Gluten Free Vegetarian Indian Recipes: Dal Vada/Dal Pakora and Cilantro Chutney Recipe

July 1st, 2008 yum Posted in Indian, Protein, South India, Vegan, dal, snack 15 Comments »

When I went to India for two weeks during Winter break, I was thrilled to be invited into the home of a family in Bangalore twice for elaborate and delicious home cooked meals. Every dish was delicious, but my and my husband’s absolute favorite dish was dal vada, or a dal pakora made out of ground channa dal. It was a naturally gluten free dish that fulfilled every fried-food fantasy I’d had since I arrived in India, where most fried foods were off limits. DH and I gobbled up way more than our fair share of this delightful appetizer, and I absolutely had to ask for the recipe. When we got back home, I immediately bought channa dal at my favorite local Indian grocer. And then- life intruded. There was absolutely no time to make elaborate dal fried dishes, so I had to leave the recipe in my recipe file. Luckily a few weeks ago the CeliacSF Bay Area support group held a potluck at a member’s home with an Indian food theme. PERFECT! I thought- time to pull out all my favorite authentic Indian recipes, including this one for dal pakora. To my intense joy, the recipe came off without a hitch- and everyone at our potluck seemed to enjoy this authentic Indian recipe. And, the nicest compliment of all- one new member had brought her mother, visiting from India, who said that while she had her own similar recipe, she really liked mine too. I was thrilled with that generous stamp of approval, and slightly startled when I came back for seconds and found only three lonely little pakora left out of a huge batch. Apparently I’m not the only GF folk to enjoy the occasional GF fried treat!

Here’s a pictorial guide to making Dal Vada:

First soak chana dal overnight. Then drain, rinse, and grind it in a food processor with garlic and ginger until it’s a nice, smooth dough.

Then mix in all the other ingredients, including cilantro and red onion. Form into little balls, flatten, and deep fry until cooked all the way through and deep golden brown.

And, here’s a video for a similar recipe using combined dal:

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And, if you want another video, here’s a great video showing in great detail how to make authentic dal vada

By the way, channa dal is a dal that I really enjoy. It’s a yellow lentil similar to yellow split pea, but a little larger. It almost looks like a dried corn kernel. It’s fantastically low on the glycemic index, and tasty too. You can do lots of things with channa dal. If you’ve got channa dal left in your pantry after making this yummy recipe, try one of these recipes:

Channa dal with Spinach Recipe
Sukhi Channa Dal Recipe
Another Channa Dal Recipe
Spicy Channa Dal Recipe

You can also try my Mint Cilantro Chutney Recipe
with this dal pakora recipe
if you have some mint on hand. Enjoy!
And, here’s my post describing the dinner party in Bangalore where I first enjoyed this recipe.

*IMPORTANT REMINDER: The Adopt-a-gluten-free blogger deadline is July 7th. Please send me the URL of your post about your adopted blogger, photo, and description of the recipe NO LATER than this date, as I will be flying to Japan on the morning of July 9th. If you don’t get your entry in by this date, you may not be included in the roundup until (retroactively) in early August… You can email me at seamaiden399(at)gmail[dot]com. Thanks guys and can’t wait to see your posts!

Chana Dal Pakora or Dal Vada Recipe- revised
250 gm (8.8 oz) Bengal Gram (Channa/ Chana Dal)
1 1/2 medium red onions, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
2-3 finely chopped green serrano chili
2-3 cloves (Loung?)
1 stick (1 inch) cinnamon bark (dalchini)
salt to taste

Cooking Oil for deep frying
50 gm.(1.75 oz( Ginger (finely crushed but Not paste)
1/2 or 1/4 head of garlic (finely crushed)

Chutney to serve- mint or cilantro chutney is lovely. Mint AND cilantro chutney is also nice. A red tomato chutney or even ketchup offers a nice contrast.

Soak 250 gm. (washed) Bengal gram for 5-6 hours. Strain the water and grind the strained dal along with crushed garlic, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon bark. It’s hard for the food processor to break up the cinnamon bark, so make sure to start with it. You may have to break up pieces by hand. Put the ground mixture in a bowl and mix finely chopped onions, fresh cilantro leaves, salt, and green chilies. Mix it well with spoon or by hand. Make round, flat patty shaped balls and deep fry on medium flame in oil heated on medium heat. If the oil is smoking, it’s too hot! I find that it is very easy to burn the first few while trying to get the temperature right, but you’re shooting for a cooking period of about 2.5 minutes, then turn for 2.5 minutes more. If you fry them too fast, the inside will be raw, so you really want that type of extended frying period.

