Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dahi-Vada: with Moong Dal; and Das Lakshan Parv

The Jains' observe a week of renunciation and austerity during the months of August-September; and I gave you a glimpse of that in my last week's post on Paryushan. As with any other matter of the heart; the Jain religion is split up in the middle into two major sects. And despite being almost identical in faith and lifestyle, the observances between the two sects vary. Which is why one Jain is fasting this week; ending on Sept 29th - the Anant Chaturdeshi day, equivalent to the Samvatsri in my last post. Which is also why, in my home, the entire experience gets extended to 18 days (A and I come from the two different sects of Jains, and in my zest to neither give up and yet be accepted, I've been trying to assimilate the differences in observance). This year, I've split my observances with my visiting MIL, who is responsible for the 10-day long Das-Lakshan Parv, as opposed to my 8 days of Paryushan. I definitely get the better deal out of this whole arrangement :-))

Giving up the vegetables and concentrating on lentils as the only source of sustenance isn't really easy; cosidering that most of the lentils cooked the traditional way have a healthy dose of green in some way or the other - think of tomatoes, chillies, ginger, cilantro and onion- all of which are forbidden during this period.  So after a couple of days, when the taste buds screamed for something a little more appetizing; I fixed myself a plate of the irrestible Dahi-Vada. For where else would you get all tthe sweet-spicy-tangy flavors than in the yogurt accented with a generous sprinkle of Tamarind and Date chutney?? 

Dahi Vada
(Lentil fritters in a sweet and tangy yogurt sauce)

For the Vada:
Moong Dal 1 cup *
Oil to deep fry

To serve (all ingredients to taste):
Red chilli powder
Chaat Masaala
Tamarind date chutney (or any other tamarind based chutney)
Roasted cumin seeds and fresh green mint to garnish. (Optional)

* Alternative, traditional method is to use 2 measures of Moong dal (dehusked, split  Mung bean-yellow in color) and 1 measure of Urad Dal (again the dehusked, split, yellowish-white kind).

To make the Vada:
  1. Soak the dal for 4-6hrs; or overnight.
  2. Then drain off all the water and grind to a very fine, thick paste. Don't use any water at all, if possible. 
  3. Run the processor for 5-7 minutes till the paste is all fluffy and airy. A good tip I learned was to drop a small amount of this batter into a glass  of cold water. If the drop of batter floats, it is ready...
  4. Heat sufficient amount of oil to high (400F) in a deep fryer/ kadai, then drop small spoonfuls of batter. They will rise to the top and expand a bit. 
  5. Turn them once and take them out on an absorbent paper towel.
These can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen.

To make the Dahi:
    Add the spices- salt, chill and chaat masala- to the yogurt and give it a good spin in the food processor without water. Or use an old-fashioned hand churn to smoothen out the lumps. Refrigerate till needed.

To make the Chutney:
  I have posted a recipe here. Or you can use any store bought tamarind chutney. My daughters especially like the Maggi Tamarina sauce.

To serve:
  1. About 30-60 min before serving, take some luke warm water in a wide-mouthed sauce pan and soak the vadas in it for 10-15 min.
  2. Then individually, squeeze out the vadas between your palms. This gets rid of a lot of excess oil.
  3. Lay the vadas in a single layer in a deep dish, and ladle a generous amount of spiced yogurt on top. Let sit for 5-10 min.
  4. The vadas soak up quite a bit of yogurt in this time. Pour some more of it, if you so wish.
  5. Add a couple of table spoons of tamarind chutney on top, garnish with crudely crushed, roasted  cumin seeds and mint and serve cold. 
My two cents: If made with Moong dal alone, the vadas turn out to be more dense and chewy than the traditional ones with two different kinds of lentils. Some people also advocate adding a generous pinch of baking soda to get the airiness, but in my home this was absolutely forbidden; especially during the fasts. Aerating the paste during the grinding and soaking the vadas in yogurt sauce for a while before serving helps, in my opinion.  These moong dal vadas were definitely a staple in my home.

I remember many years when my mom even gave up all things fermented during this period- which included yogurt. At that time, the alternative was to just spice up the batter itself and eat the vadas as pakoris (fritters).  My mom and I were also big fans of what we called the Imli-Vada/Pakori. Just another avatar of these fritters where they are soaked in a slightly more sweetened tamarind sauce alone...without the yogurt.

Linked to:
Only event- Side dishes.