Nei kadalai is one of my favorite snacks popular in Tirunelveli, Madurai and other surrounding places. It brings me back fond memories associated with this delicious savory during my childhood days. I still cherish those happy days with my father who used to bring nei kadalai and Tirunelveli halwa whenever he visited me as our family get-together is incomplete without crunchy spicy nei kadalai and gelatinous sweet halwa.
Cooking time: 20 min
Yields: 1½ cup
- Split chickpeas (split Bengal gram or kadalai paruppu) – 1 cup (200 g)
- Garlic – 10 pods (or 1 bulb)
- Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
- Red chilli powder – 1/8 tsp
- Salt – 1/4 tsp
- Groundnut oil, I used about 400 ml for deep frying
- Wash & soak chickpeas for 2 hours; soaked lentils get doubled in quantity (ie. 2 cups).
- Drain water completely and spread on a towel till water is completely absorbed (about 30-45 min).
- Wash curry leaves and keep aside on a towel to absorb water.
- Heat a deep frying pan with oil in high flame.
- When oil reaches the temperature of 200 deg C (just before its boiling point), reduce the flame to medium.
- Ideally you can deep fry these lentils between 160 & 190 deg C.
- Place 1/3 cup of lentils onto a wire skimmer and immerse into hot oil.
- Leave it until sizzling sound begins to settle.
- Remove skimmer from oil when lentils are in yellow color (even before turning golden).
- Place fried chickpeas on a tissue towel to absorb excess oil.
- Repeat the same for next batch of chickpeas (totally 6 batches- 6 times 1/3 cup gives 2 cups).
- It took 2 to 3 minutes for frying, depending upon the temperature.
- Add red chilli powder and salt to the hot lentils.
- Finally you can fry curry leaves & crushed garlic (as shown in the picture) for garnishing.
- Store fried chickpeas in an air-tight container when they reach room temperature.
- Serve delicious nei kadalai along with hot tea or coffee in the evening.
- I used cold-pressed groundnut oil; alternatively you can use coconut oil or any neutral oil.
- Frying chickpeas inside wired skimmer helps to fry them uniformly and also helps to gather them easily.
- It is important to remove chickpeas from oil before they turn golden as they get cooked even after removing from oil; otherwise they become hard to bite.
- I have added garlic generously, if you want you can reduce or leave garlic.
- I have crushed garlic pods along with their skin to enhance its flavor.
- You can also fry minced ginger along with crushed garlic.
- You may add pepper powder instead of red chilli powder.
- You can add 1/4 tsp of hot ghee (clarified butter) and mix well before serving to enhance the flavor & taste.