Tea time is an important part of Indian culture. At the end of a long day, we love to sit back and relax with a hot cup of tea and freshly-made snacks, with deep-fried delicacies holding a special spot in our hearts.
Tea (or coffee) time is like a sacred ritual and followed religiously by almost everyone. Miss your mid-morning or evening tea and it can make one cranky. We also have a large repertoire of snacks depending on the region.
My snack of choice are vadai or vada, the most common snack food in South India. They come in a couple of different varieties. Some are crunchy on the outside and soft inside, with a hole in the middle, almost like a savory donut, called methu vada. Some others are crunchy throughout and a bit spicy, called masala vada.
As for the tea, us Indians brew a mean cup, using full-fat milk and sugar. There is no nonsense of fat-free, skinny, sugar-free or anything of the sort here.
As the blog title suggests, I am sharing the recipe for masala vada (also called parippu vada) here. Traditionally chana dal is used to make them. But mung dal is an easy substitute and I find it is easier to grind mung dal in my blender/mixer than the slighter tougher chana dal. You can use either of these, it’s up to you. The coarsely ground dal is mixed with a few spices, formed into patties and deep-fried. Yes, you really must indulge this once to enjoy crisp, golden vada.
As for traditional chai, brewing it is an art form, though a very simple one. I was an ardent tea drinker earlier, but now I prefer coffee for the caffeine jolt it provides. I still brew a pot of chai on some evenings, especially cold and rainy ones.
We use black tea dust for a strong flavor, kadak or cutting chai as it is known in the sub-continent. My personal favorite blends are Darjeeling black tea and Nilgiri black tea dust. You can also use tea leaves, though they are less potent than tea dust. Try to get your hands on either of these authentic blends. But please do not ever use flavored “tea” blends. It’s just not right.
I am sharing these recipes today for another reason as well. A small group of blogger buddies have gotten together to share their take on a common food topic once every month. We call this initiative #CookingWithFriends and hope to continue for a long time.
This month we are featuring our favorite snack food. And believe me when I say, this combo right here is my absolute favorite. So, once you are done reading the recipes, hop on over to Sujatha, Dolphia and Subhasmitha‘s blogs to see what they’ve come up with.
Masala Vada (Spicy Lentil Fritters)
You will need: (Makes 12 vada or fritters)
- Mung dal (dehusked green gram) – 1 cup
- Whole dried red chilies – 3, de-seeded (use just 1 for a less spicy version)
- Onion – 1/4 cup, finely chopped
- Ginger – 1 tbsp, grated or finely chopped
- Curry leaves – 6 large leaves, chopped
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Rice flour or chickpea flour – a few tablespoons (to be used if the dough is watery)
- Oil – for deep-frying
- Wash mung dal in cold water a couple of times, just like how you would wash rice before cooking it. Soak the dal in water for at least 2 hours. After this time, the dal would have almost doubled in volume and softened. Drain water completely and proceed to the next step.
- Coarsely grind the dal and red chilies in a blender or food processor, pulsing the dal so that they are just broken down. Do not add any water at all; the mixture should be fairly dry.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add onion, ginger, curry leaves and salt and mix well. You must be able to form small patties with this dough. If it seems runny, add a few tablespoons of rice flour or chickpea flour and try again.
- Heat oil in a large pan or fryer. When the oil is hot, just under smoking point, drop in a few patties and fry on medium heat till fritters are cooked through and golden brown. This will take 3-4 minutes. Remove onto a paper towel lined plate to drain any excess oil. Fry the fritters in batches depending on the size of your fryer.
- Serve hot with a cup of Indian chai. Recipe follows.
Elaichi Chai (Cardamom Tea)
You will need: (Serves 6)
- Milk – 2 cups, full-fat preferred
- Water – 2 cups
- Green cardamom pods – 3, crushed (you can use 1 tsp cardamom powder instead)
- Sugar – 3-4 tsp, heaped
- Black tea dust – 3 tsp
- Heat milk, water and cardamom in a deep saucepan.
- When you begin to see bubbles at the sides of the pan, add the sugar and tea dust. Stir and simmer for a few more minutes.
- Remove from heat when the tea just begins to boil. Strain tea into a clean teapot or another saucepan using a fine-mesh strainer.
- Serve tea piping hot in small cups.
- To achieve the froth over the tea, simply pour the tea into the cup from a reasonable height. Attempt this over the sink till you get the hang of it. It’s fun, I promise!
- You can add other Indian spices like a small cinnamon stick, 2-3 cloves, a big piece of ginger and a tiny pinch of black pepper. This masala chai is said to have numerous health benefits as well.
Pair a hot cup of chai with a couple of masala vada, sit back and enjoy!
Tell me, what is your favorite homemade snack? How do you like your tea? Do share.
I’ve shared these recipes and a brief article on experiencing a nostalgic train journey in India on the Epicure & Culture magazine as well. This interesting online magazine talks about sustainable travel options and explores world food cultures as well. I was asked to share a first-hand account of a personal travel experience and the food involved, and the first thought that came to mind were the train travels back in India. I haven’t been to many other exotic places (although I have a very long bucket list), but anyone who has had the fortune to experience train travel in India would know how absolutely romantic it is. And like anything else in India, there’s lots of food involved, especially a variety of snacks. I am not going to reproduce my entire article here, but do take the time to read it on their website.
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
- A Blossoming Life
- Skip To My Lou
- Between Naps on the Porch
- Home Stories A To Z
- A Stroll Thru Life
- Cedar Hill Ranch
- Coastal Charm
- Elizabeth & Co
- Savvy Southern Style
- The NY Melrose Family
- The Turquoise Home
- Living Well Spending Less
- The Shabby Nest
- French Country Cottage
- My Romantic Home
- The Charm of Home
- Crafts a la Mode
- The Novice Gardener
- DIY Show Off
- Nifty Thrifty Things
- By Stephanie Lynn