Picnic Time with Ulundhu Vadai
I do enjoy living in a temperate environment with four distinct seasons. Each season has something unique and interesting to offer. Spring is fresh and exciting with renewal and rebirth. Long carefree summer days with a myriad of outdoor activities are just the things to look forward to. When we tire of those activities, the season changes and we can enjoy the beautiful fall colors and comfort foods. Finally, in the winter we get to spend some time to work on our indoor hobbies but one is not totally home-bound. There is still much that can be done outdoors like skiing, snow shoeing, and ice skating.
Summer is just round the corner and a good way to enjoy the great outdoors with the family is to go cycling and have a picnic. When the boys were little, we would attach a tandem to Ro-Ri San’s bike and a buggy to mine. The buggy had enough room for the boys as well as the picnic basket. The tandem was for the kid who would like to paddle along with daddy. It was not only fun but also a good workout for the adults. The boys had plenty of snacks from the picnic basket.
Way back when I was kid, our picnic was very different. We did not have a fancy picnic basket like this one. Mom would pack up everything in plastic containers and all kinds of plastic bags. These were loaded into the boot. No, not the shoe but the trunk of the car. I have no idea why the trunk is called the boot. Please ask the British. In case you are wondering, the other end is known as the bonnet.
I remember the trips to the zoo in that hot humid weather getting stung by mosquitoes. I guess my brothers and I needed a proper education on wild animals. We did the same with our boys. Our favorite was of course the white sandy beaches of Port Dickson. In the old days before the big hotels, Dad could drive right up to the beach with the boot facing the ocean and we would have our picnic by the car (aka tail-gating party in American speak). It was most convenient. We even had music from the cartridge player. Remember those? Ancient! They preceded cassettes and were called eight-tracks in America. Some of the picnic goodies we had were similar to the ones shown below. Just click on the picture to get to the post.
Why all this talk about picnic when it is still chilly outside? This month’s theme for World on a Plate is PICNIC and we have decided to prepare foods that are portable and can be eaten without utensils. This time I am sharing a dish from the Indian community in Malaysia. Medhu vadai or Ulundhu vadai are very popular and can be found at most Indian eateries together with roti canai, murtabak, dosai, puri, chappati, and idli. These doughnut-like lentil snacks are softer and more dough-like than their crunchy cousin known simply as vadai. They are usually eaten with coconut chutney and can be quite filling. These portable delights are perfect for picnics as they are delicious eaten warm or at room temperature.
This ulundhu vadai is made with urad dal also known as black gram or ulundhu in Tamil. Urad dal has a black skin but a creamy white flesh. It should be soaked for several hours before being ground into a paste.
Although ground dal has a very sticky texture, it is really easy to work with. It just binds together during cooking, leaving the oil clean and free of crumbs.
- 1 cup (200g) urad dal
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
- ½-inch knob ginger, minced
- 1 sprig curry leaves, finely sliced
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 1 tsp salt
- Canola oil for deep frying
Wash and soak urad dal for at least 2 hours. Drain and place in a food processor. Process until dal becomes a fine paste adding just a tablespoon of water if necessary. Remove and place dal paste into a large bowl.
Add jalapeno pepper, ginger, curry leaves, cumin, and salt. Mix well with a spatula until well combined.
Heat oil in a deep pan. Wet your hands. Place a rounded tablespoon of dal mixture on your palm. Shape into a disk about 3 inches (7.5cm) in diameter. Make a hole in the center with your finger.
Gently slide into hot oil and fry turning once, until golden brown. This should take about 3 minutes. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to fry in 2 or 3 batches. Remove and drain in paper towels. Repeat until all dal mixture is used up.
Serve warm or at room temperature on its own or with coconut chutney.
You can still enjoy tea when on a picnic. Just bring a flask of hot water and a few teabags.
Now, make yourself a cup of chai and grab an ulundhu vadai. Have a bite!
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!