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  • Writer's pictureShalini Vemuri

Vada Curry

An aromatic and spicy curry from the streets of South India, that truly packs a punch! Serve it with Set Dosa on a banana leaf for a scrumptious meal!

Vada Curry is a meat eater's vegan paradise! It is made with lentil fritters simmered in a fragrant onion gravy and ground spices. The fragrance will linger in your kitchen for a day! In Chennai, South India this curry is served along with Set Dosa. Set Dosa and Vada curry are a match made in heaven for a true food lover! The play of flavors when the soft dosa is dunked in this spicy curry is unparalleled. A traditional breakfast recipe, but can be served any time of the day. This curry can also be served alongside other dishes like Dosa and Idli.

Rumor has it that this curry originated at Maari restaurant located at Saidapet in Chennai - hence, fondly referred to as "Saidapeta Vada Curry". I am a Chennaite at heart, and lived there for 21 years. But, never really got to taste the curry in that restaurant. Essentially, this was not a dish that I grew up on. My Mom at some point learnt it from a friend and made a mild version of it to suit our palate (as a lot of masala wasn't used back in the day in vegetarian households), and I absolutely loved it!

This curry is protein rich. Scoop a ladle of it onto your dosa, idli or set dosa and savor it with your hands, true Indian style!

Key ingredients for this recipe are Onions, Garlic, Channa Dhal, Whole Indian spices and Dry Coconut. If you don't have Onions or Garlic please don't even try making this dish. Not worth the time and effort without the essentials :) And, don't feel intimidated by the long list of ingredients. They go into the pan one after the other and before you know you are savoring this deliciousness!


Makes 6 servings Cook time 45 min



2 cups Channa Dhal

6 Dry Red chilis

2 tsp Fennel seeds

Salt to taste

Oil to fry

1. Soak the Channa Dhal and Red Chillis in water for at least 3 hours. Discard the water completely and grind it without water in a blender along with Fennel seeds. Add in Salt and Asafoetida powder. Mix it well and set aside. Vada mixture is ready.

2. Heat oil for deep frying. Add in grape size amounts of the mixture in oil and fry them until brown and crisp. Set aside on a paper towel.

3. The healthy alternative is to place it in a steamer and steam them for 15min instead of frying.


Dry roast:

10 pods garlic

1 inch Ginger

Few sprigs of Cilantro

Few Mint leaves

5 dry red chilis

2 tsp Fennel seeds

1 tsp Cloves

4 Cinnamon sticks

6 Cardamom pods

1 tbsp Poppy seeds

1/2 cup dry coconut

1 tbsp Poppy seeds


1/2 tsp Fennel seeds

2 Cloves

1 Cinnamon stick

2 Cardamom pods

3 Onions sliced

Few Curry leaves


1. Heat a wide pan. Add in all the ingredients under "Dry Roast" section one after the other and dry roast them without any oil. You can pretty much add them in the order listed.

Blend them with 1/4 cup water into a fine paste.

2. Heat oil in a pan and add the ingredients under "Gravy" and sauté until onions turn golden brown.

3. Add in the masala from step one and sauté until oil is released. Once the masala is well cooked, add it about 4 to 5 cups of water. Might seem like a lot but go ahead as the Roasted channa dhal and the vadas will thicken the gravy in no time.

4. Let it come to a rolling boil.

5. Now add in the vadas, and only a pinch of salt at this point. Watch out for te salt as the Vadas also have salt in them.

6. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the vadas soak up the masala.

7. Garnish with Curry leaves and Cilantro.


Serve with your favorite Set dosa or Idli along with a cup of hot Coffee, for an authentic South Indian meal!

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