Kumaoni Bada, as we Kumaoni pronounce it, is a crispy, flavoursome, gluten free split black urad dal fritter. Traditionally, the soaked split urad dal is ground in a stone mortar and pestle to get the fine paste for the vada. Then whisked manually till it is light and airy, perfect to make vada. Seasoned with plenty of fresh coriander, green chilli, turmeric, red chilli and a generous amount of asafoetida to get the sought after taste of the vada.
Many might argue that Kumaoni Bada Recipe is no different from Medu Vada or for saying any other Vada Recipe. And they are not totally wrong when comparing the two recipes, as the process of making is almost similar. Also, the medieval period saw an influx of high-caste migrants into the Himalayan foothills from Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bengal and other parts of India. Each brought with them a treasure of food heritage from their native region. With time, all these distinctive food cultures blended with the local Kumaoni cuisine. Hence, you could find traces of other regional cuisines in the Kumaoni Cuisine.
The Bada is a quintessential part of Kumaoni ceremonious food. Whether it is our harvesting festival ‘Harela’, Hindu New Year ‘Sankranti’, the month of ‘Shradh’ or auspicious affair like welcoming newly born in the family, on each occasion Bada (Vada) graces the festive food platter. The ladies of the house are responsible for making the Bada and then offering the first five pieces of it to the deity of the family.
For years, I have watched my mother, aunts and great-grandmother grind dal for the vada in a hefty stone mortar and pestle. It was not the time when electric mixers were new to Indian kitchens. We were also having one in our kitchen, proudly standing at one corner, bought with so much trouble from an army canteen. But my great grandmother believed that grinding dal in a stone mortar add to the taste of the vada. And the ladies of the next generation in the house second her thought.
A few years back only my mother started using a mixer for grinding vada dal. She is not happy about it but with passing age grinding dal manually is an uphill task. This is how slowly modernity creeping into her conventional Kumaoni kitchen via these electric gadgets. The taste of Bada made with dal ground in a mixer, whisked with hand blender could not be compared with the one laced with hours of hard work. Still, it is good to see the tradition of making Bada on every important Kumaoni affair has not died yet.
Learn how to make Kumaoni Bada in few simple steps:
Kumaoni Bada Recipe (Chilka Urad Dal Vada)
- 1 Cup split black urad dal chilka urad
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 - 2 green chili fine chopped
- half a bunch of coriander finely chopped
- Mustard oil to deep fry the vadas
- Salt to taste
- To make the Kumaoni Bada, rinse and soak dal overnight in enough water or for at-leat 6 hours.
- Next morning you will notice the the black peel of the dal start leaving the white skin underneath.
- Rub the dal in small batches in between your palms to remove the black peel. Each time drain the black peel.
- After 2 - 3 times you will end up with majorly white skinned dal with few black peel here and there.
- Let the dal sit in colander for 10 - 15 minutes for excess water to drain off.
- Now grind the dal in small batches in the mixer. Make sure not to use any water while grinding the dal.
- To get the smooth paste you need to stir the dal few times while grinding. Grind, turn off the mixer, stir and then grind. Repeat the process till you get thick, smooth dal paste.
- Transfer to a clean, large bowl.
- The trick to make crisp, fluffy vada is to whisk the dal till it is light and airy.
- You can whisk the dal using electric hand blender or manually. The traditional way it is done manually. A continuous whisking of 10 - 15 is good enough to incorporate air in the dal.
- Add hing, chopped coriander, green chili, spices and salt in the dal paste. Stir to combine.
- Heat mustard oil in a wide deep frying pan over medium heat.
- To shape the vadas, keep water in a small bowl next to dal paste.
- Soak your fingers of both the hands in water and pinch a lemon size portion of dal paste. Hold it over your one hand fingers and flatten it using the other hand wet fingers.
- Make a hole in the centre of the flattened vada.
- Gently slip it on to the pan of hot oil to deep fry. For safety reasons, it is best to slide the shaped vada from the sides of the pan.
- Deep fry the vada over medium high heat till deep golden, crisp from both the sides.
- Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towel. Serve Kumaoni Bada warm.