Vada sambhar

  • Servings : 20
  • Prep Time : 20m
  • Cook Time : 20m
  • Ready In : 7:00 h

Vada sambhar. The mere mention of the word takes me back to Mumbai, with its numerous Udipi restaurants, each of them famous for its idlis-vadas, dosa, sambhars  and the intoxicating aroma of filter coffee. Endless cups of it too.

There was one restaurant near my college, that I specially recall- called Mani’s, which was always overcrowded. Its USP was simple. They  topped up the sambhar and chutney constantly, obviously an inexpensive startegy that made them immensely popular with all the hungry college goers, who practically lived in the libraries and looked forward to a yum but inexpensive meal/ snack.

Vadas are fairly simple to make, if you don’t mind the soaking, grinding and frying that is. But suffer it, and you will be rewarded with such an amazing meal. Its a good recipe to learn, specially if you are not living in India or don’t have any good South Indian restaurants to go to.


For the Vadas-
Split Urad Dal (skinless black gram lentil)- 1 1/2 cup
Ginger (freshly grated)- 1-2 tbsp
Asafoetida- 1/4 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp (optional)Salt- to taste

Oil for Deep Frying



1. Wash the urad dal in several rinses of water till the water runs clean. Leave for 4-6 hours to soak, or at least overnight. A good test is to try and break the urad dal with your fingernails, and if they give, then you now that they are soft and ready to be ground.

2. Drain the  water completely and grind the soaked dal in a food processor/ blender/ mixer with the rest of the ingredients with the exception of the baking soda.

Go easy on the water that you add for grinding and try and restrict to about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, just enough so that your mixie does not give up 🙂

The point is that you need a thick airy paste not a thin watery one to get spongy vadas.

3. Add baking soda and whisk the paste vigorously ensuring that the mixture os properly aired and keeps the batter light.


4. Heat about 3/4 litre of oil in a large wok.

5. With your hand/ spoon drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture into the oil when it is hot. A good test to check if the oil is hot, is to drop a drop of the batter into the oil. If it is hot, it will rise up almost instantaneously.

It is a good idea to wet your palms before handling the mixture.


Fry until its golden brown in colour. In about 2-3 minutes, flip the vada over and fry till golden brown on the other side.


Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.

  • At this stage, you could either freeze the vadas for another day.
  • The batter also can be frozen for use and stays good for a few months.
  • Just remember to add in the baking soda and whisking thoroughly before frying the vadas.


For the sambhar:


Toor dal- 1 cup

Water – 2 cups

Turmeric- 1/2 tsp

Garlic- 1 clove, smashed ( optional)

Sambhar masala- 1-2 tsp

Tamarind juice/ pulp- 1/4 tsp

Onion- 1/4 cup chopped(optional)

Tomatoes- 2 finely chopped( about 1/2 cup)

Mixed vegetables- 1/4 cup ( potatoes, beans, cauliflower, aubergine)

Hot water- 1 cup


For the tempering:

Oil- 1-2 tsp

Mustard seeds- 1 tsp

Curry leaves- 10

Dry red chillies- 2

Asafoetida( hing)- 1 pinch


Cook the toor dal in the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water until soft.

In another pan, heat 1-2 tsp oil. Fry the onions and tomatoes. Add in the garlic. Fry for 2 minutes.

Add in the rest of the vegetables and boil until cooked.

Add in the tamarind juice, hot water, turmeric powder, sambhar powder, salt. Add in the cooked dal.

For the tempering

In a separate pan, heat 2 tsp of oil.

When hot, add the mustard seeds, chillies, curry leaves and hing in rapid succession.

Pour over the sambhar that is cooking. Adjust the salt and chilli to taste.

If too thick, add in hot water as required. Let boil for 5-7 minutes before serving.


Serve with the vadas dunked in the sambhar with green chutney on the side.

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