“Don’t have too many of those or if you do, stay out in the garden!” was the admonition against eating too many of an all -time favourite – masala vadas!
Luckily, I come from a family who are all masala vada lovers – so we had plenty of company in the garden!! In fact, the son of a dear friend is so fond of these, he’s been known to put away twenty at a sitting. Naturally he is called “Waad-a-boy”!!
In the entire repertoire of South Indian cuisine, there surely is no “food item” as hot a favourite as these little morsels of crisp and crunchy, savoury yumminess! In my five decades, I have yet to meet a single person who does NOT adore these! In fact, I remember an uncle whose wife was one of the best cooks I’ve ever had the good luck to know (Ameena Murali mentioned in an earlier post – the lady with the magic fingers and the most awesome ‘kurma’) who, no matter how well she made these – masala vadas, would still insist that there was some fella in Rajahmundry (some 500 miles away!), who had a little roadside eatery who could make these better than anyone else in the world!!
Well, i don’t know about the Rajahmundry chappie, but for my part and for the rest of the cousins, my aunt’s masala vadais were the very top of the pops!
It was only many decades later that I came across another maker-of-masala-vadas as good, if not better – in fact, I am pretty sure that he is the THE king of masala vadas. The tiniest little hole-in-the-wall shop in Kotagiri, at a little corner called Danington (Donington which has undergone Tamilization!), a handful of ingredients – here is the man who has learnt to transform base “paruppu” into sheer magic!!
With a name like Adaingappa, the guy probably had to become the best at what he did to live down the name – the kids at school might have gone “Ada-inge-appa, Vada-enge-appa?” prompting him to one day throw one vada at said sniggering bunch of kids who then caught the whiff of the vada and instead of throwing it back, bit off a tiny bit???? That’s the way it must have happened!!!
Here is THE MAN’s recipe:
Chana dal – 2 cups – soaked for 2 hours
Green chilies – 4 – chopped fine
Curry leaves – chopped – 2 tbsp
Coriander – chopped – 2 tbsp
Onion – chopped – 3 medium
Oil for deep frying
Set aside 2 tbsp of the soaked dal. Grind the rest of it to a rough paste with very little water and the salt. Mix the rest of the dal and the chopped herbs and onions. Shape into flattish disks,s lightly fatter in the middle and fry on a medium low flame till crisp, very crisp!! The trick is to fry a couple of cloves of garlic in the oil first BEFORE you fry the vadas. There truly is nothing better. These vadas are so good they don’t even need a chutney to accompany them.