Medu Vadas - A treat for palates
When it comes to tiffin, Idlis and Dosas are ever shining stars of South India. Idlis are soft savory cakes whereas dosas are crispy crepes. And we have another favourite star which a combination of both – Soft yet crispy; It’s the Medu Vada, one of the famous fritter of India. People love to munch it with different variants of sambar, chutney and podi. Idlis and Dosas are typically consumed in South India, whereas Vada has its kingdom spread both to North and down South.
Medu Vada is a traditional South Indian delicacy commonly prepared at home making it an indispensable part of daily life. Other than Idlis and Dosas, medu-vada is perhaps the most sought-after dish for lovers of South Indian food. It is prepared using black lentils or urad dal batter and deep fried in oil. This soul satisfying crispy vada dipped in piping hot sambhar with coconut chutney makes it all the more irresistible.
A little bit of history
Medu is a Kannada word that translates to 'soft' and Vada to 'fritter', which means a soft fritter. It has different names according to different regions including ulundu vadai (Tamil), uzhunnu vada (Malayalam), garelu (Telugu). The origin of medu vada is not certain, however, it is said that it was first prepared in the Maddur town in Karnataka. This dish became popular in Maharashtra as introduced by quite a few Udupi restaurateurs. Eventually, vadas became popular all over India and many variations were introduced according to the different palates.
Finding the perfect match for Medu Vadas
While most people choose to have medu vadas in the morning, many love to binge on it as snacks in the evening. You can also create your own variations and combinations to accompany the vada. Traditionally, it is teamed up with sambhar and coconut chutney; however, you can also choose to savor it with a dash of slightly sweet, whipped curd. To keep light, you may want to cut out on the sambhar and eat it with the white coconut chutney instead.
Medu vada takes different avatars with small additions and alterations to it. Some of the other specialties that comes out of medu vada are Masala Vada(Paruppu Vada), Sambar Vada and Thayir Vada or Dahi Vada. To make sambar or thayir vada, prepare medu vada the usual way, soak the vada in warm water for 10-15 minutes. This would make the vada bulge a little. Press the excess water out, taking care not to crush the vada. Now tamper with curd or sambar along with fried mustard seeds, curry leaves, coriander leaves, and carrots for garnishing. In North Indian version of thayir vada called Dahi Vada, a curd is sweet served with mint chutney. People love trying different vadas changing the ingredients keeping urad dhal as basis. Paruppu vadai is a popular snack down south, made of Bengal gram dal and various spices.
It is a common street food in Tamil Nadu and is available mostly everywhere. They are way crispier vadas and have a stronger taste than medu vada. Different vadas are prepared during festival seasons but vada without onion are offered for pooja.
Crow and the Vada
Here’s a popular folktale of Tamil Nadu which every person would have heard during their childhood, especially the time we grew up in a TV- less household and the adults in the family told stories of all colors. It would be lovely to hear one of them here.
Once upon a time, there lived an old lady who sold vadas for a living.
A crow approached her and asked her to donate one vada. Just one but the granny refused. The crow did not have cash nor a credit card that was already worn thin.
So he did the best thing under the circumstances and picked a vada from the basket and flew away without paying.
The old lady cursed for sometime but as most cheated people does. Simply went on with her work after some time.
The crow sat on a tall branch of a big tree with the vada in his mouth and now enters a character with even more chutzpah or should I say real chutzpah?
“Oh , beautiful crow! “.The fox said.
“I am hungry. Give me that vada please”. He cajoled the crow.
Crow shook his head in the negative.
Whatever, the fox realized the crow would not give the vada if asked properly and decided to sweet talk him.
“I‘ve heard you are a great singer. Please. Please, sing a song for me?”
Crow simply loved this line. Good food with some good praise, what else one needs to get into a good mood. The crow with all the merry, opened his mouth to sing some hard rock or rock and roll or some jass or anything that pleased him.
The vada in the crow’s mouth fell in to the waiting mouth of the fox.
I am told the crow continued to sing without realizing he had lost his breakfast and that singing woke his human neighbours who were not planning to get up any time soon.
The moral of the story is “Never Steal” “Never fall for flattery” or is it “Never sing with a vada in our mouth”.
Food Mystery: A popular question as popular as the vada is “Why there is a hole in Medu Vada and not in Masala Vada?
Some Einstein unrecognized: It is said that putting a hole in the centre increases the surface volume of the vada which makes the vada to get fried in the oil uniformly. Without the hole it either gets undercooked or over fried. Whereas in the Masala Vada, no hole is required as it gets fried quickly due to the ingredients used.