Mum's Classic Baaras
Today's recipe is one of my favorite snacks of all time. They are called baaras or baara when referring to just one. They are fritters made with peas and spices that are ground together. It is so delicious especially when served with a tamarind chutney or any kind of chutney that you like. It can also be used in other dishes like kahrdi or raita as a dumpling of sorts. My mum used to make these often when I would visit from Colorado. Let me tell you. Freshly cooked baaras with some chai at teatime is something else. These get devoured pretty quickly around our house and mum always makes extra so we can have some to eat the next day. I always head for the baara first when we break our fast after Diwali prayers. So tasty!
This recipe starts with dried yellow split peas. The same peas we use to make dhal-stuffed rotis. So funny side story about dhal. I missed eating baara so much while in Colorado that I tried to make them myself one day. I used the dhal I had and went about the recipe the way that I remembered mum doing it. They didn't taste like my mum's exactly but they turned out pretty good! So I proudly told mum about them and she asked me which dhal I used. Of course, I proudly told her that I used toor dhal. To which she promptly replied, "That’s not the dhal you use!". Whups. If you have been reading my other posts, you will know somehow I can't keep the different dhals straight in my head. Anyways, now we know that baara can also be made with toor dhal and also masoor dhal (yes, I also tried it with masoor dhal. Hehehe.). The type of dhal is important because different dhals have different moisture contents apparently. So your baara will be dry inside after frying if you use incorrect dhals. So use the right dhal people!
For this recipe, you will need to soak the dhal overnight. You can also soak the dhal for a couple of hours in some hot water and this can be enough to soften the dhal. Soaking overnight is the best and safest way to ensure that dhal is soft enough. Wash and rinse the following day. Then use a food processor to grind the soaked peas with garlic, ginger, onions, cumin, lemon juice and chilis if using. Back in the day, my great-grandparents and grandparents used something called a "sill" and "lorda" for grinding things. The sill is basically a big flat slab of smoothed rock and the lorda is a small oval-shaped smoothened rock. You would typically place the peas, for example, on the sill and then use the lorda to grind it into a paste. Lots of hardwork! I can imagine baaras were probably made on special occasions back in the day. It does not seem like something you can do everyday for sure! When people get married, they are (the bride) given a sill and lorda too to start their married life. I believe the meaning behind it is that the husband and wife should work together like a sill and lorda and that one cannot work without the other. Sort of cute, right?
Anyways, once the paste is of the correct texture (should be completely ground and fine), then add finely chopped curry leaves and cilantro into the mix. Heat up the vegetable oil. In the meantime, you can start forming your patties. This would be almost like making sliders. Wet your hands, take a scoop out, about two tablespoons, then form into a nice flat and circular patty. Then carefully drop the patty into hot oil. Fry on both sides until golden brown. On a side note, my phone randomly died and I lost the step-by-step pictures I took of the baara being made. Once I recover those pictures, I will update this post.
Serve immediately with tamarind chutney or yoghurt sauce or even a mint chutney. If you don't have chutneys, that is ok too! A well-made baara does not need a chutney. It should be crispy on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside with just the right amount of spices. This is a completely vegan/ vegetarian snack that is easy and extremely worth the effort. Have a go at it and let me know what you think in the comments section below!
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Prep time 30 minutes (not including overnight soaking time)
Fry time 30 minutes
-3 cups of dried yellow split peas (soaked overnight)
-12 cloves of garlic
-2 inches of peeled ginger
-2 tbsp of cumin
-1/2 cup lemon juice
-1/4 of a medium onion roughly diced*
-salt to taste
-handful of Thai chilis (optional)
-handful of chopped curry leaves (optional)
-handful of chopped cilantro (optional)
Soak peas overnight.
Wash and rinse.
Grind up peas, garlic, ginger, cumin, lemon juice, onion* and Thai chilis if using.
Add salt. Mix well.
Add chopped curry leaves and chopped cilantro. These ingredients are listed as optional but I would highly recommend adding them.
Heat up oil on medium heat.
Wet hands, scoop out about two tablespoons and form into mini patties.
Drop patties in oil as you form them.
Fry each side until slightly darker than golden brown.
*Depending on the onion, sometimes grinding the onion into the pea mix can make the mix a bit wet and loose. Another option is to finally dice the onions instead and mix it in after the peas have been ground.