There seems to be much of a buzz (and a fuss) in the Middle East over the popular street snack Falafel that has found its way into every city and almost every street corner coffee shop, including in Oman. This deep fried fast food, made from ground chickpeas, fresh herbs and spices, can be enjoyed by itself or used as a filling/stuffing for a variety of wraps and rolls.
Said to have originated in Egypt (wherein Coptic Christians found a replacement for meat during the Lenten season of fasting and abstinence), Falafel, soon caught up as a popular vegan food throughout the Middle East. In fact, it enjoys the same status as the American ‘Hotdog’ or the Indian ‘Vadapav’.
On the other hand, fritters made of ground lentils have existed as an age-old snack in sourthern India, known as Dal Vada. Made from coarsely ground chana dal (derived from brown chickpeas that have been husked and split), this deep fried snack is called Parippu Vada in Malayalam and Paruppu Vadai in Tamil – paripppu/paruppu meaning lentils. Dal Vada is much more crispy than Falafel, though both make an ideal tea-time snack.
The key difference between the two is that Falafel is prepared from finely ground chickpeas combined with herbs and spices while Dal Vada is prepared from coarsely ground lentils combined with onions and spices. Both are routinely prepared and sold in coffee shops in Oman, but here’s how to make them at home:
2 cups dried chickpeas (soaked overnight)
½tsp baking soda
1 cup parsley leaves – chopped
¾ cup fresh cilantro leaves – chopped
½ cup fresh dill – chopped
1 onion – quartered
7-8 garlic cloves
Salt – to taste
1tbsp ground black pepper
1tbsp ground cumin
1tbsp coriander powder
1tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp baking powder
2tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Oil for deep frying
Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl of water, add the baking soda to it. In the morning drain and pat dry. Add the chickpeas, herbs, onions, garlic and spices to the large bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Combine well to form a smooth mixture. Transfer the falafel mixture to a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Just before frying, add the baking powder and sesame seeds, and stir with a spoon. Scoop tablespoonfuls of the mixture and form into small, round pellets with wet hands. (Special spoons for scooping falafel are available). Heat oil for deep frying in a wok and when steaming hot, drop in the pellets in batches so as to allow even frying on all sides. When golden brown, remove onto paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve hot as a snack or assemble in pita bread along with lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices and enjoy with tahini/hummus and ketchup
1 cup chana dal – soaked for 3 hours
2 small onions – sliced fine
2tsp minced ginger
2 green chillies – minced
10-12 curry leaves – chopped
Small bunch of coriander leaves – chopped
Salt – to taste
Oil for deep frying
Drain the soaked lentils and coarsely grind them in a blender or mixer without adding any water. Leave around 2-3tsp of soaked dal whole and add to the ground mixture. If grinding without water is difficult, add just 1or 2tbsp water. Remove mixture to a large bowl, add chopped onions, ginger, green chilies, curry leaves and coriander leaves. Season with salt. Mix well and make small or medium sized balls from the mixture. Flatten them slightly and place them on a plate.
Heat oil for deep frying in a wok. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small portion of the mixture in it. If it rises steadily, the oil is hot enough. Now slide the prepared vadas, one by one, in the hot oil and fry them till golden brown on all sides. When the onions on the crust look golden, that’s the right time to remove them onto paper towels. Serve hot with coconut chutney or tomato ketchup.
Dal Vada Tips