The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, or so they say. To be frank, I think the way to a child’s heart is sometimes through the stomach too. Looking back at childhood, we’d remember the dishes we had loved to eat and some that we still do love to eat. A very popular breakfast item is one food item that reminds me of childhood, and one that I eat even now. It’s not just a breakfast item nowadays, it’s also considered to be a snack item.
Uzhunnu vada (in Malayalam) or Uddina vada (in Kannada) is really a very popular item in South India. The dish, a fried snack made with black gram lentils and rice, is something that accompanies the steamed idlis in most, if not all, South Indian restaurants, together being called idli-vada-sambar as it is served with spicy sambar (a lentil based vegetable stew or broth).
The prep for the dish begins by soaking the raw rice and lentils for a few hours. Then the soaked rice and lentils are grinded so the batter is thick, and the lentils not very smooth. The batter is seasoned with salt and pepper (at times, the seasoning is done while grinding). The batter is then put into a new bowl and to it, finely diced green chillies and ginger is added, and also, peppercorns and curry leaves. Depending on the part of South India, you might find coconut in it as well. When we make at home, the ginger is grinded and the peppercorns are avoided completely. Oil is heated in a wok. After wetting the hand, a small portion of batter is taken and pressed into a round shape. A hole is made at the center, and this is put into the hot oil and fried. At home, this is done one piece of batter at a time, but in hotels or a snack shop, the wok is a big one and as many as twenty five to thirty pieces of batter are fried at one time.
If the uzhunnu vada is served as a breakfast item, it is accompanied by idli, coconut chutney and sambar. If it is served as a snack item in the evening, then it is consumed as is, or even eaten with ketchup. At restaurants, two pieces of vada are served per plate or two to three idlis with one vada. In Bangalore, the item is there in almost every South Indian restaurant. I’ve had it from roadside stalls, small snack shops, the ‘darshini’ hotels and even three star hotels. I feel the best ones are that from the small snack shops, where there is also value for money.
Crispy on the outside, soft and well cooked in the inside, the uzhunnu vada is a very popular snack. People gorge on as many as five or six at once. But as a foodie, I feel a maximum of two or three at any time is ideal. The snack may be very tasty and small portion for many, but eating more than two or three makes it very difficult for digestion.
Hot uzhunnu vada with some chutney is a perfect dish for the rainy season, and for me, that is a memory from my childhood days. By the time my sister and I came home from school, our grandmother would have made it. Not a healthy snack, but a very hearty one!
(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons [Author: Lubnakarim06])
25 – Apr – 2016