Adai is a pancake made with rice, lentils and vegetables all cooked on the stove just like you make pancakes. It is a very common dish in many South Indian Tamil homes and is typically eaten with some jaggeri (unrefined sugar) or coconut chutney.
Adai is a dish that I learnt how to make from my Aunty Thanga (Thanga Mami) when she came to help me when I had my twin girls.
Thanga Mami taught me that traditionally adai is made with three different types of lentils and white rice, all soaked together with red chilies for 5-6 hours and then blended into a thick batter. The “formula” to make adai batter is 2 to 3. Meaning for every 2 cups of rice you add 1 cup each of 3 different lentils. Lentils used in adai are yellow split peas, pigeon peas, and split black lentils, which are also known as urad daal.
Once the batter is ready, asafoetida powder, salt, and chopped vegetables are added then pan fried until adai is cooked through.
Because a large number of Tamilian families are vegetarian, Mom’s will serve adai to their children very often to provide much-needed protein in their kid’s diet. Kids love adai dipped in sugar.
Over the years I have changed this recipe to incorporate less white rice and more lentils and whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice, in an attempt to make adai even healthier than it already is. Whether made with white rice and lentils, or made with whole grain brown rice/quinoa and lentils, either way you make adai it is a protein-packed veggie pancake that is full of healthy goodness.
Adai: Vegetarian Lentil Omelets
makes batter for 20 adai pancakes
- 2 cups long grain white rice such as Basmati rice or a brown rice and quinoa blend
- 1 cup pigeon peas (toor daal)
- 1 cup split peas (chana daal)
- 1 cup split black lentils (urad daal)
- 2 dried red chili or 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp hing (asafoetida powder). Asafoetida powder is used in all lentil dishes in South Indian Tamil cooking as it is proven to aid in preventing bloating and gas that lentils can cause.
- In a large pot soak the rice, lentils and red chili in 3-4 cups water – or as much water as will cover all the lentils like in the picture below. Soak lentils and rice for 5-6 hours.
- After 6 hours the lentils and rice will have plumped up and the water almost all absorbed.
- Blend the lentil/rice mixture in a food processor to form a thick batter. Add water as needed to make a thick batter. You will have a large quantity of batter.
- When you are ready to make adai, take half the batter and place in another container to use later. To the remainder batter add 2 tsp asafoetida powder, salt to taste, and all the chopped vegetables. Mix all ingredients together. Add water if needed to form a thick pouring consistency.
- Warm an omelete pan. Add 1 tsp oil and pour 2 ladles of adai batter to form a pancake shape. Make a few small holes on the adai (this is how adai is made traditionally, I think it maybe because it speeds up the process of cooking the lentils and cooks the adai more evenly). Drizzle a little oil in these holes and around the adai pancake.
- Cook until browned on one side and then flip over to cook the other side. Since adai is a thick lentil pancake, each adai can take 3-5 minutes to cook through. I usually have 2 pans going at the same time so I can make multiple adais at a time.
Serve hot adai with coconut chutney. For an easy coconut chutney recipe check out this link coconut chutney.
Cook’s Notes: Adai just like omelets can be made with any combination of vegetables. Try adai with a wide variety of vegetables such as shredded Brussels sprouts, carrots, chopped spinach and other super greens, as well as shredded broccoli and chopped tomatoes. Sometimes when I run out of the standard lentils that I need to make adai, I have improvised and made adai with whatever lentils were at hand, and it has turned out just fine. So go ahead and experiment with this adai formula if you like.
Adai is extremely filling. You will be surprised how filling lentils are when cooked in this fashion. Most times 2- 3 adai makes a filling dinner meal for anyone.
For a protein packed pancake chock full of good for you vegetables and lentils try making adai.