Sabudana Vada are treasured potato and tapioca pearl fritters from Maharashtra, India. The crispy, golden vadas are a popular choice for fasting (upvas/vrat) but can be enjoyed at any time. They’re vegan, free from onions and garlic and can be suitable for a gluten-free diet. Serve them alongside your favourite chutney and masala chai.
Tapioca often gets a bad rap but forget what you know about milky school dinner puddings. These soft-centered fritters and packed full of flavour and have the most snackable bubbly exterior.
I have such wonderful memories of snacking on these delicious vadas when my mother had Hindu fasting days. She would make them for the whole family and although I didn’t observe my first fast until I was a teen, I still loved eating all the carb-rich dishes. In fact, I still cook them often, despite the fact that I no longer observe fasts.
Tapioca pearls (sabudana or साबूदाना in Hindi) are made from the starch extracted from cassava root. They’re popular in a number of cuisines, but are a staple fasting ingredient across India. You can buy them in a number of different sizes. I’ve opted for medium-sized pearls in my recipe, about 2mm round. They are rich in carbohydrates and are known to give a quick boost of energy during fasts.
These vadas are naturally vegan and can be made gluten free by using a GF baking powder blend.
These Sabudana Vada are best when deep fried. For a crisp, evenly cooked vada, deep frying is best. Baking and air frying tends to leave these vadas tasting undercooked on the inside and hard on the outside rather than puffy, crispy on the outside and soft-centered. I recommend deep frying for this recipe.
If you’d like to prepare these Sabudana Vada ahead of time, store the formed patties in the fridge (covered) for up to 48 hours.
To prepare Sabudana Vada for freezing, fry the vadas according to the recipe instructions, stopping to remove them from the oil at the 2 minute mark. They will be light brown in colour but 70% cooked through. Allow to cool and then pack into a freezer-safe container, placing baking parchment between each layer if stacking the vadas inside. This will stop them from sticking together. Freeze for up to 3 months. Fry straight from frozen at 175C/350F until piping hot and golden all over, about 3-4 minutes.
You certainly can.
For the purposes of binding. Combined with the baking powder, they provide a delicate puffiness to these vadas. Delicious!
If you’re not fasting, you can replace with 2 tbsp rice flour.
Time needed: 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Follow these simple steps to make deliciously-crisp Sabudana Vada at home.
Wash the potatoes and prick the skins all over with a fork. Cook the potatoes either in the microwave, bake in the oven or steam until tender. Don’t boil the potatoes as this will invite water in and affect the texture of the vadas. I microwaved mine for 12 minutes on high power. Once cooked through, allow the potatoes to cool slightly and then peel off the skins. Place the still warm potatoes in a bowl and mash until smooth. Set aside.
Place the tapioca pearls in a bowl and wash briefly in cold water. Drain. Next, add just enough boiling water to cover. Allow to soak for 10-15 minutes until the pearls still hold their shape but break if you press one between your index finger and thumb. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Allow any excess water to drain away. Set the tapioca pearls aside.
To the potato mixture add the ground peanuts, ginger, chillies, lemon juice, salt, sugar, cumin seeds, black pepper, potato starch (or instant mashed potato), baking powder and fresh coriander. Mix until everything is well incorporated — your hands are the best tool for this.
Next, add the drained tapioca pearls and gently fold into the spiced potato mixture. Take care not to break the tapioca pearls.
Wet your hands with water and using an ice cream scoop or spoon, take some of the potato mixture into your hands. Roll into a ball and flatten slightly between your palms. Place onto a plate or baking tray. Repeat for the remainder of the mixture.
Heat enough oil for deep frying in a large pan or wok. Once the oil temperature reaches 175C/350F, the oil is ready for frying. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, test the oil by frying a cube of bread — if it turns golden brown in 25 seconds, the oil is hot enough. These vadas need to be fried at a relatively low temperature. Carefully slide 3-4 vadas into the oil, depending on the size of the pan. Take care not to overcrowd the oil to avoid a sudden temperature drop. Fry the vadas, turning often for 4-5 minutes per batch, until golden brown all over. Remove from the oil with a perforated spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Serve the Sabudana Vada hot with lemon wedges, fried chillies and your favourite chutney.
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