20 years ago, two kids were on their first-ever train journey. As the train choo-chooed into Maddur Railway Station, a heavenly aroma wafted in and jerked the two children awake. The curious little tots ran to the open window to investigate the source of the aroma. The platform was teeming with people and their curious eyes couldn’t see anything else. Suddenly a street hawker came up to the window and asked them, “Bisi-Bisi Maddur vade, beka?” (Do you want a hot Maddur vada?). The hawker carried a plate filled with some flat, round snacks. The little girl leaned in for a closer look and the same heavenly aroma from the platform hit her nostrils again. That was my first encounter with the Maddur vada.
My brother and I had to taste this thing that smelled so good and we pestered our father to buy us two vadas. The pleased-as-punch hawker gave us two vadas on a piece of newspaper. The golden Maddur vadas were piping hot and crisp. I tore off a piece and put it in my mouth. That first bite of the Maddur vada that day will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was crunchy outside and slightly soft inside. The peanuts in the vada and the deep-fried onions added a bit of sweetness to the savoury snack. It was heavenly and it was perfect. What a pity, we’d bought only two!
I never could get that taste out of my mind. I needed to know the story behind that unforgettable taste. So I set out to find out the story behind the Maddur vada.
Also Read: 18 delicious Karnataka foods to try
The Story Of Maddur Vada
Just 80 kilometres from Bangalore, on the Mysore-Bangalore highway, lies a nondescript town called Maddur. There’s nothing much to do in the sleepy town. But whatever you do, do not leave Maddur without tasting the snack that put the sleepy town on the map. According to legend, the Maddur vada was born 103 years ago because of a minor culinary catastrophe.
The year was 1917 and Ramachandra Budhiya, an entrepreneur from Kundapura had just set up a restaurant in Maddur’s only railway station. In the early 20th century, steam-powered trains chugged their way to Bangalore on meter gauge tracks. Thanks to the river Shimsha flowing near Maddur, trains on the way to Bangalore stopped here to fill up their water tanks. Budhiya sold idlis (fermented and steamed rice cake) and pakodas (vegetable fritters) to the passengers while the tanks were refilled. One day, the train arrived a little earlier than usual and while Budhiya had everything mixed for the pakoras, they weren’t ready.
Shaping the pakodas and frying them would take time. The entrepreneur didn’t want to lose out on business so he decided to make something that would cook faster. He flattened the mixture into small discs, deep-fried them and sold it to the passengers. This new snack turned out to be a masterpiece and came to be known as Maddur vada. Budhiya continued to make the vadas and sell them from his restaurant, Vegetarian Tiffin Room (VTR).
Maddur Vada’s Journey After VTR
Ramachandra Budhiya continued to make and sell the delicious vadas from VTR till 1937. His family then took over the business and managed it until 1948. Then H.D. Hebbar took on the task of managing the restaurant until 1973. Hebbar’s son Gopalaiah decided to sell the Maddur vadas outside the railway station. His son, Jayaprakash started a restaurant called Maddur Tiffanys, which soon gained fame for their wonderful Maddur vadas.
The vadas were so popular that the royal family of Mysore also visited the restaurant to taste the Maddur vada. From the royal kitchen to eateries, the Maddur vada slowly made its way onto breakfast tables across Karnataka.
100 years after the iconic snack was born, the restaurant where it all began, VTR was closed. According to the proprietors, running the restaurant had become a headache. Trains didn’t stop as long as they did before. Illegal street vendors managed to steal a portion of the sales by selling their own versions of the Maddur vada on the trains and the platform. All these problems caused the iconic restaurant to shut down on 28th January, 2017. But don’t fret, you can still grab some authentic Maddur vada at the Maddur Tiffanys restaurant on the outskirts of the town.
This Delicious Treat’s Recipe
The roads of Maddur town are filled with street vendors selling Maddur vadas in small packets. However, these are far from authentic. If you cannot go to Maddur to savour some hot, crispy vadas, you can make them in your kitchen. All you need are some basic ingredients like rice flour, peanuts, curry leaves, onions and semolina. The original recipe uses onions from Pune in Maharashtra, but you can use a regular onion to make the vada.
Here Is The Recipe For Maddur Vada
INGREDIENTS FOR MADDUR VADA
- 1 cup rice flour
- ½ cup rava (semolina)
- ¼ cup maida (all purpose flour)
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 6-8 curry leaves, chopped
- A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1 onion, julienned (sliced finely)
- 1 tablespoon peanuts, crushed lightly
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons hot oil or ghee (clarified butter)
- water as required, to make dough
- oil for deep frying
- Add the rice flour, all purpose flour, semolina, asafoetida and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix everything to combine.
- Add in the onions, green chillies, curry leaves, peanuts and red chilli powder into the flours and mix to combine. Add in the hot oil or ghee and mix till you have a coarse mixture that looks like bread crumbs.
- Add water in small amounts and knead till you have a smooth, tight dough. Don’t be tempted to add too much water as the onions will release moisture and the dough could become too sticky.
- Cover the dough and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Heat oil for deep frying. Meanwhile start shaping the Maddur vadas.
- Pinch a lemon-sized ball from the dough. Roll it in between greased palms and flatten it into a circle. You could even grease a plastic sheet and use it to flatten the dough.
- Fry the flattened circles in medium-hot oil till they’re golden brown. Fry the vadas one or two at a time. Remove the vadas onto a plate lined with absorbent paper.
- Serve the vadas while they’re still hot with coconut chutney.
Click here for the original recipe and video.
There Is No Such Thing As An Accident
Napoleon Bonaparte was right when he said, “There is no such thing as an accident; it is fate misnamed.” Ramachandra Budhiya was fated to create the dish that put Maddur on the map. The humble Maddur vada is proof that not all accidents are bad. The crispy snack has found its way into the plates of several notable people including former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Do give the crispy, crumbly and soft Maddur vadas a try. The golden discs of delicious goodness will surely give its fatter and more famous cousin, the Uddin vada, a run for its money.