Vegetarian Delights of NYC: Dahi Vada

Lentil fritters do the backstroke in a pool of yogurtEXPAND
Lentil fritters do the backstroke in a pool of yogurt

Whether you call it a doughnut, a fritter, a hush puppy, or a vada, pretty much everyone agrees that if you deep-fry it, it has a good shot at being delicious. Vadas ("wadas") are savory, spiced Indian doughnut of South Indian origin that are now commonly crunched on as far north as Maharashtra. To fashion a vada, you soak lentils and rice in water, drain, grind, add seasonings like green chiles and mustard seeds, form the mixture into rings or patties, and fry till crisp.

One of the most delicious ways to eat a vada is in dahi vada--the fritters swimming in a bowl of yogurt. It works best when the vadas are well spiced, and the yogurt is also seasoned with more green chiles, curry leaves, and maybe some chutney. That way, the yogurt adds richness and each bite finds a balance among creamy-crisp-hot-pungent.

Yesterday, Dosa Place produced a beautifully crisp, lacy rava dosa, made with semolina flour. But its dahi vada was under-spiced: No mustard seeds, chiles, or curry leaves in the doughnut, and only a sweet tamarind chutney to augment the yogurt. It was too sweet and not a great example of the dish.

Try dahi vada at Dosa Garden in Staten Island instead. Or maybe you have a favorite spot for vadas that you can reveal in the comments.

Dosa Place 35-66 73rd Street, Jackson Heights 718-397-1000

Dosa Garden 323 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island 718-420-0919

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