Ulunthu / Urad Bonda

Vadai – a deep fried fritter that looks like a donut, made from whole skinned Bengal Gram Dal / Lentils that is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The batter is ground with minimal water so that it is thick and in a consistency that is easy to make vadai out of. Making a good vadai takes time to master (unless you are gifted/blessed by the culinary Gods) and patience. A recipe that is a timeless classic and so versatile in its appearance at homes in South India, be it a wedding, festival, celebration of any kind and sometimes just a craving satisfied, no occasion needed!

This title…..Bonda is only because this batter is technically a Vadai batter that I modified to make mini beignet like fritter that will be easy to soak in sambar and eat. Now that that’s out of the way, let move along to the recipe and a small story around it. I will leave tips if you want to make vadai instead of the mini bonda.

Sambar Vadai, from what I gather, became popular in restaurants and homes mainly when people had leftover vadai the after it was made. A day old Urad dal / Ulundhu Vadai loses its crispness, but still remains soft and spongy. How to make people eat it again? Dunk it in the ever delicious South Indian Sambar aka Tamarind Lentil Stew ( they wake it up by first soaking it in hot water and then dabbing the excess water out), garnish it with chopped onions and cilantro and serve it piping hot….ooh la la….you’d never know that you are eating a day old vadai LOL !!

But, when we make it at home I usually make fresh vadai and sambar. When Sambar Vadai is on the menu for tiffin/ early dinner usually, I make the sambar in the morning for lunch and save the rest for the vadai in the evening. Homemade vadai is usually smaller in size than a restaurant made one, but even then I had to help the kids slice it and eat when served. Well, that was when they were teeny tiny. So, I started making mini bite sized fritters…without the hole, a vadai becomes a Bonda (another lentil based deep fried fritter quite similar to a vadai).We liked this concept so kept it even after they can slice their own vadai all by themselves !! Hence we call it Sambar Mini Bonda….end of story LOL !

I will post a sambar recipe very soon. I do not have any in the website yet, but you can enjoy these with chutneys as well : tomato chutney, coconut chutney, etc.,.

Recipe : Vadai-Bonda

Prep Time : 10 minutesSoak Time : an hour for the lentils
Cook time : 30 minutesServes 4 to 6
Ease Level : 😃Spice Level : 🌶🌶

Ingredients :

  1. Whole urad dal : 1 and 1/4 cup
  2. Yellow Mung Dal : 2 tablespoon (optional)
  3. Idli rice : 1 tablespoon (optional)
  4. Green Chili : 2 medium – or to taste
  5. Curry leaves : 4 or 5
  6. Salt to taste
  7. Asafetida : 1/8 teaspoon
  8. Oil for deep frying

How To :

Read Notes below for some pointers.

  • Wash the lentils and the idli rice once and soak it in room temperature water for an hour at least.
  • After an hour, add the mixture in a blender jar along with the green chilis and the curry leaves, add enough water to help grind into a smooth batter that is in the consistency of a pancake batter/dosa/idli batter.
  • Pour the batter into a bowl, add salt to taste, crushed pepper, asafetida and fluff it up well while mixing.
  • Heat oil in a skillet/wok/kadai on medium high.
  • Dampen your hand, pick up batter using your fingers and slide it into the oil using your thumb. I intentionally made small, bite sized fritters, your choice on how big you like it.
  • They will stick to each other initially, but as they start browning, using a spider or ladle break them apart gently.
  • Fry until they are golden brown on all sides, by turning them over once and remove from the oil once the bubbles subside considerably.
  • If possible remove to a steel colander that is placed on a plate to drain excess oil. This helps keep it crisp longer.
  • Since I make small sized fritters, that are spongy due to the aeration of the batter, I do not soak them in hot water, I add them into individual serving bowls and pour hot sambar over it. In 2 minutes, they will absorb the liquid and be ready to eat.
  • Garnish with chopped onions or cucumbers or cilantro and enjoy.
  • Plain fritters before dunking in sambar will be so so crispy and soft that you may not have any left for the whole sambar vadai experience..just beware :)) !

Notes :

  1. Reduce the amount of water if you want to make the traditional vadai. About 1/2 cup should do, lesser the better. I don’t stress about it ,if it becomes runny its bonda, if I get the consistency I try for, it is vadai!
  2. Sometimes I use my wet grinder which ensures a good grind with minimal water. It also helps aerate the batter which is key to getting crisp and soft fritters.
  3. It is very very important to aerate the batter, whisk it well using your hand or a good sturdy whisk. If you have the time, chill the batter for 20 to 30 minutes. A cold batter helps make very crispy fritters.
  4. You can add chopped onions, coconut, chopped green chili, finely grated cabbage or carrots or even spinach to amp up the flavor. My target was the kids who like it as plain as possible !
  5. Add ginger garlic grated if you wish and also whole peppercorns for that burst of flavor and heat.
  6. Keeping your hands moist is a must if you want the batter to drop into the oil without sticking to your hand, you can use a spoon as well.
  7. Oil must be hot enough but not too hot that it cooks the outside and leaves the insides raw. Between 350 and 375 degree Fahrenheit.
  8. Instead of the sambar you can dunk them in rasam or even beaten yogurt.

A timeless classic, a childhood favorite that loyally follows you well into adulthood, an indulgence that is nostalgic and an evening well spent putting it together for dear ones……I hope you enjoy this as much as we did !! Thank you for stopping by !

2 thoughts on “Ulunthu / Urad Bonda

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