Sabudana Vada / Sago Patties / Sago Balls / Tapioca Patties

It’s that time of year again when I binge on delicious and fairly healthy vegan fasting treats under the guise of celebrating ‘Mahashivratri’, a Hindu festival honouring Lord Shiva. I say ‘under the guise’ because this festival is anything but fasting for me and many Indians like me.

It is believed that Shiva performed his cosmic dance, the Tandav, on this day. Some also believe that Shivratri is the convergence of Shiva and Shakti, masculine and feminine energies that provide balance to the world.

I have copious amounts of fruit, nuts, sweet potato and sago-based delicacies like this sabudana vada for breakfast, lunch or dinner on this day. And this dainty sago patty becomes a complete meal in itself when you pair it with a creamy peanut chutney alongside green coriander & coconut chutney. Serve these sago cakes with these chutneys and a ‘chai ki pyali’ (as we colloquially call a cuppa in Hindi) and you’re all set for the day. Yes, it’s more of a feast than a fast when we celebrate Shivratri.

Sabudana vada / Sago patties with peanut chutney, coriander and coconut chutney and lots of love!

Why is sago popular for fasting in India?
These tiny soft chewy white pearls of tapioca root extract provide a source of instant energy and sustenance on fasting days. So it’s also given as porridge to people recovering from illness. It’s gluten-free and delicious.

And you can make sago an even tougher act to beat by teaming it up with some boiled potatoes and ground peanuts. Yeah, doubling up carbs, only this time with added protein from peanuts. For centuries, Indians have mastered the art of pepping up our taste buds with carbs on carbs. But these sabudana vadas are not only powerhouses of energy, they’re flavour bombs too. So much so that, fasting or not, sabudana vadas have become a popular street food in India any day of the year. Just visit a ‘sabudana vade-wala’ stall in Mumbai, Pune or elsewhere in Maharashtra and you’ll see just how adept the vendors have become at mixing, patting and frying the vadas. Hungry customers rarely wait longer than 5 minutes for a freshly cooked hot vada served with chutney and chai. Beat that in the UK, I dare you!

A typical Mahashivratri feasting, I mean fasting affair at my parent’s house used to be simple sabudana khichdi served with curd, sweet potatoes and plenty of fruit and nuts. Sabudana vadas were rarely on the menu. So my favourite memory of making their acquaintance dates back to the time when I would visit my Dad’s office in the city during the school summer break in India. He’d often send me off to the office canteen to avoid my creating a nuisance during busy work hours. I’d take these little food-explorations very seriously by nosily peeking through the kitchen outlet of the canteen and catching the busy chef in action. The chef whom everyone called ‘Anna’ (pronounced un-na) was, believe it or not, from Udupi, a hub of South Indian delicacies, and not Maharashtrian. Yet he’d deftly mould and pat these Maharashtrian sabudana vadas between the palm of his hands one at a time, turning them out in uniform thickness and size. I would chat with him waiting for my order whilst he deep fried them in front of me. I attribute much of my early sabudana vada learnings to Anna who was a kind and industrious man. 

Sabudana vada / Sago patties / tapioca patties

How is a sabudana vada cooked?
It’s easy – wash and soak some sago pearls or sabudana for 6 hours with only just enough water to cover fully. Note, resist the temptation to bathe them in a jugful of water. That’ll almost certainly make your sago chewy in texture. Once soaked, mix them with some boiled potatoes, green chillies (or not, you decide), cumin, coriander (depending on whether your fasting regime permits), Himalayan salt and sugar. Oh! And don’t forget to add a couple of good spoonfuls of roasted and ground peanut. Make a dough, pat into cakes that are no thicker than a centimetre, deep fry them and you’re done. Serve with whichever chutneys take your fancy; where I come from, peanut chutney is the most popular one on fasting days. But equally well loved is the coriander and coconut chutney that I am sharing the recipe for here. Alternatively, if fasting has left you running low on fuel (read energy) or you can’t be bothered with the faff of chutney making, simply serve these vadas with cucumber ‘koshimbir’ salad. You’ll love it.

