Masala vada, also known as paruppu vada is a South deep-fried chickpea fritter made with ginger, curry leaves, and onions similar to the texture of a falafel. It is a crunchy dish that pairs well as a side dish or as an appetizer!
What is masala vada?
Masala vada is a crunchy South Indian deep-fried chickpea fritter. It is made by grinding soaked chana dal, which, contrary to its name, is actually chickpeas that are cut and polished. Next, the chana dal is folded in with aromatics like cilantro, ginger, garlic, and curry leaves and fried to crispy perfection.
Tips to make crunchy vadas
- Do not over-grind the chana dal - The tricky part of making paruppu vadas is knowing when the chickpeas (chana dal) are ground enough. If you over-grind the mixture, you will get dense masala vadas, and if you don't grind it finely enough, then the vadas will fall apart in the oil. The test to know when the chickpeas are ground enough is that when you squeeze the vadas in your hands they form a patty without falling apart.
- Chickpea flour acts as a binder. The chickpea flour is insurance in this recipe to ensure the mixture easily binds together.
- Cut the onion and curry leaves by hand. Try not to use the food processor. When testing this recipe initially, I added these ingredients into the food processor. However, the onions and curry leaves become too fine and don't add textural contrast to the dish. Leaving the onions and curry leaves in larger pieces creates spaces and air in the vadas, making them lighter, and the bigger pieces of onions and curry leaves also crisp and caramelize in the vadas.
- Fry the vadas on low heat (325F) for 4-5 minutes. The chickpeas (chana dal) need time to crisp and cook. If you cook them on high heat, the inside will still be uncooked while the outside will cook too quickly.
Mains to pair with with masala vadas
You can eat masala vadas as though they are falafels by nesting them inside pita bread with fresh veggies and a yogurt sauce. However, traditionally masala vadas are eaten as a crunchy side dish with rice and a dal-based dish. Here are some mains that pair well with masala vadas: