Getting the Medu Vada Right

Getting the Medu Vada Right
The name Medu Vada owes its origins to a Kannada word – Medu which means soft. The meaning of Vada is “Fritter”. Of course, “Soft Fritter” is never going to convey the same delicious meaning as the word “Medu Vada”! This snack is known as Ulundu Vada in Tamil, Uzhunnu Vada in Malayalam and Garelu in Telugu. Medu Vada holds a special place of pride in the Tamil festivities where all home poojas (family or community worshipping)  have the Medu Vada as one offering to the Divine. Amusingly, it is also sometimes called the “Ottai Vadai” – Ottai means a hole, and it is identified as a Vada with a hole at the center. Usually, children do this a lot when they want to identify Medu Vada.

The snack itself is said to owe its origins to a place called Maddur in the state of Karnataka. There are stories that say the famous Udipi restaurant chain propagated the Medu Vada throughout South India, and later the North. The snack has donned several avatars as different regions customized it to their own palate.

Health Benefits of Medu Vada

It is a fried snack, and that is the only downside on the health quotient of the Medu Vada. However, it is made of black lentils – known for being a rich source of protein and vitamin B and has iron, folic acid, magnesium, and potassium. It is a delicious snack, and the temptation to binge on this Vada is immense. But, we advise caution on your portion size.

The Breakfast Combos

In Chennai, it is a common practice to order “Pongal-Vadai” breakfast. This irresistible combo consists of Ven Pongal and the Medu Vada. Served with tasty Sambhar and the Coconut Chutney, this is as complete as breakfast can get. The other combo is the “Idli-Vadai” combo – when Idlis are served alongside the Medu Vadas. If you are in Chennai, you would find both these combos – not only in the numerous restaurants but also on the streetside Thelas – unfairly called “Kaiyendhi Bhavan” (roughly meaning holding the food in the hand)– because you eat in the open, and hold the food in your hands while eating.
The Pongal-Vadai Breakfast. Pic Credit:

Getting the Medu Vada right

Despite the ease of making these vadas, it is a tough ask for most people, especially newbie cooks to get the Medu Vada right. Truth be told, only practice brings perfection. Once you perfect the art, then making the best Medu Vada will be a breeze.

My Early Experiments with making Medu Vada

Let me narrate my own experience. A couple of years ago, I had signed up as a home chef with a food aggregator who provided home-cooked food to their customers. Initially, I did not have Medu Vada in the menu. But as their customer base grew, there was immense pressure on me to provide it as well. I did something then, what I thought was a smart move. I ordered a “Medu Vada Maker”. All you had to do was fill in the batter from the top, press it, and a medu vada will drop into the hot oil. Well, that was the promise at least.

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