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Vadai and Donuts

Vadai is an extremely popular snack of the Tamils. According to food historian K. T. Achaya, Vadai (vada) was popular among ancient Tamils between 100 BCE – 300 CE.

In Tamil areas, the daytime is a little longer as there is no winter season. Hence the afternoon, snacks with tea or coffee is an age-old tradition.

Roadside kiosks and cafes will become active by around 4 pm and people will have Vadai as their favorite snack.

A Masala Vadai with coconut sambal, a small banana, and a plain tea is my favorite afternoon tiffin.

There are two types: Medu Vadai or Soft Vadai, usually made of urad dhal (black gram) and the other one is not so soft, Paruppu Vadai, usually made of Chana dhal (split chickpea). Vadai is a non-sweet snack. Many varieties are there: Spinach Vadai, Sambar Vadai, Yogurt Vadai, Rasam Vadai, etc.

There are hardly any Tamil functions without this popular snack. There are non-veg Vadai too: Prawn Vadai is a very popular street snack.

Prawn (Masala) Vadai – A popular non-veg Vadai

Like the ketchup or chili sauces for the potato fries, there are many that go well with Vadai. Sambol, Chutney, Sambar to name a few.

People travel miles to go and taste the Vadai from well-known chefs.

In North West London a Tamil man acquired an ailing pub and all he did was, served a Paruppu Vadai (Masala Vadai) free for every pint bought. The Pub is doing well now, recording more sales of the Vadai than the pints.

Pint and Paruppu Vadai – My favorite

Do you know the history of donuts (doughnuts)?

It is said that the Dutch settlers introduced them in New Amsterdam in 1621, and from New York, it came back to the U.K. and Europe. So it is clear they didn’t take the recipe from Netherland.

However, the untold fact was that the Dutch East India Company (established on March 20, 1602 ) was active in the Tamil areas since 1608, so do(ugh)nuts was an impression of Vadai.

Dutch who started their trading activities with the Tamils by 1608, replaced the Portuguese in one of the two Tamil habitats by 1640. Like the Portuguese, the new colonial masters, the Dutch too developed the Curry further with the natives of it, the Tamils.

Remember the Portuguese and Dutch were with the Tamils, in one of their two traditional habitats, at least 300 years earlier than the British colonization began. This has never been told before to understand the history of curry clearly and I discussed this in my book in great detail.

Lumpirst (Lump Rice) is the Dutch – Tamil answer to Persian Biriyani that was introduced into the Indian subcontinent by Islamic rulers (Mogul).
Sambal which is NOT known or popular in the Indian sub-continent is a Dutch – Tamil development and extremely popular throughout the former Dutch colonies: Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Even though the popular chain Nandos, says that their flagship sauce, Peri-Peri sauce is Portuguese, I have reasons to say, it is in fact Dutch. I have discussed this in my forthcoming book. Peri-Peri (also known as Piri-Piri) is an extension of the Dutch – Tamil, Sambal (also known as Sambol). Remember that South Africa too was a Dutch colony and not of Portuguese. Nandos chain is of South African origin.

The Dutch settlers in America’s New Amsterdam (New York now) could not have access to the Urid dhal needed for the Vadai and so they must have used wheat flour instead with the same recipe but came out with a sweet snack called donuts.

Which is a healthy option?

Obviously, the Vadai because it’s made using exclusively healthy and nutritious urad dhal (black gram). On the other hand, a doughnut is a wheat-based sweet snack, very high in sugar.

The war declared against sweet drinks and foods by the governments worldwide, especially in the UK, has already sent some messages to donut markets. The market response may be the non-sweet Vadai of the Tamils!

However, both are deep-fried in oil.


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