Variations:
I get that many, especially the health conscious among us and those who turn their noses up at  the smell of deep frying, would rather prefer it if these vadas could be cooked some other way. If you have an air fryer that’s a great alternative. But worry not if you don’t. Simply mould the sago mixture into small lime-sized balls and shallow-fry individually in an appe or paniyaram pan, turning them every every 30-45 seconds until fully cooked. Shallow-fried sabudana vada taste good but are kinder on  your waistline. I have shared the low-calorie alternative on Instagram here…

I must admit though, for me, the best way to enjoy these flavour sensations is to deep-fry them.

Storage:
Deep fried vadas can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple of days. They won’t stay crispy though they do remain tasty! The best way to preserve them to enjoy later is to keep the dough (as is or moulded into patties) in the fridge and then fry the patties when you need them. The dough keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days. 

If you want to freeze them, try lightly shallow-frying the vadas before freezing. When you’re ready to eat them, first thaw by leaving at room temperature for 10-20 minutes. Then deep fry them or bake them in the oven  at 180C for 10-15 minutes, flipping them over once.

How does sabudana vada taste?
It tastes spicy and subtly sweet but with a warm nutty hug from peanuts. Texturally, it’s crispy on the outside when deep-fried but perfectly soft and cooked (not doughy) inside.

Sabudana Vada / Sago patties / Sago balls /Tapioca patties

Recipe by RieethaaCourse: Snack, Starter, MainCuisine: Maharashtrian, IndianDifficulty: Medium
Servings

5

servings
Prep time

25

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes
Total time

45

minutes

Ingredients

  • For the sabudana vada or sago patty:
  • 185g soaked sago

  • 60g roasted and ground peanut powder⁣

  • 2 new potatoes (e.g. Jersey Royals) (boiled and mashed)⁣

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds⁣

  • 4 green chillies (finely chopped)⁣

  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander (optional)

  • 1 tsp rock salt or pink Himalayan salt⁣

  • 2 tsp sugar

  • Oil or ghee to deep fry

  • For the fasting peanut chutney:
  • 60g roasted and ground peanut powder⁣

  • 3 green chillies (sliced)⁣

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds⁣

  • ¾ tsp rock salt or pink Himalayan salt⁣

  • 2 tsp sugar⁣

  • 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt⁣

  • 4 tbsp water⁣

  • For the fasting coconut-coriander chutney:⁣
  • 60g chopped fresh coconut⁣

  • 60g chopped coriander

  • 3 green chillies (chopped)⁣

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp rock salt or pink ⁣Himalayan salt

  • 2 tsp sugar⁣

  • 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt⁣

  •  4 tbsp water⁣

Directions

  • For the sabudana vada or sago patty:
  • Soak the sago for 6 hours or overnight with just enough water to cover.⁣
  • Mix all the above ingredients in a bowl by scrunching together by hand⁣.
  • Make lime-sized balls and flatten them into patties ¾ cm⁣ thick by hand.
  • Deep fry the patties until evenly golden browned⁣ over a medium flame.
  • For the fasting peanut chutney:⁣
  • Grind all of the above ingredients together.⁣
  •  Optionally, temper with green chillies & cumin seeds⁣.
  • For the fasting coconut-coriander chutney:⁣
  • Grind the ingredients together.⁣
  •  Optionally, temper with green chillies & cumin seeds⁣.

Notes

  • Don’t soak sago/tapioca in too much water. Soak in just enough water to cover them. Any more will likely make them chewy.
  • A healthier alternative to deep-fried vada is to shallow fry them in an appe or panyaram pan over a low to medium flame. Turn them around every 30-45 seconds to cook all sides evenly.
  • Another healthier alternative is to air-fry them.
  • While the vadas and chutneys are all fast friendly, feel free to skip the ingredients that don’t comply with your fasting regime.

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