The Drunken Vadai a.k.a Sambar Vadai

How many times has sambar been mentioned in this blog? One too many. And there will be more. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say sambar is iconic to Tamil Nadu. Sambar is as Tamilian as marinara is Italian. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, this lentil gravy somehow finds its place on the table. Starting your day with idli, dosa, pongal or upma with a side of steaming hot sambar, is enough boot to get one through mid-day. Or rice mixed with sambar, and eaten with any vegetable is a well-balanced lunch or dinner.

What is the reason for this never dying popularity? Because its simple, easy, tasty and most importantly filling. There are countless ways to prepare it and with readymade sambar powder, it can done in a snap. If you don’t like sambar, chances are, you haven’t tasted the right kind.

Sambar Vadai

You have seen idli and dosa here. Let me introduce the next in line – vadai or vada. How do I explain it? Lets see, it is a savoury dumpling made out of lentils. Fluffy urad batter is minimally seasoned, fried and served with sambar or chutney.

Sambar vadai is a slight variation, where warm vadas are soaked in hot sambar. The crispy dumpling instantly absorbs the gravy like a sponge. Sambar vadai is delicate like a cloud and melts the moment it touches your mouth. Ah! Culinary nirvana.

Ulundhu Vadai (Urad Vada)
(serves 2)

Making vadai is almost straightforward. Almost, because it takes a little practice to shape it properly. The key is to add very little water while grinding. Don’t lose heart if you can’t get it right. Just drop by spoonfuls into the hot oil. Fried dough tastes great no matter how it is shaped.


Skinned urad dal – ¾ cup
Green chillies – 2, chopped
Curry leaves – few, torn into bits
Ginger – 1 tsp, finely chopped
Water – 2 to 3 tbsp

Plastic sheet or banana leaf for making vada
Oil for frying


Soak urad dal for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 10 minutes and grind with salt to a smooth paste. Add water by tablespoons only if necessary. Add green chillies, ginger and curry leaves.

Heat oil over medium heat in a kadai or a wide vessel. Take care that the oil is at least 1-inch deep.

Making Vadai

Take the plastic sheet (like Ziploc bag) or banana leaf and wipe with water. Take about ¼ cup of dough on the sheet. Dampen your fingers, slightly flatten the dough and put a hole in the middle. This ensures that the dough gets cooked through. Gently transfer the shaped dough to the oil and deep fry till its golden brown.

Serve warm vadai as such for snacks or soak in hot sambar for 2 minutes and then enjoy, garnished with chopped raw onions, cilantro and/or chopped tomatoes.

Ulundhu Vadai - Urad Vada

Ulundhu vadai, my entry to Click – Beans and Lentils, an event conceived and hosted by the Jugalbandits.

Arachu Vitta Sambar
(serves 4 when served on the side, serves 2 when served as main or when gobbled by the cup)

The recipe for sambar is almost the same as the one here, but for a few changes. Even though the quantity here serves four, make extra. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days. Serve with rice, idli, dosa, upma… well, you get the idea.


Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Curry leaves - few
Quartered shallots or sliced red onions – ½ cup

Toor dal – ½ cup
Moong dal – 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1+1 tsp
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp

Cilantro – 2 tbsp, chopped

Spice mixture

Oil – 1 tsp
Coriander seeds – 2 tbsp
Chana dal – 1 ½ tbsp
Dried red chillies – 8
Raw rice – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp

Red onions – 2 tbsp, chopped
Tomato – ¼ cup, chopped

Heat oil and roast coriander seeds through coconut and grind with onion and tomato to a smooth paste. Alternately, you can grind 2 tbsp of sambar powder (homemade or store-bought) with onion and tomato.


Pressure cook toor dal and moong dal until soft, with 1 tsp of turmeric powder.

In a sauce pan, heat oil, splutter mustard seeds and lightly sauté shallots or red onions with curry leaves. The onions should turn just soft, but still crunchy. Remove and set aside.

In the same pot, boil tamarind paste, salt and the remaining 1 tsp of turmeric powder with 2 cups of water. When tamarind doesn’t smell raw anymore, add the cooked dal, ground spice paste and a cup of water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add sautéed onions and garnish with cilantro.

Sambar Vadai

For serving sambar vadais, soak warm vadais in hot sambar for 2 minutes. Serve garnished with chopped raw onions, cilantro and tomato. No place for forks here, only spoons to scoop the drunken vada.



