Always always, memories are woven in to every little item, or episode that’s close to our hearts. Sometimes, its the first time you had won a contest growing up, the first time your parents felt very proud of your accomplishments, a favorite train journey, eating out at a favourite restaurant, memories of festivals, new clothes, shopping, first gold jewelry, first cycle…suddenly the wheels spin faster and faster until the memories simply rush in and lift you up in a daze…Memories can do that to you, take you about 20 years back in a flash and make you feel the same feelings you felt then…the happiness, sorrow, despair, joy, pain…anything…something that you keep in your little brain, tucked away…
My first career posting was at a bank and I had this really close friend of mine, M. She and I used to enjoy eating out now and then and we shared the same culinary preferences. Sometimes it would be at a simple restaurant, or a bhel puri joint, or even a cup of tea and this Madras Tea Kadai Masala Vadai. The aroma was just astounding. Sometimes in the evenings, we would ask the office boy to get us some tea and this vadai and chat up in the break room for a few minutes. It was pure bliss! Every bite filled with the flavourful crunch of this vadai, with the aroma of fennel and onions wafting…I can grab on to that memory for a second….and almost enjoy it right now! I had to recreate this vadai and had asked the boy who gave me a rough recipe and ran away! Recreating it after all these years, made me almost go there and relive those moments.
1 Cup Channa Dal.
1 Tbsp Raw Rice.
Small Onions – 12-15 diced finely / 1 Medium Onion Chopped fine..
2 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro.
2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Mint Leaves.
Salt to taste.
A small pinch of Garam Masala.
Handful curry leaves crushed.
1 1/2 Tbsp Rice Flour or as needed.
Masala Base to be pulsed:
1 Inch Ginger.
5 Cloves of Garlic.
2 Tsp Fennel Seeds.
2 Green Chillies.
4-5 Mint Leaves.
- Soak the channa dal and rice together for about 3-4 hours in water enough to immerse.
- When its time to make the vadas, drain the channa dal and rice on to a collander and allow to sit for a couple minutes.
- In a small mixer container, roughly pulse all the ingredients under Masala Base – Ginger, Garlic, mint leaves, fennel seeds, red chilli, green chillies.
- Now add half of the drained channa dal and allow to roughly pulse. The channa dal should NOT be ground to a smooth paste. The consistency should be rough and grainy.
- Now grind the other half to a same grainy consistency and transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Add salt, finely chopped shallots, mint, cilantro, curry leaves and the required rice flour to accomodate any extra moisture and to give the vadais some crispness. Taste the batter to make sure that the salt is not too much. If you feel so, add a little more rice flour/ rava and mix it in.
- When the dough comes together, make balls and lightly flatten to resemble a patty.
- Pour enough oil in to a shallow flat bottomed kadai and keep on medium heat. As you make little vadas in the palm of your hand, gently drop them in to oil.
- When the vadai is dropped in the oil, let the heat be medium high. When they are cooking, bring the heat down to a medium and allow to slowly fry on both sides.
- Drain on to collander lined with a paper towel.
- Delicious crisp Tea Kadai Masala Vadai is ready and can be served with steaming hot cups of coffee or tea.
- Adding rice flour is completely optional and only mentioned to adjust the final consistency.
- Do not add water to the dal while pulsing. Use short pulses to bring them to a rough consistency.
- Keeping the oil at the right temperature is important to achieve uniform cooking of the vadais.
- Garam Masala is added only a pinch. If you feel that the smell is too overpowering, you can avoid this step.