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Lentil dumplings in a creamy sauce. This is a classic south Indian recipe.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Curry
Cuisine: Indian, Tamil
Author: Vaishali Honawar


  • 1 cup chana dal (bengal gram dal)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 red chillies
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 onion , finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves , minced or crushed with a garlic press
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 large tomato , finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder , like cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • A generous pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves for garnish


  • Soak the chana dal for 3 hours or if you don’t have the time do what I did and cheat– put the chana dal in a microwave-safe bowl, add enough water to top the dal by at least an inch, and zap for three minutes. Then drain.
  • Grind the chana dal with the rest of the ingredients. If the processor or blender blades refuse to turn because the mixture is too dry, add just a tiny bit of water, a tablespoon at a time. You want a coarse paste that clumps together, but it should not be too watery or you won’t be able to form your vadas.
  • Form 1-inch vadas by pulling off a piece of the dough, rolling it into a ball, and then flattening it between your palms. I got about 16 vadas.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan. Deep-fry the vadas until they are golden-brown. Don’t let them brown too quickly or they’ll stay raw inside. Drain onto a paper towel. Once the vadais are cool enough to handle, break them up into small pieces.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the seeds sputter, add the onions and curry leaves.
  • Saute until the onions start to turn transparent. Add the ginger and garlic and stir well, about a minute. Add the tomatoes.
  • Add the turmeric, chilli powder, and garam masala powder. Mix them in and saute the mixture until the tomatoes are all crushed into a paste and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add a cup of water, bring it to a boil, then add the pieces of vadai. Once the vadai absorb most of the water, add coconut milk and salt to taste.
  • Stir well, bring the curry to a boil, and let it simmer another five minutes. Turn off the heat and add chopped coriander leaves.
  • Serve hot.