Rasa Vadai

October 7, 2008 | 54 Comments

Lentil Dumplings in a Spicy Tamarind-Lentil Broth

In 660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer says,

“If you were to ask me to identify one recipe that’s closest to my heart, I would pick this one.”

We can see why. It’s spicy, tangy, hearty and slurrrrrrrrrrrrrrpilicious. Totally worth the time it takes.

Raghavan Iyer’s recipes are too perfect to mess with. Except for one thing. He uses canola oil. We use peanut oil which has a high smoking point for dishes that need frying, and light sesame oil for the rest. Canola oil is likely to be genetically modified and we avoid it.

This recipe is so good, we recommend making a double batch.

Part of the reason we love Raghavan Iyer‘s book is because he’s all function over form with no time to mess around with useless procedures.

Cooks in southern India normally shape these dumplings in the form of a doughnut before frying them. It sure looks pretty, but I don’t bother with the hassle and the time it takes to shape each savory fritter. Trust me, they will taste the same …

Purists will tsk-tsk, however, and if you are one of them or have invited one of them to dinner…

Bee and Jai would ask them to shut up and eat already. Or

here’s how you can create those doughnut-shaped vadais. Lightly spray a piece of wax paper with vegetable cooking spray. Plop a tablespoon of the batter onto the wax paper. Grease your hand with cooking spray, and spread the batter out to form a 1/2-inch thick patty. Poke a finger through its center, creating the familiar doughnut shape. Gently slide the patty off the paper directly into the hot oil, and fry it until it is golden brown and crispy.

Lentil overdose: Vadai (lentil fritters) and roasted papads (spicy Indian lentil crackers) in lentil broth


from 660 Curries (p. 75-77)

The dumplings are made of urad dal – skinned black lentils that look white without the skin. See this pic.

Split yellow peas or split Bengal gram (chana dal) will work too, but will have a slightly different flavour.

We fried these in our trusty aebleskiver (appam) pan. We got three batches – 21 tiny dumplings.


Wash and cook
1/4 cup split pigeon peas (toor dal)
**yellow split peas or split Bengal gram (chana dal) will work too
with 2 cups of water

in a pressure cooker or on the stovetop until soft. Cool and blend to a puree in a food processor or using an immersion blender.

If you have tamarind,

soak a small walnut-sized ball for 15 minutes in 4 cups warm water. Squeeze out the pulp and strain the liquid to remove the fibrous parts.

If you’re using
concentrated tamarind paste,

whisk 1 tsp in 4 cups water and keep aside.

In 1/2 tsp oil roast
1 tablespoon uncooked rice
2 tbsps chana dal (split Bengal gram) or yellow split peas
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 or 3 dried red chillies, stems removed

Roast these on medium-high heat until the lentils get toasty and the chillies start to darken a bit. Cool and grind to a coarse powder in a spice grinder.

Add the spice blend to the tamarind water along with
salt to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
1 cup chopped tomato
15 to 20 fresh medium to large fresh curry leaves

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then lower the heat to medium for 15 minutes – until the tomatoes are mushy.

Add the lentil puree to the broth.

For the final tempering, heat
1 tbsp oil and add
1 tsp mustard seeds (black or yellow)

Edited to add: the second time, we added a tsp of minced garlic to the tempering and fried it till golden brown. It lends a nice touch.

When they pop, add them with the oil to the lentil-tamarind broth. Stir in

2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems.


Wash and soak
1 cup urad dal
in about 3 cups of water for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. If you only have 30 minutes, use hot water.

Drain the lentils and blend with some of the soaking water (between a third and half cup) until you get a very smooth paste. Use as little water as possible. (See this video to get an idea of the perfect consistency)

It should be of a dropping consistency. If it’s too thin, skip the next step. If it is not too thin, add 2 or 3 tbsps of water to the blender jar, “wash” out any remnants and add it to the lentil paste.

Add salt to taste.

