April 11, 2012

Our very own Falafel – Chana dal vada aka “Piaji”

As we sinked into our homey seats at the popular Mediterranean restaurant last weekend, it took us almost no time to agree upon falafel as appetizer. Just about then, it struck that irrespective of different tastes and disposition towards food almost everyone loves falafel. It’s undoubtedly the perfect starter which doubles up even as an entrée as a delish Falafel wrap. For those very few of you who might want an introduction, falafel refers to Middle eastern seasoned fritters made with chick peas and/or Fava beans. One bite into the crispy goodness and I had that Aha! moment wherein it actually dawned upon me as to how very similar it is to our chana dal fritters or “Piaji” as it is known in Odia. The mere mention of “piaji” almost instantly transports me to the rainy, stormy evenings that turned fragrant with these fresh out of the oil, crisp, spicy and completely wholesome fritters accompanied with puffed rice and onions marinated with lemon juice and green chilies. It wasn’t the first time I had pondered on its semblance to falafel, but now I definitely had the opportunity to express it.

Well that was it – I had to make an attempt and offer up the recipe for trial to all of you. So, this post is dedicated to our very own desi version of the mouth tantalizing appetizer – “ Piaji ” or the Chana Dal fritter. Isn’t it lovely to find similarities in cuisines of lands demarcated by man made borders and so-called politics which meld together in the history that food shares. It further substantiates the fact that probably we have very similar origins but have diversified in different directions keeping with us the basic originality.

                                      "Piaji" or  Chana dal fritters

In Odisha, "Piaji" basically refers to chana dal fritters seasoned with chopped onion and spices. Onion is added in more quantity as referred by the name “Piaji” which derives itself from the Odia word “Piaja” for onion.  

½  cup Chana dal or Bengal gram
4 cloves of garlic
2-3 Red chillies
1/4th tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Pinch (1/8th tsp) of sugar
Pinch (1/8th tsp) of Ajwain/Carom seeds
½ onion 
Bunch of mint leaves
2 Green chilies
Oil for frying

For the dipping:
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
½ Green chili
1 tbsp Cilantro
Salt to taste
Pinch of black salt
Pinch of sugar

For Chana dal fritters:
1. Soak the chana dal for about an hour. Chana dal puffs up almost to about double its size.
2.Thoroughly drain out water from the dal and grind it coarsely along with garlic and red chilies.Mix in baking soda, salt, ajwain and turmeric to the batter and keep aside.Tip: Almost immediately after adding the baking soda, the batter lightens up and is noticeable while mixing. 
3.Chop onion, green chilies and mint and keep it separate. In the meantime, heat up the oil over medium heat.
4. Mix in the chopped onion, green chilies and mint to the batter immediately before frying.Tip: This ensures that the batter does not become too watery that may cause the fritters to break apart.
5. Make up small round balls, flatten them and fry till golden brown   

For the dipping:
Make a coarse paste of cilantro and green chili and add it to the yogurt along with salt, black salt and sugar. Mix and serve chilled.

One very interesting fact I came along while inquiring about Chana dal or Bengal gram dal is that it’s a close relative of chick peas / garbanzo beans , only more sweeter, younger and with a lower glycemic index which doubles up the nutritive value. Bengal gram dal can very easily be substituted in a lot of recipes that call for garbanzo beans and it can be instantly used without having to be soaked unlike its sibling. 
I leave you now with this tit-bit hoping that you have liked and are itching to try this crunchy munchie!
Good luck!

P.s : I am submitting this post to -
"Warm foods to beat the rain" hosted by The Pumpkin farm and Srivalli.
- "Desi Vidheshi food fest" hosted by Kalyani
" Dish it out – Lentils and Garlic and Vardhini’s page"
- " Kid friendly dishes" hosted by Vardhini of Cook's joy.


  1. Wow..wonderful tea time snack..thanks for linking this to my event. You have linked under both countries, though I have published yours under Indian, if you are not residing in India or you dont have Indian residence address, do let me know and I will change.

  2. Hi Raji! I do have an Indian address though I currently live in LA. That works though. Thanks :)

  3. Perfect tea time snack. My kids love vadai. Thx for linking.


  4. Absolutely my pleasure Vardhini! :)

  5. Delicious vada, perfect with tea. Picture looks so good and thanks for send this recipe to my event.

    Kitchen Chronicles ~ Heirloom Recipes

  6. wow..perfect vadas..love them.. beautiful clicks :)

    My first visit to your beautiful space here and I love it.. following you already.

    1. Thanks a lot Bindu :) I am glad you like it!

  7. That looks delicious...tempting!

  8. Nice one.. Thanks Linking @ "EP Series - Mint & Coriander":)
    Ongoing event
    "EP Series - Mint & Coriander"
    "Let's Party-Breakfast"

  9. This is my all time favorite !! looks so crispy and nice tasty snack !! Thanks for linking to the event!! Appreciate it :)

    Ongoing event CC:Mom’s Recipe

    1. I love it too..this is my most favorite tea time crunchy-munchy :)

  10. Haven't eaten Piaji but it really looks delicious! I'd probably try it this weekend. Plus I would add some more of turmeric spice. :P

    1. hahah yeah you could definitely add some more turmeric if you want ;) let me know how it turns out :)

  11. Absolute fav in my house! We all love the daal vada.. Thnx for linking it up.

  12. Brilliant and the photographs are awesome as well

  13. thanks for linking. Pl update the post to the event announcement logo also.


  14. perfect with tea or coffee!!! Thanks for linking it to my event!! Looking for more yummy recipes!!
    Ongoing Event - Tried and Tasted - Raks Kitchen
    Ongoing Event - Know Your Dairy - Cheese
    Ongoing Event - Dish it out - Lentils & Garlic
    Ongoing Event - What is with my Cuppa


Each kind, encouraging word gives me the impetus to put more into this space, so thanks a lot for browsing through and stopping by to say a word! :)