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U lli Vada is essentially onion vada, popular as a street snack across Kerala. It’s a quick and easy dish to make. One must chop onions, add besan, rice flour, asafoetida, red chilli powder, curry leaves, and salt, and mix them all together. After letting the mixture sit for a while, fry in oil and the vadas are ready.
Onions have been grown in India for 5,000 years, making it a staple and an indispensable part of the Indian cuisine and food culture. The Indian medical treatise Charaka Sanhita celebrates the onion as one of the most important remedies for several illnesses related to the heart, joints, and digestion. But four centuries later, other Ayurvedic texts termed onions ‘tamasic’ food, declaring that this was one of the foods that inspired lethargy and lust. The 7th century Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang also noticed that few people ate onions. The ones who were caught eating the food were “expelled beyond the walls of the town.” It’s with the arrival of the Mughals around the 1500s that onions became a popular food item, although some Brahmins and Jains still avoided it. Today, they’re mainstream and vital to the Indian food palette.
Besides having a long and interesting history in India, onions also come with several health benefits. They’re filled with antioxidants, regulate blood sugar levels, their high fibre content improves digestion, and they’re loaded with nutrients that increase energy and metabolism. Onions also have anti-inflammatory properties, support bone health by strengthening them, and are antibacterial, helping fight off infections.
So enjoy the Ulli Vadas, focusing as much on their delectable history as their taste and health benefits.
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