Meanwhile, heat the oil to fry the dumplings (2 to 3 inches deep in a wok on medium heat to 350F). We used our aebleskiver (appam) pan and put in 1.5 tsps oil per slot.

As the oil is heating, with a spoon, beat the batter vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes to incorporate as much air as you can to get a light, fluffy batter. If you’re damn lazy, use a pinch of baking powder and mix it in.

Put heaped teaspoons of batter in the oil and fry them a few at a time until golden brown and crisp all over.

Drain them on paper towels and keep aside.


Place 3 or 4 vadais in a bowl and ladle the hot lentil-tamarind broth on top. If you have leftover broth, serve it with steamed rice.

Rasa Vadai is our entry for My Legume Love Affair hosted this month by Sra @ when my soup came alive.

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  1. Uma says:

    ooh, delicious vadas. sounds interesting. Lovely pics as usual.

  2. Divya says:

    Am drooling here loking at these vadais..

  3. Shweta says:

    First time I saw rasa vadai was on a blog and then I couldn’t find it again… thanks for the recipe, the broth is irresistible. In Indore, you get something called Kaanji-vada. The vadas are similar but the Kaanji or the broth is made with mustard seeds and other simple spices soaked in water till the water turns tangy and spicy. I have tasted the kaanji, but never with the soaked vadas, suddenly I feel like trying those out too! :)

  4. Altoid says:

    “Bee and Jai would ask them to shut up and eat already”. As did I. I snapped at a guest, quite unlike a docile hostess. I am sure that made waves in the gossip channels about how un-Iyer I am. But if its gonna be dunked in rasam or sambar or dahi, how does it matter if its got a hole or not? Beats me yo!

    Sigh! Though I would like to get crisp ones. My athai tells me to add grated cabbage and rice flour. Still no workie for me.

    yeah, we heard from the iyer grapevine. that altoid girl is soooo rude. ;)

  5. musical says:

    Rasa vadai is one of my favorite snacks, ever! And as for functionality over frills, i am all for it, baby :) . Including my preference for regular over doughnut shaped vadai.

    Talking about Kanji vada, we used to get them in Punjab too, they are called khatte wale laddu :-D . Bee, you won’t like them, because the best part about them is the spicy moolis that come along with it. But you can always tell thele wale bhaiya to give you just vadas with gajar kanji, and they are yum. Those vadas are made of moong daal though.

    On another note, i owe you a big thanks! Few days back when i bought some nectarines, i decided to enjoy them your way “doused with salt and red chilli powder” instead of having them as is. Yummy isn’t enough to describe it. By the time i was done eating, i was in a different world: not just because the thing tasted good, but it remided me of the mixed fruits with salt, red chilli powder and lime juice chaat that i was so fond of as a kid. Old sweet memories. Thanks to you both!

  6. Manasi says:

    I knew it! I looked for the words appam pan before I went thru the whole thing!!!
    Must try and the appam pan makes it perfect!

  7. indosungod says:

    Lovely! I ordered rasa vadai at a south indian restauran and got funny looks from the others at the table (yes my own family) but one taste they were all converts. I love the usage of aebleskiver pan. Got to try with my panniyaram pan.

  8. Rashmi says:

    on the urad dal,i have always wanted to know if it matters that i used the skinned, split urad dal, instead of the round one in your pic ? Thanks for such a neat recipe

    it should work.

  9. Giff says:


  10. nags says:

    Ohh, I came in all prepared to see the rasa vada and was surprised to see the medhu vada in rasam. My mom always puts masala vadai in rasam so this is new to me!! But then again, I am not a Tamilian so maybe this is the more authentic one :) We all prefer Masala Vadai at home..

    And yeah, I always make my medhu vada shapelessly. Saves so much time!

  11. sandhiya says:

    It looks awesome…i love to have some.