*Tip: Before you start frying, set up a cooling area with an (edged) cookie pan and a cooling rack. You can line the cookie pan with paper towels if you like, but place the fritters on the rack when they’re done. Then the oil can drip down but the fritter won’t get soggy like it would on a paper towel.

This is a South Indian recipe that our friends (originally from Northern India) had been introduced to by their sons caretaker. They liked it so much they adopted the recipe- and after weeks in India drooling over all the gluten containing fried snacks I couldnt have, it was a thrill for me to enjoy this in their home. I begged them to make it again when we visited their house a second time- and it was just as wonderful as I remember! Probably my favorite thing I ate over the entire duration of our trip. :)

I finally made this recipe in my own kitchen on the first day of summer because my local Celiac support group was having a potluck with an “indian foods” theme. I wanted to bring all my favorite recipes that I discovered while visiting India, so I made this recipe, as well as homemade rasgulla and aloo jeera. It was all sooo yummy! And everyone gobbled up the Dal Vada, because as DH put it- of course everybody wanted gluten-free fried goodness. :)

Cilantro Chutney Recipe
1 1/2 chopped, de-seeded serrano chili
3 tbsp lemon or lime juice
3/4 inch ginger
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp. oil
dash of asafoetida/hing (use one made from Rice Flour, like Whole Foods)
1 very large bunch chopped cilantro or 2 medium bunches
1 tbsp sugar (or less, taste and adjust to your preference)
Combine everything in a food processor except for the cilantro and sugar. Add the cilantro a bunch at a time and combine. Add 1 1/2 tsp sugar, taste, and add more if you like. You can also add more salt or lemon juice if you prefer.
These are perfect frozen in ice cube trays and defrosted as needed. It’s best to freeze them as soon as possible after making the sauce to preserve color and flavor.

Manjula suggests combining 1 part chutney to 3 parts yogurt for a dip, 1 part chutney and 2 parts cream cheese for a sandwich spread (Me: how about with cucumber slices? Yum!), or even as a component of a vinaigrette.

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Vegetarian Gluten Free South Indian Cuisine: Tomato Chutney Stuffed Idli Recipe

September 6th, 2007 yum Posted in Indian, Rice, South India, Vegan, Vegetarian, dal 17 Comments »

idliwchutney.jpgI’m always excited to find new international food staples that are naturally gluten free. My first encounter with idli, the traditional south indian snack, was at a South Indian restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. Unlike North India, South India bases many traditional dishes on rice and urad dal, even their “breads”- uppatham (vegetable pancakes), dosa (crepes), and idli (steamed rice/dosa cakes).

According to Wikipedia cookbook “Idli is a round, fluffy bread roughly eight centimetres in diameter. Idli is made from ground rice or rice flour mixed with ground urad dal, salt, methi (fenugreek seeds) and water. The mixture is allowed to ferment prior to being steamed in an idli steamer. They are traditional to Southern India and are most often eaten with sambar.”(Wikipedia Cookbook Entry for Idli)

closeupidli.jpgI was ecstatic when I realized that South India had many naturally gluten free offerings. First I tried the buttery, crisp dosa crepes filled with an assortment of fillings like masala potato filling. After my success with the dosa, I tried the other offerings like idli and uppatham. I was so crazy about dosa that I ended up rarely ordering the steamed idli rice cakes, as I found them a bit plain. However, on another message board I’m on I read about stuffed idli with a flavorful filling like tomato chutney steamed inside the disc. I was intrigued, so I gave idli another shot using some premade fermented idli batter from a local indian market in Mountain View, California. I was thrilled to find that these stuffed idli were delicious, especially served with spicy sambar soup and a homemade Cashew Nut Chutney, a mint chutney, or a coconut green chili chutney.Tiffin Shop at Bangalore Market It was easy to make the idli using my idli mold* that I had bought at the City Market in Bangalore, India, but you could also use an egg poacher for larger idli. I put the mold with idli batter, Trader Joe’s tomato chutney, and more idli batter covering the filling, into a steamer basket in a large soup pot and steamed the idli for around 12 minutes. Then I carefully placed them on a wire rack to cool and enjoyed these tasty snacks with sambar and chutney. Even DH, who sometimes find Indian food too spicy for his taste, gobbled them up. They were terrific reheated briefly in the microwave as a little snack, too. After having such good success with premade idli batter, and a few experiments with powdered idli batter, I was eager to try making idli from scratch. After consulting an expert on all things fermented on the Yahoo Vegetarian GF board, I set out on my first experiment.

