Parippuvadai/ Aamavadai or Lentil Fritters are spicy and crisp golden brown fritters made from Bengal gram lentils. They are also referred to as “Aamavadai” because the word “aamai” means tortoise/ turtle. The ridged appearance (from shaping with the fingers) of the fritters resembles the ridged back of the tortoise/ turtle. These deep fried lentil fritters are made for various different festivals in my Palakkad Iyer community. They’re also made as everyday snacks to serve with evening coffee.
Some parts of India are celebrating the festival of Raksha Bandhan today. In my Palakkad Iyer community, today we celebrate Avani Avittam instead.Let me start by briefly explaining the term “Avani Avittam”. We follow the same English calendar as the rest of the world, but use a different calendar for most of our religious rituals and celebrations. These include birth or death anniversaries and festivals.
This traditional calendar also has 12 months and 30 or 31 days (sometimes 32). We also have 27 “nakshathram” or stars which fall in this calendar . These stars are astronomy related, and not stars in constellations as we know them in English. The 27 stars appear every month in a given order following in a regular cycle throughout the year.
It can be confusing to someone unfamiliar with it. Suffice to say that our religious rituals and festivals are based by when a particular nakshathram/ star occurs in a particular month. Other astronomical calculations are also taken into account.
So “Avittam” is a “nakshathram” (or star), in the month of “Avani” according to our traditional calendar. This roughly corresponds to time from the 15th of July to the 15th of August on the English calendar. On this day, every year, boys and men who have undergone their Upanayanam (or sacred thread ceremony) ritually change their sacred threads.
All over the world, food and celebration always go together. It is no different with us. Breakfast is usually idlis which are steamed rice and lentil cakes and coconut chutney. Lunch is a festive affair called “sadya“. This is an elaborate traditional vegetarian lunch with dishes prescribed by family tradition. Different families have their own sadya traditions but Parippuvadai/ Aamavadai or Lentil Fritters and “Paal Payasam” are a constant. In my husband’s family, it is a tradition to lalso make “Neiyappam” if there are unmarried boys at home.
The ingredient list for most popular Parippuvadai/ Aamavadai or Lentil Fritters recipes are likely to include onions, ginger and garlic. These are avoided if cooking for festive or religious occasions. Traditionally we do not use garlic or onions in our cooking. These lentil fritters are often also made to serve in the evenings as a snack with coffee or tea.
Parippuvadai/ Aamavadai or Lentil Fritters
- 1 cup Bengal gram lentils (chana dal/ kadala parippu)
- 2 tbsp red lentils ( tuvar dal/ tuvara parippu)
- 2 to 3 dried red chillies
- 1/4 tsp asafetida powder
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- to taste salt
- Soak the lentils together for about 45 minutes. Drain well and keep 2 tbsp of the drained lentils aside. Grind the rest of the lentils, along with the other ingredients (except the oil), into thick coarse paste. If you must add water while grinding do not add more than a tsp or so. Too much water (or if the lentil paste is not coarse enough) will make the fritters difficult to shape. The fritters will also not crisp on frying.
- Add the 2 tbsp reserved whole soaked lentils to the paste and mix. This makes the fritters nice and crisp.
- Heat the oil. Moisten the fingers and inner palm of your right hand with water. This ensures the batter doesn't stick. Take a small bit of the lentil paste (about enough for a small cookie) and shape it into a ball. Moisten the palm of your left hand with water and place the ball on your other palm.
- Flatten it slightly (about 1/2" thick) with your right, using all four fingers together. This will create a ridged pattern. Now slide the shaped mixture onto your right set of fingers and slowly slide it into the oil.
- Repeat with the rest of the lentil mixture and fry in batches of 5 or 6 depending on the size of your pan/ fryer. Fry the fritters on both sides till brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. This recipe should make about 20 fritters. I'm not sure as I wasn't counting.
- These fritters are usually served on the side, along with the main meal when rasam is being eaten with rice. They tend to lose their crispness and become a bit chewy when cold, so the leftovers are soaked in rasam and eaten. I personally do not like them this way and in these days of the microwave would rather re-crisp them.
- You may also serve these at coffee/ tea time with ketchup or coconut chutney.