  12. deepa says:

    i am a silent reader mostly …..had heard abt parippuvada in rasam but this is new to me ..sounds interesting . thanks for that tip of incorporating air into batter .i makes my vadas with a hole …just a simple question do we need to soak up the vadas in rasam or do it just b4 serving ? u r posts are always informative …esp about that genetic modification of canola ..i always use canola oil just for the sake of omega 3 and 6.

    it depends on how you like it. we like to add the broth jut before eating.

  13. RedChillies says:

    Beautiful pictures as usual and I have been staaring at the tamarind picture for a long time now. I haven’t seen the whole receipe yet, but there is a appam pan and I am heaving a sigh of relief.

  14. Anjali says:

    Oh I love to make these. The best thing for bangalore cool months. Have rasa vada and go for a drive early morning when its till foggy. It is so refreshing!

  15. Bharti says:

    Steaming hot delicious, I can imagine.
    What happened to the insults series? Am I the only one missing the insults?

  16. Cham says:

    If u invite a tamilian at home, definetly they would name it Rasam Bonda :) I made for sake of my husb who want to dunk the bonda in rasam (Bangalore style) but complaint about the rasam, should try ur broth. Sluuuuurp!

  17. Divya says:

    Rasa vadas look delicious..and the pictures,as usual are fabulous.I too follow the method of’not putting a hole’,honestly…it never matters to us;-)

  18. Kitt says:

    Oh my, that looks very tasty. But complicated! Maybe I can find someone to make it for me …

    manisha, maybe? she likes to make complicated things. and to stir.

  19. sia says:

    deep fried love @ jugalbandi? :)
    i made maa di/ki dal on weekend following raghavan’s recipe and fell in love with it. rasa vadai is another recipe i have book marked from 660 curries. i treasure that book.

  20. sunita says:

    Love the recipe…we too make something similar;but, the vadas are made with split red lentils and we use kokum for the gravy. I’m sure we’ll love this as well.

  21. sra says:

    I never bother with the shape, either!

  22. shreya says:

    Hi, I have never read a cookbook, but this post makes me want to read 660 Curries. I too dislike purists’ methods, and usually prefer to make things quick and easy. Love the recipe, and obviously the pics. Mouthwatering. Never heard the word aebleskiver before, so leart something new. I have the appam pan, so this is going to be more easier than I thought.

  23. Happy Cook says:

    Hi hi I have this book :-) )))))
    Ofcourse you know i have this book as i won thorugh the raffle prize.
    I have never had this. It sounds so delicious.
    Next time when i give a Indian dinner i should make things like this, it will be a real wow from the guest.
    I would have never thought of making this, but then you present the dish like this and then i say to myself mmmmmm looks really good, should give it a try

  24. Kay says:

    I’ve never tried rasavada… more of a sambar vada kinda girl. I’m still two minded about trying this one. And this book of Raghavan Iyer sounds intriguing – esp. because I happen to think the same way about vadas. I’ve tried once to make holes in vadas but the holes are messy and now I just like my vadas, round! When the un-holed version tastes as good as the holed one, why bother?

  25. Kay says:

    And dear Jai and Bee, What happened to the insults? :( just two and nothing more?

  26. richa says:

    slurrrrp…the rasa vadai looks so tempting :)

  27. Deb says:

    What an ambitious recipe -but obviously well loved judging by the responses. I love that you are using a Danish breakfast doughnut pan to make your savory fritters. Truly international, best of all worlds, just like you.

    And me three (or however many). What happened to the insult a day blogging?

    this is a commonly used kitchen appliance in multiple regional south asian cuisines. recently we also discovered that it is used widely in japan as well. -jai

  28. Alexa says:

    I find such inspiration when I visit your blog. This recipe looks wonderful, a must try for me. I just bought a bag of Urad Dal three days ago and I was wondering what wonderful dish I would make with it. Now I know. Thank you so much.

  29. priyanka says:

    rasa vadai looks delicious

  30. Priya says:

    dahi vada used to be my fav while my father loves rasa vada,, so we would always fight about how many go into each :) ) And ofcourse, its my mom standing in the kitchen making these vada’s :D I’ve become a fan of it now and love it with lemon-ginger-green chilli rasam or a nice peppery rasam.

