but not boiling. If the stew is very thick, add a little more boiling water. Check for salt and correct seasoning.

Sprinkle the Garam masala (if using) on top.

Make the tadka by heating the oil in a small pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds; when they pop, add asafetida and then carefully add the curry leaves. Allow the tadka to settle down.

Pour the tadka into the stew; mix well and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Serve hot sprinkled with the cilantro. Fabulous with rice, rotis, dosas and idlis. Enjoy!!

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