Sunday, 3 March 2013

All for the wada

Baked Medu Wada

I have this quest for the most perfect wada – and feel I am far from achieving it…

The best wada is not only full of the flavours of urad, cumin, pepper, red and/or green chilli, hing, curry leaves and bits of coconut but is also crisp, with a crumby, grainy crust and a soft but spongy centre. Even the glib oiliness is actually very pleasant and ensures a smooth eating experience.

The touchstone test or the nadi- pariksha of the best wada is that when hold one in your hands and bite into it- it should leave grainy golden crumbs of the batter on your fingers!

The hole in the wada is also important, ostensibly for aesthetic purposes (the wada isn’t whole without a hole) or religious reasons (in certain religious denominations, Lord Hanuman is offered a string of wadas if He grants people their specific wishes). 

I have often looked at strings of beautifully formed wadas on the idol in the old temple in Muscat city, and secretly and guiltily wondered if they were going to distribute the Prasad soon…

But the main reason for the hole in the wada is to allow the oil to reach right into the heart of the goodness and cook it to perfection.

It’s been years since I ate the wada of my dreams, but I am ever optimistic.  I am also a King Bruce when it comes to hope, perseverance, patience and zeal – all for the wada!

A week ago I experimented with a baked dahi wada. But it had to be perfected and I also wanted to see if this method of cooking wadas could be replicated for the medu wada.

I am happy to report that the baked medu wadas were a success! But I must say, the ones without onion remained crisp for longer...

I must thank the energetic and talented chef Sanjay Thumma for his valuable and sensible tips!

1. Use a food processor (not a mixer) to grind the dal with as less water as possible. The food processor action allows aeration of the batter, quite like the traditional grinding stone with the round batta - we used to call this the rubbu-gundu!

Since I baked the wadas, I was able to add a little more water, which allowed better movement and therefore, better aeration.  Also, add all the herbs and spices in the grinding, so you won’t have large bits and pieces sticking to the batter to weigh it down.

I also discovered that a slightly loose batter allowed the wadas to rise more effectively in the oven and kept the wada light, after the water evaporated.

2. Beat the batter for a few minutes to enhance the aeration. Test the batter by dropping a little piece in a bowl of water – if it floats, the batter is light – and right!

This tip works for sure! You really get the crisp urad grains on your fingers when you bite into the wada. 

Baked Medu Wada


1 cup skinned black lentils (dhuli urad dal)
A fistful of chick peas (chana dal) - this is my MIL's trick
2 tsp chopped ginger
A few curry leaves
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp pepper corns or ground pepper
2 green chilliies chopped (or more)
A pinch of hing
5-6 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
A little water


Soak the dal in plenty of cold water for about 4-5 hours. 

Grind the dal with all the ingredients for the wada, except the oil, in a food processer. The reason for this is you can grind the dal quite fine with less water and the motion of the blades aerates the batter as you go.

Grind into a smooth batter paste and adjust the tastes. Add the oil and beat it with a whisk (or with your hand!) until the batter is light and fluffy, say about 8-10 minutes. Test the batter for lightness by dropping a little blob in a small bowl of water. If it floats easily, the batter is light enough.

Drizzle a little oil or spray the doughnut tray and pour a tablespoonful into each depression. Make sure the separator peeps through the batter.

Bake the wadas in a pre-heated oven in muffin or doughnut trays at 180C for about 15 minutes or until done. Then turn on the grill for just a few minutes to brown it on the top as well.

You’ll need to experiment with the time and temperature a little, as each oven could be slightly different.

Serve with sambar and coconut chutney.

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