Srivalli said...

wow..beautiful!..nice pictures...I love this any wonder its ever popular right!..:)

Sia said...

complete meal in itself :) beautiful click sug...

sunita said...

Sug, that looks so delicious :-)

Anonymous said...

nice pics...u took those? what camera do u use. oh forget the camera , could you get those vadai to the chennai blogger meet.
see , now we have more reasons to invite you. :)
Hi, i'm BG and i'm with , it is a directory of indian blogs.
We have organized blogger meets in Bangalore,Pune, Hyderabad and Mumbai and the next one is scheduled to happen in Chennai on the 8th of June 2008.

please visit , register your yummy blog and sign up for the event.
and do bring something good to eat...kidding…actually no...:)
Please make yourself free to participate in the blogger meet and do spread the word and invite your other blogging friends too.


ms said...

Im drooling looking at the pictures. This looks so good. Question, why referigerate the urad dal? Does that make it easier to grind?

FH said...

My hubby's fave appetizer in Woodland's!:D
Love it, I make it too, although my vadas don't get that soft as restaurants. Grinding stone as in India make st the difference!:)
Have a great weekend.

indosungod said...

Oh Yes! Vadai Sambhar is the best there ever is but I lean towards Rasam Vadai.

sra said...

A friend of mine once e-mailed us on the art of shaping a vadai - she even told us things like how the dough should only be shaped with the tips of the fingers and proceeded to give us measurements of fingers, etc! My favourite is curd vada!

kamala said...

Mouthwatering Suganya..Asusual the pics are beautiful..I tried swiss chard .Got a feeling something similar to our keerais

ranji said...

lovelllllly!!!my fav combo...delcious snack:)...mouth watering photos!!

Divya said...

wow ..i can never make vadai with hole ..yours is so perfect and simply beautiful ..

bee said...

truly droolworthy.

Lisa Turner said...

Culinary nirvana indeed! What is not to like about this entire preparation? Vada I have not tried but I want to.

Padmaja said...

Amazing pictures!!! Never seen Vada sambhar look so perfect!!!

Anonymous said...

That looks divine Sugs! We love Sambar at home and i sometimes make it atleast twice a week! The vadai and sambar look awesome, though i do love my ulundhu vadai with tengaa chutney... yummm! Your pictures look amazing as usual!

Anonymous said...

perfectly sized vadais

btw the tamilian sambar obsession is understated there in that opening paragraph - tamilians celebrate sambar - there is no end to food people here dunk in sambar - and the obsession doesn't stop at sambar - the sambar podi is used for like almost every other thing - i once even saw sambar pasta - and no i am not kidding - its like life doesn't exist without sambar :D

i quite like sambar but then its because i make sambar once may be twice in a month - kootu rules in my kitchen :D

Anonymous said...


your pics are stunning-ly awesome-ly fantastic :-)

if it's okay, can you post some detailed info on your photos (exposure, aperture and lens)?



Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Beautiful pictures.
Uzhundhu vadai and sambhar and/ or chutney is heavenly.
But to tell the truth, I like my vadais plain. Just as they are warm, soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.

evolvingtastes said...

OOOOh gorgeous. I don't usually eat or make vada-sambar, but after reading your posts, and your pictures, I am suddenly craving for a bowlful. That's the power of a good post!

Finla said...

Oh I want to have the bowl of drunken vadai.
I love the name and the picture and the dish.

Sum Raj said...

beautiful pic vada and sambhar....wooo tempting

KonkaniBlogger said...

Wow, you are a perfectionist !! Never seen vada sambar look sooo good, yum yum yum..

Unknown said...

Vada sambar..drooling. I make sambar every single day for our lunch.Never tried making urad vada with that, your pictures are making my mouth water.

Pooja V said...

Great pic for the event :). btw this is combo is my favourite breakfast/brunch.

Arundathi said...

can eat vadas anytime anyplace anywhere... ok maybe not anyplace! :)
lovely pictures

bee said...

Suganya, this is fantastic. Vadai in are making me hungry!


Anonymous said...

that looks so delish!!!

Kalai said...

Wow...! Talk about bringing back memories, Suganya! Amma used to make this all the time when we were young. Looks wonderful. I'm partial to unsoaked vadais, but love dunking them in sambar! :)

Cham said...

Beautiful sambar vadai snap!

Anonymous said...

