1plantcoriander leaves(cilantro) (I have used homegrown culantro in place of cilantro as coriander leaves were not readily available)
For the garnish (optional):
To prepare the batter for the vada:
Soak the black gram lentils in water for an hour. Wash and drain.
Put the lentils, the green chilies, the ginger, the asafoetida powder, the curry leaves, the salt, and the water into your food processor and grind to thick, fluffy, superfine paste (take care not to use any more water than specified as you do not want a runny paste). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
To prepare the masala curd:
Wash the jar of your wet grinder thoroughly to get rid of any remnants of the vada batter.
Tip in the curd, the grated coconut, the green chilies, the ginger, half of the curry leaves and the salt. Grind for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
Set a skillet on low heat. Tip in the coconut oil and the mustard seeds.
As soon as the mustard seeds are about to finish spluttering, tip in the asafoetida powder. Quickly pull the leaves off the remaining curry leaf sprigs and throw them in. Stir once and switch off the heat.
Empty the contents of the skillet into the bowl containing the masala curd. Chop the coriander leaves and tip them in.
Set a wok or deep frying pan on high heat. Pour in the cooking oil. Keep a little bowl of water nearby.
As soon as the oil is hot, dip your fingers in the water (or you can use a tablespoon), scoop up a small portion of the batter and release it gently into the hot oil.
Remember to moisten your fingertips(or the spoon) after each release so that the batter does not stick to your fingers (or the spoon), but slips neatly into the oil. Carry on with the scooping and releasing, but take care not to overcrowd the wok.
Fry for three minutes while turning the vadas frequently.
The vadas will become crips and golden brown on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside. Lift out the vadas and drain off the excess oil.
To soak the vadas:
Put each batch of hot vadas directly into the masala curd. Let them soak in the curd for at least 30 minutes, and do remember to turn them once in between so that they soak in the delicious masala curd uniformly.
Garnish with pomegranate seeds (optional) and enjoy! You will feel like having them with every meal!
Vegans, please have freshly deep-fried vadas with green mint chutney, avoiding the masala curd entirely. You will be delighted!