Vadai is a savoury snack, or ‘short eat’ as Sri Lankans call them, made from deep-fried pulses. There is paruppu vadai made from chana dhal and ulundu vadai made from black gram. Malathi made her vadai from chana dhal; they were incredibly moreish, especially when accompanied with a cup of hot, sweet milky tea.
Drain the soaked dhal, then rinse and drain again thoroughly. Using a food processor, process the dhal into a coarse paste (without adding any water). Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Pulse the chopped onion in the processor for a few seconds, then transfer to a small bowl and add the garlic paste, dried chillies, green chilli, curry leaves, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and salt; mix to combine. Add the onion mixture to the dhal paste and mix well with your hands (you don’t need to add any water, as the water released from the onions will be enough). If needed, add a little flour to bring all the ingredients together.
Fill a wok one-third full of oil and heat to approximately 160°C (315°F) (a cube of bread dropped into the oil will brown in 30 seconds). Working in batches, deep-fry the vadai for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towel and serve hot.
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