Vada is an iconic street food and household comfort food in South India. Send me your pickiest eater, and I guarantee that they will be asking for seconds after a plate of uzhunnu vada is place in front of them. This uzhunnu vada recipe is a classic fried dal fritter made from urad dal. Commonly called medu vada which means, “soft fritter”, medu vada is the savory counterpart to the sweet western donut. Uzhunnu Vada is the most loved vada by western palettes and holds a special place in the hearts and minds of South Indians.
What is Uzhunnu Vada?
Uzhunnu basically means urad dal or husked black gram lentils in Malayalam. These lentils are commonly used to make batters for many South Indian foods, but uzhunnu vada gets its name because it is primarily based on urad dal.
Uzhunnu vada is a fried fritter made with a fluffy batter of urad dal. It is doughnut-shaped, crispy on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside if cooked right.
This uzhunnu vada recipe is a common South Indian delicacy, which is a favorite breakfast dish, but can also be eaten as a side dish to dosa or sambar with lunch or dinner. It is also a popular snack to be served with tea. Special occasions like Navratriv and Diwali are perfect occasions for this recipe. You will also see it given as an offering during Puja.
It is also known by many other different names in different parts of South India, like medu vada, ulundu vadai, medhu vadai, uddina vade, garelu, etc. The names and seasonings can differ, but they are almost the same in constitution.
Is it Difficult to Make this Uzhunnu Vada Recipe for Beginners?
This is a commonly asked question whenever someone new wants to try this recipe. The answer is yes and no. Yes, because it needs technique and care. No, because it has been made by South Indian people for centuries, and almost anyone can master the technique with a little practice. If you have deep-fried other foods, then making this uzhunnu vada recipe will be a walk in the park for you.
So, today I will share a step-by-step recipe for this crispy vada with you, along with pro tips and techniques to master its art.
Let’s get cooking! Shall we?
Cooking Instructions for Uzhunnu Vada Recipe
To make uzhunnu vada, you have to master the techniques more than the apparent steps, so read on carefully and try to include all these tips and tricks when you try this recipe.
Soaking the Lentils
To begin with, we need to add 1 cup urad dal to a large bowl and rinse it well by rubbing it with your hands. Wash it 3-4 times until the water runs clear.
Then add fresh water to the bowl and soak your lentils for at least 5 hours. It is important to soak them at least for 5 hours to get the batter soft and fluffy as the lentils swell and become soft when soaked. Soaking them for a lesser time can end up making your vadas hard and if you soak them overnight or too long, your batter will become runny, and your vadas will absorb too much oil and won’t be soft. So keep the time factor in mind.
Make the batter
Once your lentils have soaked for the required time, rewash them and drain them completely.
Traditionally, hand mills or stone grinders were used in South India to grind the batter, but now many people have shifted to wet grinder, food processor, blender, or mixer grinder. You can use either of them, but a wet grinder is a better option to make an airy and fluffy batter.
Add your lentils to the grinder of your choice with a pinch of salt and keep a cup of ice-cold water on the side to help your batter fluff up without letting it heat up.
Run your grinder for 20-30 seconds after adding 2 teaspoons of ice-cold water. Then scrape the edges and run the grinder again.
Keep adding little amounts of ice-cold water, keep scraping the edges and run your machine for short intervals to achieve a smooth batter.
If you continuously run the grinder, it will become hot and the batter will attain a bitter taste, or worse your machine will break down.
If you add too much water at the same time, your batter will become runny and thin and will not be a fluffy batter. So ideally, you need to sprinkle some ice-cold water at each step. Using tap water or room temperature water will not let the batter become fluffy and will end up heating the batter.
It is important to add salt while grinding, if you add it at a later stage it will make your batter thin.
For a quick troubleshoot, if your batter becomes a little runny, you can add 2 tbsp of rice flour to fix its consistency but if it is still runny then use it to make punugulu or bonda.
Making the Vadas
Shift the dal batter to a large bowl.
Now chop some shallots, curry leaves (you can also grind curry leaves with the batter), sliced green chilies and some black pepper powder. You can also take whole black peppercorns and crush them freshly for an elevated taste and flavor. You can also add ginger/asafoetida and coconut. But, I like keeping it simple.
To make restaurant style fluffy vadas, you can also add a pinch of baking powder, but I skipped it.
Cover the batter and keep it aside for 30 mins. You can skip this part as well, but I do it to get a lighter and fluffier uzhunnu vada in the end.
Shaping the Uzhunnu Vada
After the batter has rested, dip your hands in water to slightly wet them. Water should not be dripping from your hands. Take some batter in the palm of your left hand and shape it into a ball, and then flatten it.
Keep the batter in your left hand and shape it with your right hand, make a hole in the center to achieve a donut shape.
The key to shaping uzhunnu vada is a wet hand. If your hand is dry it will create a sticky mess. For beginners or those who don’t like getting their hands sticky, take a plastic sheet or a plastic paper and place a dollop of the thick batter on the parchment paper, shape it into a ball and slightly flatten it. Make a hole in the middle of your flattened ball and your vadas are ready for frying.
Heat oil on a medium flame until it is hot, take your flattened vada balls in the palm of your hand, and slowly drop it into the hot oil without splashing.
Fry the vadas until they are golden brown on both sides.
Then take them out on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Your crispy vadas are ready.
Serve this uzhunnu vada recipe piping hot with breakfast or as a snack. They taste great with coconut or mint chutney and sambar. Kids love them as a savory donut with tomato ketchup. They can also be served with other vada like parippu vada. Remember, the greatest ingredient in any food you cook is the love you put in it!
Enjoy your vadas!
What is the English word of Uzhunnu Vada?
There really isn’t one. But let’s make one up. Uzhunnu is the Malayalam word for black gram or urad dal. Black gram is a bean that is small and jet black in color. It is skinned and halved to make a very fair colored dal called urad dal. Uzhunnu Vada is spiced urad dal fried to deliciousness. So in English, we could call it Spicy Dal Fritter… I suppose!
Is urad dal vada healthy?
Well, eating too much fried food is probably not a good idea. But urad dal vadas, also called medu vada, medu vadai, uzhunnu vada, or ulundu vada are made of whole ingredients and lots of love. Occasionally eating something that makes you so happy can’t be that bad!
Is Uzhunnu and urad dal same?
Yes. Uzhunnu is the Malayalam word for urad dal.
Why does vada have a hole in it?
Not all vada are made with a hole in it. But, medu vadai commonly are made this way to allow for more cooking surface area. This ensures that the vada is cooked perfectly through without the outside being overcooked.
Hi! I’m Ravi Kumar.
I am a husband, father of 4, board certified neurosurgeon, and a lover of South Indian Food!
I created PaattisKitchen.com to memorialize the most delicious foods on earth. South Indian food is easy to make and hard to mess up. So pull up your sleeves, and come with me as we explore the vibrant spices, colors, aromas, and flavors of South Indian culinary tradition.