Bora, Vada or Lentil Fritters are the most common recipes all over India. Each state has its own way to do it. The use of lentils differ, from one region to another and also from one home to another. The same goes for the spices used in them. West Bengal itself has many versions of lentils fritters. Sometimes just one kind of lentil is used like the red lentils that I have used today. At other times a combination of lentils are used. The texture and the flavors change with the change or combination of lentils.
Mushur Dal or Red lentil fritters happen to my favorite and the most frequently done in our home. The traditional way to eat them would be as a side with your lazy afternoon meal, with gorom bhaat (hot white rice) and a light dal served with a generous squeeze of fragrant lemon. Now that is bliss… a scoop of soft white rice soaked with the dal and the crispy bora to bite on with it. Or with a bowl of Muri (puffed rice) and knacha lonka (hot green chilli peppers) and dal er bora with your cup of tea in the late afternoon. These would be the totally Bengali ways to have them.
These fritters serve a variety of purpose in our lives now. When the wind howls and the rain comes down on your windows creating a blur and drip on the glass and the outside seems like it has been smeared with a paint brush, soak some lentils and enjoy the hot fritters with your favorite condiment. It does not take too long to make them.
Gather your ingredients.
Grind them coarsely
Deep fry them in a batch
Traditions can pave new roads, especially when they have been transported over the seven seas. We tend to adapt to the new lifestyle and embrace the diversity around us, finding new ways to incorporate the recipes we grow up with in our everyday life with a fresh approach. We have ours stuffed in Pita, or wrapped for lunch too. Having a salad for lunch? Toss some of these for the crunch and part of your protein serving. One just needs to get creative with these.
Or when it is impossible for you to step out and all you can see is an icy snowy stretch, these will break the monotony. A fresh spring day? Take them out and enjoy with chilled beer.
Bengali kitchen takes these fritters a step ahead by adding them to a lot of other dishes. They are sometimes cooked in a gravy, with chunk of potatoes and we call it Bora r Jhaal. They are also added to other vegetable dishes thus making it a pretty complete meal of protein and vegetables.
Now you have the basic recipe, use your imagination and find ways to enjoy this!
Mushur Dal – er Bora: Red Lentil Fritters
Ingredients: (Makes about 25-30 fritters, depending on the size)
- 1 cup masoor/mushur dal or red lentils
- 3/4 inch piece of ginger, peeled
- a few fresh hot green chillies (adjust number to taste. They do add a fresh flavor, so if you do not want spicy, remove membrane and seeds and use the green part only)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin/jeera
- salt to taste
- fresh cilantro or coriander leaves (optional)
- finely chopped onions (optional: I haven’t used it here but feel free to use it if you want
- oil to deep fry
Note: The above is only a base recipe. If you wish you may add finely chopped spinach, chard, methi/fenugreek or any greens to it. To tell the truth any spices, herbs can be used if you really want to get creative with this recipe.
Wash and soak the red lentils for about an hour. Soaking longer will not hurt. Make sure the lentils are completely soaked, larger and expanded before you start the next step.
Drain water. Combine every thing other than onions and oil and coarsely grind it adding a tablespoon of water at a time as required. The consistency should be scoopable or a tighter as you see in the photo. If there is too much liquid, it will not hold its shape when released in oil for deep frying.
Remove paste in a bowl. If you are adding onions or any greens or spices add them now and whip and fold to mix. The lighter and more airy the mix is, the fluffier and crunchier the fritters are going to be. Add a teaspoon of oil to the mix and whisk again.
Heat enough oil in a wok/pan to deep fry the fritters. When the oil is hot enough (you will see the shimmer), Spoon the mix carefully into to the oil, one at a time and fry them until they turn golden/light brown. Once you release them in oil, give them a couple of minutes before you try to flip them over. They will cook and release themselves when done. Each set should be done on both sides in less than 10 minutes. Cook in high to medium heat only.
Remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with your favorite condiments with slices of onions on the side or eat them like true Bengali does – as a side to Dal, (lentils) & Bhaat (white rice).
They work wonders with drinks or just an appetizer. Stuff your pitas, make wraps with your fritters to make a meal. There are so many ways to have them!!
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: Less than 30 minutes
Serves/Makes about 25-30
Difficulty Level: Very Easy
- Aloo Vada/Fried Potato Dumplings
- Chicken 65
- Cabbage and Chickpea Roulade
- Beguni- Batter Fried Eggplants
- Ginger, Chilli Chicken
- Gobi Manchurian/Cauliflower Fritters in Spicy Sauce
- Harissa Marinated Minced Meat Kebab
- Paneer Kofta (Stuffed Cheese Balls)