"Fried dough tastes great no matter how it is shaped" -- hee hee! Truer words were never spoken, Suganya, and yours sure looks fabulous! Grinding sambhar powder with onion and tomato, that is totally new to me. Also the bit of moong dal in the mix. I am a sambhar addict. I must make this very soon, even without the yummy vadai! :)

@the_whisk_affair said...

beautiful pictures suganya! the pictures take the vadas to another level!

Namratha said...

Perfect, feel like grabbing one :) Well plated!

Bong Mom said...

I have had sambhar-vadai but never garnished with onion and tomatoes. They look too pretty for words.
And does Arachu Vitta Sambhar mean anything special ?
I have been hooked on to Sarvana Bhawan these days, and recently had mini idlys soaked in sambhar . The sambhar was more dal like than the usual sambhar they serve, I loved it though but was wondering if it is a separete sambhar that is made for such dunking

Anonymous said...

I've never had or heard of this dish before, but it certainly sounds good. :)

Suganya said...

Thank you for your compliments. Glad to know that there are many sambar and vadai lovers out there.

MS, urad dal when refrigerated before grinding is lot more fluffier and yields more batter.

Sandeepa, Arachu vitta sambar loosely means sambar made with fresh ground spices. You can also make this with sambar powder. Saravana Bhavan vadais are to die for.

Coffee said...

Thats the most glamorous way of presenting Vadai and sambhar!! Beautiful!!

Anonymous said...

I have never tried grinding onion and tomato with the sambar. May be that will help me make the jump from my sambar to 'hotel' sambar. Also my vadais are usually bondas. I should try doing it on the plastic sheet next time. Lovely pics.

Dori said...

Wow, I can't show these pictures to my daughter or she will go crazy craving these... They look so yummy!

Gloria said...

oh my god that looks so good...

I only just found your blog and I'm in love with it (well the food) already!

Priya said...

one plate rasa vadai next please :D Sambar is surely the best comfort food to me Suganya and now I am craving vadai :( I wish I had a SAravana Bhavan here, need to hit the Udipi tomorrow :))

Lavanya Raj said...

suganya..i just followed your sambhar vadai recipe and it was super dooper hit at my home..

thanks a lot for sharing....

Anonymous said...

I have to tell you - that looks so good.

Suganya said...

Lavi, Thank you for trying the recipe and letting me know. Happy cooking :)

test it comm said...

Those look good! Nice photos!

Revathi said...

yummy. Now sambar IS the quintessential for Tamil cooking. Well said and beautifully captured vadais.

TheCooker said...

Fab pictures as usual.
Will try the vadas next time we go to the neighbourhodd Sarvana Bhavan!

Miri said...

What perfect vadais...on this trip I watched as my SIL made her perfect vadais and hopefully I will have learnt to make them a bit like hers - perfectly shaped rounds and all...

Vani said...

I love the "if you don't like sambar, chances are you haven't tasted the right kind!" :) I love sambar too & you're right it's an essential past of most South Indian cuisine! The photographs are beautiful, Suganya!

Unknown said...

Nice presentation..Lovely pic.s..My H loves this one.You know what, in our town (border of kerala and tamilnadu), they put even paruppu vadai in sambhar..tastes heavenly..

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your site a few days back...i must say the recipies are really good and the photographs are really beautiful. keep up the good work

Dee said...

Hey all well ?? are still hosting AFAM this month or someone else is doing it ? Love the pics! they are speaking to all of us to dunk them in the sambhar and savour them!

Susan said...

Dunkin' dal donuts! Sambar's one of *the* best soup/stews on the planet. Keep 'em coming, Suganya!

amna said...

oooh i love this one the best, of all the recipes i missed out on (the udon comes a close second).. going to try vada soon. i am only worried about the consistency, like u have mentioned!

Y said...

Oh yummmmmm! What great photos. I vaguely remember having something like this a long time ago. Haven't seen them around since, unfortunately!

Veda said...

Hi yummy looking vade!!!!!awesome to have them on a rainy day ...imagine piping hot vade and chutney n sambhar....slurrrp!!!good one there....lovely fotos too.....keep it up!

raja said...

Suganya madam,

Thanks for such a wonderful blog and we found it very useful.When we look at your arachu vitta sambar recipe picture,it inspiring us to cook immediately.mouthwatering recipe and we like to make atonce.

In this recipe you have given toordal,tomato,onion in cup measurements.

//What is quantity of 1 cup in this recipe
(1cup = howmuch ml).//

According to that we will make your spice mixture.As we are beginner in cooking,it will be helpful for us to make if we get the reply from u.We are looking forward for your reply very eagerly.Thank you.

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