Adai is made from a batter of soaked & ground lentils and rice. What makes it Adai? It’s the combination of lentils along with the herbs and spices added. It uses channa dal (split gram), toor dal (split pigeon peas) dal, and rice (or any ancient grain).
Adai is often called a crepe, or a pancake, although it is neither. It is very crispy, yet soft and fluffy. It’s texture does not fall under the category of ethnocentric naming. So, we’ll call it what it is, Adai. Not a lentil crepe or lentil pancake.
Adai has several versions all over various regions of India. This is Tamil-style from Southern India. Its the easy weeknight supper of millions of homes because there is no fermentation of batter involved, unlike its cousin the dosa, which is also a technically made from a lentil and rice batter, but made from urad dal (black gram) instead.
Adai is commonly served with chutney as its gone from homes to restaurants, but truly home style is to serve it with molaga podi (or chilli powder, that is a spiced lentil and chilli mixed flavored powder) that is mixed with extra virgin gingely oil. Like a south asian chilli oil. It is also served with crumbs of jaggery, which is a native brown palm sugar.
This meal is crispy, crunchy, fluffy, salty, sweet, spicy, savory, hearty and oh, and naturally vegan.
makes ~12 to 15 adais
2 cups of plain rice, the non fragrant variety
1/2 cup channa dal (split gram)
1/2 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas, or red gram)
1/8 cup urad dal (split black gram)
2″ piece Ginger
15 dried red chillies (use 5 for mild and 10 for medium spice)
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1 to 2 tsp coarse salt
3-4 cloves of garlic (optional, not traditional)
1 red onion, finely chopped
handful of cilantro, finely chopped
Other veggie options:
Spinach or any leafy veg
I used broken rice or rice grits but you could use just regular long grained rice. Ideally the rice is non fragrant; so no basmati or jasmine, or nutty brown or wild rices.
You could also use millets, or broken wheat, or quinoa instead of rice to make it more whole grain, but note that the rice creates that crispy crunchy texture. Alternate grains will still taste great, but yield a softer and spongier adai rather than a crisp and fluffy one.
Put all the measured lentils together in a bowl. Rinse them thoroughly at least a couple of times. Soak them with enough water. Next, rinse and soak the rice in a separate bowl. Let both soak for at least 3 hours, ideally 4 hours.
Add the soaked rice into a blender along with ginger and 1/2 tsp salt. Add 1/2 cup water and blend to a smooth batter. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Add the soaked lentils to the blender, along with garlic (is you’re adding it), asafoetida, a tsp of salt, dried red chillies. Grind without adding any water to a coarse paste. I would recommended “pulsing” rather than blending. The idea is to blend them just until the chillies and garlic have incorporated well. The coarse lentils creates all the texture in the adai.
Add this ground lentil mixture along with the rice batter. Mix everything together. I recommend tasting very very little of the batter to check for salt.
This is the basic batter which is perfect as is. You could also add veggies and herbs to it. Commonly used are onions, cilantro, and curry leaves.
You could also add cabbage, or carrots or spinach.
I added about a cup of finely chopped onions and a handful of fresh cilantro.
Set the batter aside for 5 minutes.
In the meanwhile heat your cast iron tava (or flat pan) over medium heat. Preheat for 5 minutes over medium heat.
You could use a non stick pan as well. Traditionally, cast iron was used for both health and culinary reasons. The crispiness and crust that forms in a iron utensil is unmatched.
Once the pan is heated up, make sure it’s at medium heat. Ladle in the batter on to it. Use the back of the ladle to evenly spread the batter in a circle. If the batter sticks too much to your tava, it means the heat is too high.
Create a little hole in the center of the adai. This is done to enable more even cooking. Drizzle a little oil all around the adai, and in the center.
Let it crisp for about a minute or two. Once you see golden crispy edges, flip it over and press down gently all over.
Continue cooking the other side for 5 minutes.
Repeat for how many ever adais you want, and serve piping hot.