Dahi Bhalle (Soaked Urad Dal fritters in spiced yogurt for the uninitiated!) have been almost always been a part of special dinners in my parent’s home. My mother made them look so easy to prepare every time. They were always there next to spicy tadka gobhi, Kadhai paneer and creamy Dal makhni on the spread.
It wasn’t until the Holi of 2015 that I was on my own in Dubai and terribly homesick that I tried my hand at making Dahi bhalle. And they turned out great! Years of watching and helping my mother make Dahi bhallas in the kitchen had finally paid off!
While most people make Gujiyas (Sweet stuffed fried dumplings) and Thandai (Spiced Milk drink with crushed Almonds and herbs) on Holi, we always made Dahi Bhalle and topped them with some delicious homemade sweet Imli chutney. Every one who came home to play or greet us on Holi was offered a plate of Dahi Bhalle!
Dahi Bhalle or sometimes Bhalla-Papdi (bhalle with savoury crisps) are also a popular snack often found at Chaat hawker stalls in North Delhi and are not to be missed.
So whether you want to enjoy Dahi Bhalle as a spicy chaat or as part of a dinner spread, they are one of the most comforting things to have!
Here’s how I make them.
Dahi Bhalle/ Dahi Badas ~ Urad Dal fritters in a spicy yogurt topped with a sweet and tangy tamarind chutney
Preparation Time – 1 and a half hour (active), 4-5 hours (inactive)
For the Bhallas (Dal fritters):
1 cup Urad Dal (the de-husked, split kind)
3/4th of a teaspoon Salt (approximately)
1/2 inch piece Ginger (finely chopped)
1 small Green chilli (finely chopped)
8-9 pieces Raisins (Washed, soaked, drained)
2 pinches of Heeng (Asafoetida) powder
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
Water for soaking
Any Vegetable Oil for Deep Frying
For the Spiced Yogurt Base
2 cups Fresh Yogurt
1/2 cup Water (for dilution)
1 teaspoon Sugar (optional)
Himalayan rock Salt to taste (Normal Salt will also do)
1/2 teaspoon Chaat masala (Available on most Indian stores)
A handful of Fresh Coriander leaves
1 teaspoon **Roasted Cumin powder (See notes below for recipe)
1/2 teaspoon Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder (optional)
Extra roasted cumin powder and red chilli powder for sprinkling
Preparing the Bhallas
Soak Urad dal in enough water to cover the dal, overnight or 4-5 hours at least.
Drain the soaked dal and transfer to a food processor.
Add chopped Ginger, green chilli, cumin seeds, salt and two pinches of Heeng (Asafoetida) powder.
Meanwhile, in a cup of water, wash and soak the Raisins. Keep aside for 5-10 minutes.
Back in the food processor, pulse the dal till a fluffy paste is formed. You may have to add 1-2 tablespoon of water but use it sparingly as we do not want the mixture to be too runny. It is alright if the dal paste is not too smooth because that chunky dal mixture gives a nice texture to the bhallas. The batter/paste should be fluffy though that means a lot of air should be beaten into the batter. This is something the food processor already does but some people prefer an arm workout and whisk air into the batter. If you find the mixture runny because of using excess water, add a tablespoon of Sooji (semolina) to adjust the texture. Mix the Sooji well in the batter and keep aside.
You can test the batter by placing a drop of water in a cup of water. If the batter dissolves immediately, it is too runny! If it holds and floats, it’s fine.
Drain the raisins and keep aside.
Pour vegetable oil in a deep pan and heat on medium high.
Once the oil is hot, scoop a tablespoon of the Urad dal batter, place and press in a soaked raisin in between to cover it. Slide/ Place the spoonful of the batter in the hot oil carefully. Some experienced cooks can do this with their hand but it’s better to be careful when you’re cooking with hot oil.
Don’t disturb the fritter for the next few seconds till you see it’s colour changes to a light golden.
This should take 1-2 minutes. Once the shape becomes firm and the colour is a light golden, turn with a skimmer gently to cook on all sides. The desired colour is golden. DO NOT over cook the fritter to a darker colour. We want it to be soft and be able to absorb yogurt later.
Take out the fritter and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Repeat with the rest of the batter. You can fry more fritters at a time depending on the size of your pan.
Let the fritters cool down before using.
(Psst… You can also enjoy these as is with some Tamarind chutney or Tomato ketchup as a snack with tea!)
In a sauce pan, heat 500 ml to a litre of water (depending on how many dal fritters you can soak into it).
Once the water is hot, take off heat and keep aside. Place fried fritters in the hot water and let them soak for ten minutes.
Prepare the spiced yogurt till then.
In a big bowl, place the plain yogurt and water together and whisk to make a smooth liquid. Add Himalayan rock salt, cumin powder, red chilli powder, chaat masala according to taste and mix well. Taste a bit of the yogurt and adjust spices according to your taste. If using, add the sugar and mix it till it dissolves. If you like the yogurt runny, add more water and mix. Chill the yogurt in the fridge for half an hour.
Clean, wash and finely chop coriander leaves. Keep aside.
Back to the bhallas.
The water with the bhallas would have cooled down a bit by now.
Drain the fritters off the water.
Gently press and squeeze out excess water from the fritters now. They would be flattened by now but that’s okay. They will absorb the yogurt better now.
In a small bowl, place 2-3 drained bhallas (fritters), pour enough chilled spiced yogurt on top to cover them completely. Sprinkle some roasted cumin powder and red chilli powder. Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves.
Top with a generous helping of sweet tamarind chutney and Enjoy!
**Preparing Roasted Cumin Powder
Heat a small pan or tawa. Place roasted cumin seeds and stir continuously till you see that the cumin seeds have become darker in colour. You will be able to smell the aroma of the roasted cumin. (may even make you sneeze!😉)
In a mortar and pestle, Place the roasted cumin and pound to make a coarse powder. Let it cool and store in an air tight container. It’s a great addition to several recipes like Spiced lemonade, Punjabi Chhole, Raita and Sweet Tamarind Chutney!
You can make bigger batches by roasting bigger quantities and process the seeds in a coffee grinder. Store in a clean dry air tight container.
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