Recipe: masala vadai

These masala vadai are a very popular snack in Sri Lanka and south India.
Aaron McLean

These masala vadai are a very popular snack in Sri Lanka and south India.

Amutha Kugatheesan, who is from Sri Lanka, joined the WISE Collective in 2014 and began selling her delicious masala vadai at the New Lynn Night Market, where they were a hit. Amutha has now passed the stall on to another Sri Lankan woman, as she has a job as a tutor with HIPPY (Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters).


Makes about 25 / Preparation 20 minutes plus soaking time / Cooking 15 minutes


2½ cups yellow split peas

8 cloves garlic

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup curry leaves, roughly chopped

½ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped

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1 teaspoon fennel seeds

3-4 teaspoons chilli flakes (depending on how hot you like it)

Vegetable oil for frying

Thinly sliced red onion and coriander leaves to garnish

Cover the split peas with cold water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse well. Put ¼ of the split peas in a bowl. In batches, blitz the remaining split peas with the garlic to a slightly coarse paste. Add to the bowl with the whole split peas along with the onion, salt, curry leaves, coriander leaves, fennel seeds and chilli flakes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Shape the mix into patties about 1cm thick.

Fill a saucepan with about 5cm oil and heat to 160°C. Cook a few vadai at a time for around 4-5 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Serve on a platter, garnishing with red onion and coriander leaves, with the coconut chutney on the side.


1 green chilli

1 tablespoon roasted bengal gram*

3 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoon tamarind puree

¼ coconut, flesh roughly chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon urad dhal (split black lentils)*

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

¼ cup curry leaves

1-2 dried red chillies (optional)

Toast 1 teaspoon of the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant. In a blender or food processor, blend together the chilli, gram and toasted cumin, add the tamarind puree and coconut and blend with some salt and enough water to make a smooth paste. Put into a serving dish. 

Just before serving, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the urad dhal, mustard seeds, remaining 2 teaspoons cumin seeds and the dried chillies, if using, and cook for a minute or so until the seeds have started popping and are fragrant. Spoon this over the coconut chutney and serve with the vadai. 

*Available at Indian food stores

 - Cuisine

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