Crunchy Parupu Vadai

Celebrating Festivals for our family is all about food. Each holiday has a specific food associated with it. But there is one universal food that you can never go wrong with, Parupu Vadai. Deep fried, crunchy lentil fritters. Now for festivals you would generally make the 'madi' version of this without onion. But for a party, you can add chopped onion to the batter and this recipe will transform into masala vadai! These vadai's are also referred to as Aamai Vadai, due to the shape which resembles a turtle (Aamai means turtle in Thamizh).

I tried my hand at vadai by myself and they sucked. I used too much water and the batter became too loose. When you deep fry a very loose dough, you wont get the rough crunch that is key to this dish. Making a good vadai is all about the consistency of the batter. It should form a ball and hold its shape in your hand, so a really rough grind of the lentils is what you are looking for. Add the water a little bit at a time, until the lentils can be ground without turning into a mush. A few whole pieces of the lentils in the batter is fine.

In my opinion Vadai is a traditional South Indian comfort food. Eat it with sambar and chutney and anyone will be happy. My brother in law helped me make these vadai's. Its a good group activity, deep frying in general should be a group activity, the more the merrier and one person doesn't end up with the tedious task of standing and frying everything up. Plus the more people there are to eat them the less you will consume!

Living in North America and trying to celebrate Hindu holidays can be challenging when you don't get a formal day off work. Making time to create elaborate traditional meals can be hard when they fall on a weekday. What I try to do is follow up the festival with some kind of special meal on the weekend. Looking back at my blog and seeing where I took the time to do this created a lasting memory that was worth the effort and helped me to feel connected to my own heritage. Its easy to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving, with 3-4 day holidays and all the buildup in the stores and advertising on TV. One of the great ways to mark Indian festivals that my friends have done is to have a house party, especially for Deepavali. Maybe I'll start doing the same for occassions like Pongal, Krishna Jayanthi, Tamil New Years, Rama Navami, Navaratri....everyone is always up for a party and an excuse to dress up in Indian clothes!

Parupu Vada
1 cup of channa daal
1/2 cup of toor daal 1/4 cup of urad daal
10-25 dried red chillies, depending on how hot you want
1/2 tsp asafoetida
curry leaves 4-5
salt to taste

1. Soak the lentils for 2 hour with water to cover. Once soaked the lentils should break easily if you pinch them. Wash them in water, and drain.
2. Add the dried red chillies, asafoetida, salt, and ripped curry leaves.
3. Grind this in a blender adding very little water so it is roughly blended.
4. The thick batter should be formed into silver dollar sized patties, rounded on top and bottom, and should hold their shape in your palm.

5. Deep fry in hot oil on both sides until browned. Use a good quality vegetable oil for this with a high smoking point.

Corn Chaat

The first time I had corn chaat was at my friend Vidya's house. She is definitely a friend whom I would call a superwoman (she has three daughters including a set of twins.) Vidya is a dear childhood friend of mine who moved away when we were in junior high from Toronto to India. Now she lives in Baltimore, and I was lucky enough to go visit her there a little while ago. Keeping in touch with friends who have moved away is a challenging task, especially while juggling the immediate demands of family, local friends, and the ever present demands of working and maintaining a home.

I think friendships develop based on the phase of life that one is going through, Vidya and I enjoyed a friendship as little girls sleeping over, going to music class together, and meeting at community events. There are so many memories we have made together that picking up where we left off was not very hard at all as there is a closeness from our long time friendship that doesn't require too much effort. All of my childhood friends remain close to me in a similar way, we might not talk frequently but its easy to get back into that familiar rhythm.

Its easy to get in the habit of assuming that these old friends don't require 'maintenance', and one can get into a place of not calling or visiting. But friendships like flowers need to be tended. Making time for yearly reunions, and occasions where friends get together regularly is worth the time, money, and energy. Writing this I realize how much time has gone into developing those childhood friends, and how our relationships span decades. Its worth the extra effort to keep these friendships alive.

Below you'll find a recipe for Corn Chaat, a delicious snack that Vidya prepared for Shankar, Gopi and I when we visited her and her beautiful daughters. Its a great item to make for a standalone snack, or as an appetizer at a party!

Corn Chaat

1 bag frozen corn, or 3-4 ears of corn shucked and trimmed
1 red, yellow or orange pepper
1 large potato, boiled and diced
1 onion (yellow or red) diced
1 tomato diced
1 handful cilantro chopped
1 medium green chili chopped finely
1/8 cup lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp tamarind sauce (store bought)
Masala (1 tsp chaat masala, 1/4 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp roasted and ground jeera)
Store bought Sev for Garnish

1. Microwave the corn for approximate 5 minutes until its cooked nicely and leaves off a delicious aroma.
2. Roast the pepper by covering it in oil and placing in the oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the the skin and dice up the pepper.
3. Mix all the ingredients together, adding salt to taste.
4. Garnish with cilantro and Sev.