Sambar Vada (fried Dumplings Dunked In Lentil Curry)

Vada is not something I make usually. I always think it is not worth the effort and all that oil that goes into the pan gives me a guilt ride. So I rather have it outside. But then when I have family or friends over especially people with sensitive tummy like my sis or brother-in-law I make the fried stuff at home. Dahi vada or vada is more popular than the sambar vadas but I love sambar vada and rasam vada to dahi vada. It is easy to do this on days you have leftover sambar from previous day. It is then easy to plan this for the next day morning breakfast or evening snack. I always felt sambar and rasam tasted better a day or two later. For sambar vada however we don't need all those veggies so I make sambar vadas when I make shallot sambar also known as ulli sambar. Back in my hostel mess the chef once told me whenever the planned for sambar idli or sambar vada, they just prepared a sambar with tomatoes and lentils so it thickened the gravy. I have tried the shallot sambar here. The mashed shallots again add thickness to the gravy.

Ingredients: 
Urad dal- 3 cups
Peppercorn- 3 tsp
Onion- 1
Ginger- 1 inch piece
Curry leaves- 3 sprig
Green chilies- 4
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Toor dal- 1 cup
Shallots- 100 g
Tomatoes- 2
Sambar powder- 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - for frying + 2 tbsp
Tamarind- size of a lemon ball
Dry chilies- 3
Mustard seeds- 2 tsp
Water- 1 cup + 3 tbsp
Directions: 
To prepare the sambar, first soak the shallots in a bowl with water up to the top. This is to aid in peeling their skin off easily.
Wash and clean the shallots after 30 minutes. Once the skins are removed pressure cook the shallots with the dal and tomatoes in 1 cup water up to 2 whistles.
Soak the tamarind in 3 tbsp warm water to extract the essence from the tamarind.
Heat 2tbsp oil in a frying pan and add the dry chilies and mustard seeds. When the mustard splutters add 1 sprig of curry leaves.
After frying the curry leaves for a minute add the sambar powder and saute till the raw smell goes away. Add this tempering to the pressure cooked dal and shallots.
Add the tamarind extract. Pass the tamarind extract through a sieve to avoid the seeds from falling into the sambar. Add salt and bring the sambar to simmer.
Set the sambar aside. If you plan to make the sambar exclusively for the vada prepare the sambar side by side with the vadas and serve warmly.
For the vadas soak the urad dal for 1 hour. Grind the dal with 2 tbsp water and salt. The water should be just sufficient to grind the batter smoothly.
Finely chop the onion, ginger, green chilies and 2 sprigs of curry leaves.
Add all the chopped ingredients along with peppercorns to the ground urad dal batter.
Heat oil in a pan and start shaping the vadas. I use small 4 cm square sheets of plastic to shape the vadas.
Wet your hands and scoop out a little batter. Place it onto the plastic sheet and make a disc like shape.
Make a hole in the centre it should now look like a doughnut. Drop the vada carefully into the oil from the plastic sheet.
Fry over medium heat till the vada is golden brown. Drain the vada from excess oil and dunk it into a bowl filled with piping hot sambar.
Add a spoonful of ghee and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. I did not do this step but it is done on festivals and special occasions.