  31. arundati says:

    the pictures are just fabulous….rasa vada isnt my most favourite…i prefer dahi vadas…..i must get myself an appam chatti….and oh…i too make dumplings rather than the doughnuts…

  32. Soma says:

    Never had vada with rasam, only with sambar. I think it would be much of a lighter taste. and seriously who cares about the shapes? I was told by someone that the donut hole was made to cook the inside better, but my vadas without holes just cook the same.

    I do not feel like making these now, but at 1 in the afternoon I do feel like eating them:-(

  33. Rashmi says:

    Never had rasa vadai….usually with sambar only …..must try sometime….wondering how it will taste…

  34. Rachna says:

    Hey I was gifted 660 curries recently and love the book, will try rasa vadais….. the thought and the pics are making me so hungry!

  35. Manasi says:

    hi! Made this today…A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!! THANK U SO MUCH!

  36. shilpa says:

    This is something like the “bonda soup” we used to eat in Bangalore. I was going to make that now, but looking at these, I changed my mind. Thanks J and B :)

  37. Laavanya says:

    That looks so delicious.. I can’t even remember how long it has been since i last had rasa vadai.

  38. Meera says:

    Looks delicious. Loved the picture.

  39. Mamatha says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe! I just couldn’t resist your pictures and had to make them tonight. Didn’t have time to make the rasam, so had them with some left-over sambar and dunked the rest in yoghurt. I’m eating them as I type this.

    Oh and I used my good old panyaaram pan to make them.

  40. suma says:

    i do make rasa vada…but this recipe for the rasam was different..just tried ..it was just perfect…thank you…

  41. Nirmala says:

    My favorite. We used to make with left over vadais during festivakl days as rasam is an everyday item at home. The pics are really drool worthy :)

  42. Bhagyashri says:

    The rasa Vadai look delicious.
    I make shapeless wadas most of the time too, but my problem is something different. To make the doughnut shaped wadas the batter has to be quite thick, prepared with as little water as possible. But with the kind of mixer I have here, I have to use quite a lot of water making the batter a little thin & impossible to shape them. My mom shapes them with her hands while dropping them into the oil! & thats how I make them too if the batter is proper.

    I think the doughnut shape is so that the wada gets cooked thoroughly & evenly, as they are big ones & wouldnt cook through if made into balls! But again for convenience & to enable the use of appam pans, I have started making them small dumplings too !

    I cant thank you enough for the appam pan frying idea!

  43. Bee and Jai – thanks so much for that – i do love the appam pan idea – less oil and not as messy – I really do appreciate all your support and i am glad your friends are also enjoying some of the 660 Curries you share with them on an ongoing basis. Hope all’s well.

    all’s well as long as your book is within easy reach. :D

  44. mandira says:

    shut up and eat it already… LOL completely agree with that! I have heard so much about it on so many blogs, I have to try it soon!

  45. pb says:

    Great recipe! i especially appreciated the from scratch rasam powder one. I thought 15-20 curry leaves might be a bit much, but thats a personal preference.

    i am not sure how you used the appam pan for frying. So did you not deep fry? does the appam pan save any oil?

    I love medu vadas, but am not too keen on deep frying.. it will be great if you have come up with a lower fat method



  46. Paati says:

    Hi Bee, dropped in to say ‘thank you’ for the paniyaram pan idea to fry bhajis:) Even made bhajis using the pan & loved it :)

  47. Paati says:

    I meant egg bhajis:)

  48. Mansi says:

    those look simply AWESOME!!! man, your recipes are great, but your pics make it so much more interesting!:)

    happy Dussehra, btw!:)

  49. Yummy rasa vadai. I had rasa vadai for the first time a few years back and since just love the dish. Its really yummy vadai and all the flavor and taste of rasam combined.

  50. Vaishali says:

    I love those crispy vadais. And the watery broth is fascinating. I’ve never had rasa vadais before, but these really stir up my appetite.

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