A simple innovation is turning the tricky Indian vada into an instant homemade treat

Oh yeah!
Oh yeah!
Image: iD/YouTube
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Vada is not as commonly served at home as the other classic south Indian breakfast dishes like idli or dosa. But it is arguably the most delicious of the three—and also the most difficult to prepare.

Be it the complex mix of its ingredients or its shape, getting the crispy, doughnut-shaped lentil dumplings onto the breakfast table was always a tedious task. So over the years, the vada has been restricted to special occasions like when hosting guests, and during family or religious functions, or restaurant visits.

However, Bengaluru-based iD Fresh Food’s latest innovation—a squeeze-easy bottle with a specially-designed tube for an outlet—could turn the vada into an instant homemade treat. The new nozzle ensures that the batter drops into the frying pan in perfect shape and the mix remains consistent, without making the process messy or time-consuming.

“We spoke to many industry experts…they were really not able to help. We did a lot of internal trials. But we failed miserably,” said Musthafa PC, co-founder of iD. “There were times when many in the team suggested dropping the project…But we were confident on cracking the concept.”

A graduate of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Musthafa has been trying to capitalise on the rising number of urban Indian households looking to fit healthy, traditional breakfast options into their tight daily schedules. iD’s conveniently packaged idli and dosa batters are already popular, and the vada offering—three years in the making—would complete the south Indian breakfast triumvirate.

The vada puzzle

“Unlike idlis and dosas, I make vadas only once in three or four months. It was a more regular fare during my grandmother’s time. Today we struggle to find time for such elaborate preparations for a meal,” Lakshmi Suresh Chandran, a 32-year-old resident of Bengaluru, told Quartz.

Besides readying the batter—a mix of ground lentils (that have been soaked overnight), spices, and herbs—deep-frying the vada itself is a tricky task. While idlis have specially designed vessels and dosas dedicated pans, each vada needs careful shaping by hand. After all, a vada that is not round and puffy and lacks the signature hole in the middle is, well, just not vada.

That’s why iD’s offering is all the more tempting: The bottle is priced at Rs80 ($1.25) for 375 gms, enough to make 10 vadas. By the end of January, the packets will be launched in the city of Bengaluru before moving to other states.

Sunrise industry

Musthafa, along with his cousins, started iD in 2006, delivering dosa and idli batter to two dozen small neighbourhood stores in Bengaluru on a two-wheeler. Soon they were supplying parotta (a version of paratha) and chutney (a group of varied spicy accompaniments to staples like idli, dosa, and vada), too. Today, iD products are much sought after in major Indian cities like Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad, besides west Asia. For the year ending March 2017, iD clocked a turnover of Rs150 crore, according to data provided by the company.

In 2017, the company raised Rs150 crore from PremjiInvest, Wipro founder Azim Premji’s investment arm, and sought to move beyond idli and dosa batter. Hopefully, the years spent in developing the vada will pay off.