Indian cuisine offers an endless source of vegetarian snack recipes. This one is based on masala vada: patties or dumplings infused with spices and the fresh green of chili pepper, cilantro and sometimes mint, usually served with a savory coconut chutney. But this variation tastes great with just about any yogurt sauce; or, for Super Bowl snacking, serve with Manchurian Dip (see related recipe) or a mixture of yogurt and the barbecue sauce of your choice.
Channa dal (a.k.a. Bengal gram dal), curry leaves and asafetida, an assertive oniony-garlic ground spice, are available at Indian markets. Garlic powder can substitute for asafetida. Take the time to pat the soaked dal dry, and you'll be rewarded with hush puppies that absorb less oil.
The recipe can easily be cut in half.
Make Ahead: The hush puppies can be fried up to 4 days in advance, cooled and refrigerated. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.
Servings: 52 small balls
- 1 pound dried channa dal (split dried chickpeas; see headnote)
- 5 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 medium jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded if desired and coarsely chopped
- 2-inch piece peeled ginger root, finely grated (3 to 4 tablespoons)
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 to 4 ounces curry leaves (see headnote)
- Leaves from 1 bunch cilantro
- Leaves from 1 large bunch mint (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon asafetida (see headnote; may substitute garlic powder)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
Place the dal in a mixing bowl; cover with water by an inch. Let sit for 2 to 3 hours or up to overnight. Most of the water should be absorbed.
Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat to a temperature of 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels, then place a wire cooling rack on top. Meanwhile, drain the dal and spread on a baking sheet. Use paper towels to pat the dal thoroughly dry. Working in batches, process in a food processor to the consistency of a coarse paste. Return to the (now dry) mixing bowl.
Combine the jalapeno peppers, ginger, onion, curry leaves (to taste), cilantro and mint, if using, in the food processor; pulse to finely chop all the ingredients. Transfer to the bowl of dal paste, then add the fennel seeds, asafetida, ground turmeric and salt; mix to thoroughly incorporate.
With wet hands to prevent sticking, form the mixture into about 52 balls that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Carefully drop 7 or 8 at a time into the hot oil; cook for about 3 minutes, until they are evenly golden brown, turning the bobbing balls as needed. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer to the rack to drain. Repeat to fry all of the balls; you might need to adjust the heat or cook the balls for as long as 4 minutes.
Serve warm; or cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Serve at room temperature, or reheat before serving.
Adapted from a recipe by K.N. Vinod, chef at Indique Heights in Chevy Chase.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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