In our small mining town, we are a total of eight people from India; three couples and two bachelors, one of whom is actually a forced bachelor, since his wife is in California doing a one year course.
Its nice to have people from your country in the same city, especially in a place like this. And more so when it means you get to eat home cooked Indian food that is not cooked by your own hands. So every time we get a dinner invitation from our Indian friends I get super excited. And the joy is double since both the couples belong to states in the south of India, and since I am a complete novice with cooking south Indian food, I revel in their dosa, biryani, sambhar, and curd rice.
Its not that I have not tried my hand at South Indian cooking. During the first few months of our marriage, I tried making dosa, but it was a complete disaster that ended with me throwing the dosa batter away. After that misadventure, I have kept my distance from cooking anything that is south Indian totally relying on my South Indian friends here to satisfy my idli-dosa cravings. And it doesn’t hurt that my friend makes amazing food.
The other day this amazing cook friend of mine called all us Indians over for dinner and served this soup as a starter. Everyone loved it. The light, watery soup with a not so light urad dal fritter made the perfect combination. And she was kind enough to share her recipe with me.
She and her husband belong to Karnataka, a state in the south of India. And this dish is supposed to be a specialty in their home state. Few restaurants in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, have this dish on their menu, where a large bonda(vada) is dipped in a kind of lentil “soup” and served.
To make the bondas, you soak urad daal (check this photo if you are confused as to how it looks) for a few hours and then grind it with a few other spices, making this dish gluten free as well. You then fry the batter to make a fritter with a crispy outer shell and a soft, fluffy inside.
The bondas do not traditionally have holes like the ones in my pictures, but I was trying something. Well, the last time I made a vada I could not get the holes, and this time I wanted to see whether I could and ended up with a medu vada lookalike, but the recipe for both is the same. My friend did not make holes in her bondas when she served this soup to us, so feel free to make them without holes. Its easier and less messy that way, and more traditional as well.
Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did.
- 1 cup urad dal (split black lentils)
- 3 green chillies, roughly chopped
- 3 to 4 peppercorns
- 8 to 10 curry leaves, finely chopped (kadi patta)
- 1 tsp ginger
- salt to taste
- coconut oil or any other refined oil for deep-frying
- ½ cup mung bean dal
- ½ cup toovar dal
- 3-4 cups water (depending on how thin you want the soup to be, the soup is supposed to be very watery)
- pinch Asafetida
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 8-10 curry leaves
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- Red chillies, according to taste
- salt, to taste
- bunch of coriander/cilantro leaves,finely chopped for garnishing
- juice of a lemon, optional
- Soak the urad daal in enough water for about 4-5 hours.
- Drain, add the green chillies, pepper, curry leaves and ginger and blend in a mixer to a smooth batter, adding little water. Do not add too much water while making the batter, lesser the better, but enough for the blender motor to run smoothly. Grind for a good amount of time, until the batter becomes fluffy and you see some bubbles on the top.
- Add salt and mix well. The salt should slightly be on the higher side as most of the saltiness goes away when deep frying.
- Heat oil on medium high in a thick bottomed pan sufficient enough to deep fry.
- To check if the oil is at the correct temperature, put a small amount of batter in the oil. If there is a sizzle that means the oil is ready.
- Wet your hands and take about about a golf ball size amount of the batter and deep fry. Add about 4-5 depending on the size of the pan at the same time.
- After about 20-30 secs turn them around, making sure all sides get cooked evenly.
- Transfer them to a plate with absorbent paper so that the extra oil drains. Continue tthe above with the remaining batter. I got about 12 medium sized vadas.
- Pressure cook the dals with a little salt and water.
- For the tempering, heat oil in a small pan. Once hot, add the asafetida, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies and curry leaves. Add the grated ginger once the seeds begin to sizzle. Add these tempered spices to the cooked daal, and cook a little. If required add hot water to thin down the soup to a more watery consistency.
- Serve the soup with the bonda dunked in the soup. Add a few drops of lemon juice at the end for taste, if you like. Garnish with coriander/cilantro leaves.