The Vada Series Of India: 7 Ways To Make The So-Called Indian Doughnut
Image Credit: When a crispy vada lands on the plate, do we even wait to wonder where did it come from?

Vada, by nature itself, is presumed to be a South Indian dish. While we cannot deny the fact that vada is an important component of South Indian cuisine, it would be unfair to simply eliminate the possibility of its existence in any other part of the country. The rich and diverse culture of India has always flourished because of the intermingling of habits, lifestyles, ideas and plates. Like the idlis have a huge fan fare in the country and are treated as a breakfast staple in a lot of Indian households, vada is an intrinsic part of several regional cuisines too. 

For those untouched by the phenomenon, vada is a circular-shaped deep-fried snack with a hollow space in the center that makes it resemble the present-day European doughnuts. It diverges from a doughnut due to the fact that the former is a savoury while the latter is usually treated as a sweetmeat. The earliest mentions of vada have said to be found around the 12th century in Manasollasa, an ancient Sanskrit text according to food historian K .T. Achaya. A usual suspect in Tamilian households during 100 BC.E., the vada map of India is not limited to South India alone. 

While you may find plenty of varieties in the same vada in the southern parts of the country, as you move up the ladder there is evidence of something called baras in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh too. The migration of people from these states to Trinidad, Tobago, Fiji etc. to serve as indentured labourers led to the exchange of cultures and culinary tastes and increased the popularity of baras (vadas) to be used in a special street food called doubles. 

With the widespread reach and potential of the humble vada, it has transcended regional plates to be adapted as per the flavours of the area. Here are a few such variations from Indian households. 

1.  Maharashtrian Batata Vada 

Batata refers to potato in the colloquial language in Maharashtra. As the name suggests, potatoes are the core component of this vada dish. The potatoes are mashed and then mixed with different regional spices after which large chunks of potatoes are taken to roll huge balls like ladoos. This ball is dipped in a chickpea flour batter and deep-fried till it turns golden brown. Served alongside coriander chutney, this vada is hollow from the centre like the South Indian ones. 

2.  Rajasthani Mirchi Vada 

If you are thinking that this vada is only meant for the faint-hearted then you are probably wrong. While the name definitely has the word mirchi (chili) in it, this Rajasthani vada is reasonably average on the heat meter. The thick green chilies are deseeded and stuffed with a spicy potato filling and then dunked in gram flour to be fried like a pakora. If you can’t handle spice then pair it with tomato chutney and you’ll be good to go. This is a popular street snack of the state that is freshly prepared in the mornings. 

3.  Bengali Maacher Tel-er Bora 

When it comes to a Bengali dish, our usual expectation is that there would be a host of meaty and fish dishes, right from appetizers to the main course. This unique fish oil vada is the brainchild of Bengalis. Yes, you read that right. Not fish, but fish oil of varieties like Hilsa, Rohu etc. are used to batter-fry this wheat and rice flour vada mixed with onions, green chilies and spices. Another crispy and delectable treat is the Kaccha Posto Bora where the only difference is use of poppy seeds and mustard oil. 

4.  Medu Vada 

If the discussion is revolving around vadas, it is impossible to leave Medu Vada out of it. This urad dal vada has a crispy and crunchy exterior which complements the otherwise the soft interiors. Deep-fried like most vadas, this one too is accompanied by the staple coconut chutney and sambhar like most South Indian delicacies. 

5.  Andhra’s Vella Vadai 

Another South Indian creation, this vada from Andhra Pradesh is the closest you could get to a doughnut. The sweet rice and jaggery composition of the vada is a great way to satiate the sweet tooth in a traditional way. 

6.  Dahi Vada 

Like we said earlier, northern Indian is not far behind in the race to make lip-smacking vadas. The crispy vadas are covered with oodles of curd and finally garnished with the tangy tamarind chutney and juliennes of garlic. This refreshing vada dish is a delight for the taste buds. 

7.  Kanji Vada 

This popular Gujarati dish also has a huge fan base in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan. The crispy vadas made of moong dal are dunked in kanji or rai ka paani. This kanji is considered to be an immunity booster with several health benefits like improving digestion. Not only is it healthy, but is a delicious treat too.