Vada Ghugni

Who doesn’t love street food! I know I do, as I am sure a zillion other people around the world do too. Street foods are fascinating. They are such a cultural thing, they are almost an opening into the world of a particular culture’s food. A lot of street food is made by non-trained cooks who use family recipes from generations to prepare and sell food to make a decent living. Yet, there lie some of the best secrets to ingredients and cooking techniques that the street food vendors have inherited from their families that are reflective of their cultures and traditions.

For me, exploring street foods is a must whenever I visit a new city, whether it is in India or any other city around the world. When it comes to India, there is such incredible variety across the states that even a lifetime is not enough to explore them all. But at least I can try 🙂

Vada Ghugni (Or Bara Ghugni) is a popular street food in eastern Indian states such as West Bengal and Orissa. But, first, what is it? Bara or Vada is exactly what it says, a regular Urad Dal Vada. Ghugni is interesting, because at first I thought it was just a regular Chole/Channa Masala. But in exploring different recipes, I learnt that the Ghugni is different not just in the spices it uses but also that is has Potatoes in it, and the key difference being that Ghugni uses dried white or yellow peas (or even Kala Channa [Brown Chickpeas] in states like Bihar and Jharkand) that are soaked and cooked.

Did you know white peas and chickpeas are not the same?

White peas (called safed [white] vatana in hindi) are essentially peas that are dried after harvesting and their skins are removed. They work as substitute for fresh green peas. they are typically boiled, cooked and used for dal or in chaats.

I took the liberty to use chickpeas in this recipe because I did not have white peas in my pantry. That did slightly change the look and texture of the Ghugni (which is supposed to be slightly runny with mushy cooked white peas). But I think I managed to keep the flavor. It is very reminiscent of a vada sambhar, but has a lot more spicy and tangy toppings just like any chaat.

Vada Ghugni, although a “street food”, can be served at multiple eating occasions at home such as breakfast, brunch or an evening snack. It is quite heavy, so I would avoid it as a dinner item.

Prep time6 hours
Cook time25 minutes


Lentils and Beans

  • Chole (Chickpeas) – 1 15oz can (Approx. 500gms)
  • Urad Dal (Black Gram) – 1 cup


  • Onion – 1 large, chopped
  • Tomato – 2 large, chopped
  • Potato – 2 medium sized, cubed (Boiled)

Spices and Herbs

  • Jeera (Cumin Seeds) – 1 tsp
  • Curry Leaves – 1-2, finely chopped
  • Dhania (Cilantro) – A handful, finely chopped
  • Green Chilies – 2 tbsp, crushed
  • Ginger – 1 tbsp, crushed
  • Garlic – 1 tbsp, crushed
  • Haldi (Turmeric) Poweder – 1 tsp
  • Dhania-Jeera (Coriander-Cumin) Powder – 2 tsbp
  • Laal Mirch (Red Chili Powder) – 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp
  • Black Pepper – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – As per taste


  • Vegetable Oil – Approx. 1 cup (for frying the vadas) + 2 tbsp for cooking the Ghugni

Ingredient notes

  • If using White Peas (Safed Vatana) instead of Chickpeas, use 1 cup of the dried Peas. These will also need to be soaked and pressured cooked
  • To add a kick to the Ghugni, additional spices such as Dalchini (Cinnamon) and Amchur (Dried Mango) powders can also be added

Method: Vadas

  1. Wash and soak Urad Dal for 6 hours
  2. Add the soaked Urad Dal to a grinder. For the first round, grind without any water. For the following rounds of grinding, slowing add 1-2 tbsps of water each time until the batter is smooth and thick. It should not be runny
  3. Add the batter to a mixing bowl. To this, add finely chopped curry leaves, black pepper,1 tbsp of green chilies and salt. Mix well and set aside for a few minutes
  4. Add 1 cup oil to a pot and allow it to heat up. To know whether it is at the right temperature, drop a pinch of the batter to it. If the batter rises to the top, then the oil is at the right temperature
  5. Using an ice cream scoop, carefully drop a small ball of the batter into the oil. Allow one side to cook and start to turn brown. Then, carefully turn it over to allow the other side to cook. Once both sides are golden brown, carefully take it out of the pot and place it on a paper-towel lined plate for all the oil to be soaked up. Repeat for the rest of the batter (The ice-cream scoop method is for amateur fryers like me 🙂 If you feel confident, feel free to scoop up a ball of batter with your hands and carefully drop it into the oil)
  6. This quantity of batter should make about 12 vadas

Method: Ghugni

  1. To a pan, add 2 tbsp of oil. Once it is hot, add jeera and let it splutter
  2. To this, add the chopped onions (leaving 1-2 tbsp aside for garnishing). Fry until they turn translucent
  3. Add the crushed green chilies, ginger and garlic. Continue to fry until they the rawness is cooked
  4. Add the haldi, dhani-jeera and laal mirch powders, mix well and allow the masalas to cook release their aromas for a few minutes
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes (leaving 1-2 tbsp aside for garnishing), mix well and allow the whole mixture to cook until oil is released from it
  6. Add the canned chickpeas and boiled potatoes to the pan. Add water, salt, close the lid and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes
  7. After a few minutes, using the back of a wooden spatula, mash some of the potatoes and chickpeas. This makes the sauce thicker. Add some more water as desired and continue to cook for a few more minutes
  8. Just before turning off the heat, top it off with some garam masala and mix well

Serving suggestions

  • In a small bowl, place 2-3 vadas
  • Ladle on a generous amount of the Ghugni
  • Top with chopped onions and tomatoes
  • Optional toppings include sev, chopped green chilies, cilantro, slivers of fresh ginger, a squeeze of lemon juice, mint chutney and sweet date-tamarind chutney
  • Leftover Ghugni can also be served with pooris and rotis

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