Vadai



Vadai is a South Indian savoury snack made from soaked or fermented pulses moulded into balls or a doughnut shape and then deep fried. The resulting snack is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.1

History
One of the earliest mentions of vadai can be found within a set of ancient Indian texts collectively known as the Dharmasutras (written between 800 to 300 BCE), in which the snack is referred to as vataka.2 In Singapore, itinerant Indian hawkers used to peddle this snack plain or with onions and occasionally with a prawn in it.3


Description
Vadai can be made from different types of pulses such as chana dhal (split chickpeas), toor dhal (yellow pigeon peas) and urad dhal (black gram). The pulses are first washed and soaked in water for around four hours or allowed to ferment overnight. The softened or fermented pulses are then pounded into a fine paste. Spicy and savoury ingredients such as onions, green chillies, cumin seeds, curry leaves and salt are later added to the mixture.4 At times, a prawn is also added to the batter.5 Traditionally, the batter is placed on a banana leaf, which acts like a mould for shaping it into a ball. Alternatively, it is given a doughnut shape. The batter is then deep fried in oil until it turns brown.6


Singaporeans eat vadai with green chilli, a practice that probably evolved from the local Chinese community. However, in India, this is a rare practice, as the Indian variety of green chilli is too spicy to be eaten whole.7 In Singapore, the doughnut-shaped version is also usually eaten with coconut chutney.8

Among the Hindu community, vadai is not only an everyday snack but also used as a food offering to the gods and eaten during important festivals such as Deepavali.9


Variations
Dahi vadai, also known as curd vadai, is a version that is served in dahi (plain yoghurt) and popular for its cooling effect. Green chillies, cumin and mustard seeds are often added to the yoghurt for extra flavour.10

Masala vadai is made from a blend of various lentils and has added ingredients such as chopped spinach, shredded cabbage or marinated shrimp.11

Sambar vadai is a version that is popular in New Delhi, India. It features vadai that is served in a hot sambar (Indian vegetable stew) with coconut chutney as an accompaniment.12

In Singapore, two varieties of vadai are commonly sold. One is made from soaked lentils that have been pressed into a ball shape and then deep fried. The other version is made from a batter of fermented lentils that is moulded into a doughnut shape before deep frying.13 There are also various versions of vadai that have been created using Chinese-influenced ingredients such as ginger, coriander leaves and seafood stock.14

Variant names
India:
Vada (Hindi term), vade (term used in the state of Karnataka), vadam (term used in the state of Tamil Nadu).15

Mauritius: Gateaux pimente (literally “spicy cake” in French).16
Sri Lanka:
Wadi.17




Author
Bonny Tan



References
1. Naleeza Ebrahim, & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 242. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL)
2. Achaya, K. T. (2009). The illustrated foods of India, A–Z. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, p. 280. (Call no.: SING 641.30095403 ACH)
3. Narayana, N. (2008, June 15). Want real spicy-hot? Try Indian chilli. The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ong, J. T. (2010). Penang heritage food. Singapore: Landmark Books, pp. 166–167. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595951 ONG)
5. Narayana, N. (2008, June 15). Want real spicy-hot? Try Indian chilli. The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Arshad, F. M. (2000). The food of Malaysia. In Mohd Ismail Noor (Ed.), Food of ASEAN. 6 (pp. 47–70). Kuala Lumpur: ASEAN-COCI, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING q394.10959 FOO-[CUS]); Naleeza Ebrahim, & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 242. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL)
7. Narayana, N. (2008, June 15). Want real spicy-hot? Try Indian chilli. The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Naleeza Ebrahim, & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 242. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL)
9. Venkatraman, V. (2010, Spring). Of math and the monkey god. Gastronomica: The journal of food and culture, 10(2), 14–16 (14). Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Arshad, F. M. (2000). The food of Malaysia. In Mohd Ismail Noor (Ed.), Food of ASEAN. 6 (pp. 47–70). Kuala Lumpur: ASEAN-COCI, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING q394.10959 FOO-[CUS])
10. Narayan Swamy, M. R. (2005). Not just a good food guide: New Delhi. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 108. (Call no.: SING 647.955456 NAR)
11. Venkatraman, V. (2010, Spring). Of math and the monkey god. Gastronomica: The journal of food and culture, 10(2), 14–16 (14). Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
12. Narayan Swamy, M. R. (2005).
Not just a good food guide: New Delhi. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 108. (Call no.: SING 647.955456 NAR)
13. Naleeza Ebrahim, & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 242. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL)
14. Indian food with hint of Chinese flavours. (1980, September 14). The Straits Times, p. 13; Teo, P. L. (2004, July 18). No problem, give you back 60 cents. The Straits Times, p. 70. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Achaya, K. T. (2009). The illustrated foods of India, A–Z. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, p. 281. (Call no.: SING 641.30095403 ACH)
16. Tan, S. (2006, April 26). Veni, vidi, vindaille. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Bullis, D., & Hutton, W. (2001). The food of Sri Lanka: Authentic recipes from the isle of gems. Hong Kong: Periplus, p. 46. (Call no.: SING 641.595493 BUL-[COO])




The information in this article is valid as at 30 December 2014 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Ethnic Communities
Heritage and Culture