*Note: the dish pictured above may actually be intended for appam, but it works FABULOUSLY for idli if placed in a steamer basket.*

idlibatter2.jpgThe first time I made the recipe, I soaked the urad dal for the same amount of time as the rice, and it acquired a “beany” fragrance. It wasn’t a bad smell exactly, just a little strong. I went ahead and used it for my recipe and found that the later fermentation covered the smell a bit, and the taste was fine. However, I adjusted the recipe to avoid this issue. After soaking, I achieved a very pleasing texture with the batter using a food processor, although traditionally a Wet Grinder is used to make perfect Idli. However, with my strong Kitchenaid food processor, I was able to achieve the texture of a thick coconut chutney, if that makes sense. I’m relieved, as my former experiment with homemade dosa batter was very chunky- but that was about 8 or more years ago. Basmati doesn’t swell and soften like a short grain, glutinous rice, so next time I will try another rice. Actually, I picked up some Idli rice from our local Indian market after I started my experiment, so next time I may try this recipe using idli rice.

idlibatterandchutney.jpgAfter the idli batter sat out overnight, it was a little gloopy, but didn’t achieve a nice sourdough tinge like pre-made idli batter I’ve bought before… Due to the cooler climate here in the bay area, I let the batter ferment for about two days and eventually it acquired a faint pleasant sourdough aroma. I stirred it fairly regularly. I read in several sources that in climates cooler than the recipe’s native South India, you can turn on the oven light (NOT the oven) and leave the batter in the oven overnight to achieve good fermentation. According to my Australian source in the know, you can also add a dab of kefir or a pinch of yeast and a ½ teaspoon of yogurt to encourage fermentation if desired. Whatever you do, don’t use chlorinated water to grind your rice and urad dal, and if it gets a little “off” smelling, stir it. It is much like sourdough starter in this way. You can also add 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds to aid fermentation and add flavor. I added a teaspoon of nigella seeds for flavor this time.

tomatochutney.jpgpeanutchutney.jpgFor me, the idli itself is only half of the recipe. The chutneys used as filling and accompaniment are equally important, adding flavor and personality. Trader Joe’s tomato chutney is really good, but because it is produced in a factory that also produces wheat products, I’ve been trying to find a recipe to make it from scratch. I haven’t found the perfect recipe, but when I do, I will definitely blog about it. You can search for your own Chutney Recipe, if you like. Let me know if any are especially tasty. Although sometimes I make a cashew chutney, this time I made a Recipe for Peanut Chutney that I found online. It was delicious! Most nuts would probably work for this recipe, if you are allergic to peanuts.

Here are some additional recipes for idli:
A Sampling of South Indian Bread Recipes, with Photos
Idli Recipe
Carrot Idli Recipe
Spicy Idli Podi Accompaniment
Kerala Red Rice Idli

And if you are craving a sweet steamed rice pastry… try this Kerala ila ada and kozhukkatta Steamed rice sweet recipe from Live to Eat.

*note: rava usually refers to semolina cream of wheat, so be careful when ordering dosa or idli, or using “Rava” that it is not made of wheat.

idlibatter3.jpg idliwchutney.jpg coveredchutney.jpg idlistack2.jpg

Interested in my other gluten free Indian recipes? Check out my post for
masala potato filling

Pushpas Idli or Dosa Batter
Side Dish  Rice  Indian  
1 cup of Raw Rice (I used the non-traditional basmati)
3/4 cup of urad dal
Chlorine Free water (enough to make a rather thick batter)

optional seasonings:
1 tsp nigella
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
Un-iodized salt, to taste

Tomato chutney for filling
Mint, coconut, nut etc. chutney for dipping
Sambar soup for serving

Soak rice and seasonings (not including salt) in 3 cups of water for about eight hours and soak urad dal separately in 1 and half cup of water for about four hours. throw away the water in which rice and urad dal was soaked. Grind urad dal to make a thick paste with your chlorine free water, adding a little at a time. Add rice and grind again till both are mixed. The consistency should be similar to prepared idli batter found at your local Indian market. Add your salt, to taste. Keep the batter outside the refrigerator for 8 hours (or more if in cool climate). If it is cold, turn on the light to your oven and put the batter in the oven. If the batter starts to smell unpleasant, stir it. If needed, once it has fermented you can refrigerate the batter and use it as needed. Bring to room temperature before using.

To prepare your idli, spray an idli mold or egg poacher with non-stick cooking spray and fill it half full with batter. Then put a small amount of the chutney in the center of the batter. Cover the filling with batter. Then place the idli mold into your steamer and steam for 10-15 minutes, or until center is firm. Carefully cut around the idli with a sharp knife and remove to a wire rack to cool. Eat while warm or heat in microwave for 10 seconds when cold. You can freeze them or refrigerate with good results.

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