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Technique: Dahi Wada Lentil Fritters
By Maneet Chauhan of Vermilion – New York, NY
Chaat is a generic term for the variety of traditional Indian snacks served from a cart or stall, usually street-side. At Rohini Dey’s New York Latin-Indian fusion Vermilion, chaat have an upscale, playful incarnation, served straight from a street cart on the downstairs level of the restaurant. For their chaat, which combine fried dough, yogurt, spices, and chutneys, Dey and Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan use a variety of pungent, fragrant ingredients. Jalapeño and ginger are among the additions that give the lentil-based dahi wada an exotic heat, accented by a finishing sprinkle of red chili and balanced by sweet-tart touches of piquant tamarind chutney and creamy yogurt.
Chef Chauhan tops her dahi wada chaat with a smooth yogurt that has the consistency of heavy cream, which she livens up with a dusting of toasted cumin powder, chaat masala powder, and red chili powder. The traditional spice blend added to many kinds of chaat, chaat masala is integral to the chaat preparation. It’s subject to some geographic variation, much like garam masala, but it typically includes amchoor, or dried mango powder, lending an incomparable sweet tang. Cumin, coriander, ginger, red pepper, salt, black pepper, and kala namak are other traditional additions to chaat masala.
Mined exclusively in India, kala namak is a salt known for its characteristic pinkish-purple hue and powerful sulfurous aroma and flavor—not unlike the essence of hard boiled egg. Used sparingly in chaat masala, kala namak adds an unmistakable savory element to the flavor profile of the finished dish. Both amchoor and kala namak are two of the specialty Indian ingredients that Chef Chauhan incorporates into the Latin-Indian fusion cuisine of the restaurant menu—products, like many of Vermilion’s ingredients, with seasoning potential well beyond the realm of Indian cuisine.
Step One: Wash and drain the daal repeatedly to remove excess starch.
Step Two: Submerge daal completely in water and soak overnight.
Step Three: Drain soaked daal and grind into a paste in a food processor. Season the paste with salt and pepper.
Step Four: Heat frying oil. Fry spoonfuls of seasoned daal paste until golden brown.
Step Five: Remove daal from oil as they finish and briefly drain before submerging into cold water for 2 to 3 minutes.
Step Six: Remove from cold water and gently squeeze out any excess water.
Step Seven: Top daal with dahi, a seasoned yogurt, and a variety of chutneys and spices.
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Dahi Wada Lentil Fritters
Chef Maneet Chauhan of Vermilion – New York, NY
Adapted by StarChefs.com
1 cup white lentils (white urad daal)
1 quart plain unsweetened yogurt (dahi)
½ teaspoon grated ginger
Finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 to 2 green chilies, chopped
2 teaspoons roasted cumin (jeera)
Red chili powder Chaat masala
Assemble and Serve:
Chopped fresh cilantro
Clean, wash, and soak the daal overnight. Drain the daal and grind it into smooth paste. Add salt to taste. Heat oil in a pan and drop spoonfuls of daal batter into the oil, frying until golden brown. Remove the fritters, or wadas, from the oil, drain briefly, and submerge in cold water for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove wadas from the water, gently squeeze the water out and chill in refrigerator.
Blend the yogurt with a little water until it is smooth. Keep that mixture in the refrigerator for an hour to chill. Add salt, red chili powder, cumin powder, and chaat masala. Chill in refrigerator.
To Assemble and Serve:
In a deep dish, arrange wadas and pour dahi over them. Add the tamarind and cilantro-mint chutneys. Garnish with the cilantro. Serve the dahi wadas chilled.
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