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Hand shaped fritters – “Karamaiththavada” July 2, 2008

Posted by live2cook in Basics, Jams and Preserves.

What is Karamaithavada?

If you happen to ask any of your friends who hail from Tamil Nadu about this term (without the English translation) , I am sure, they would swear that it is not a Tamil term. If you refer the dictionaries of Tamil language, you wouldn’t be able to get the meaning for this term. If you had asked me about this term a couple of weeks ago, even I would not have been in a position to provide you with a good explanation. But how come I have a translation now? I would say the power of childhood memories comes to the rescue always.

While in Thanjavur, We had a wonderful neighbor, “Raja Amma” (Raja’s Mom). She used to prepare this recipe and would give us a 5-6 hours lecture about it at the drop of a hat. She called the recipe “Karamaithavada”, though there are other popular names for this recipe. She was very proud of the name she coined for the recipe. No one asked her ever on why she named it so nor did she ever reveal the reason behind it.

My Dad used to make fun of the name given by Raja amma and his dislike for anything that tastes earthy and smoky, made this recipe an object to make fun of. He used to tell us about his first tasting experiment of Karamaithavada. He would explain to us how Raja Amma served the Sauce tempered with Karamaithavada with such a pride, how he took the first bite with such a boosted expectation and how he suffered to swallow the food as it tasted horrible. The funny faces he made to explain his experience with karamaithavada made us, as kids, laugh out loud. My Mom and Grandma never attempted to make these fritters at home, as they knew for sure that they could not please my dad’s palette with these. As we never tasted Karamaithavada and Raja amma left Thanjavur to live with her son in Chennai, there were no opportunity for me to learn about it. So, karamaithavada remained an object to be made fun of all through the days until I got married.

When I visited Thanjavur for my son’s first Birthday, it was a very hot summer. My mom suggested to make “Vadaam” (sun dried fritters) to pack for US. This reminded me of the “Sambar Vadaam” that my Mother-in-Law had mentioned. I wanted to try the recipe. With the help of my mom and other neighbors, I made the mixture for “Sambar Vadaam” and took it to the porch with all the other sun drying accessories. When I started to shape the vadam, my dad came to the porch to chat with me while I was doing the tiring chore. The moment he saw the shapes of vadaam, he started laughing. He exclaimed that the thing that I was sun drying was “Karamaithavada”. Yet again he started to ponder in his memories and the sun drying chore got done with fun. This gave me little light towards karamaithavada though I wasn’t able to find the meaning for the name given by Raja Amma.

Couple of weeks ago, I decided to make sun dried fritters. Our new house has a nice asphalted space near the porch with lots of sun light. This made me to think about the summer chores as in India. Since other recipes for sun dried fritters need some cooking, I decided to make Karamaithavada, in other words “Sambar Vadaam”. When I made the mixture and started shaping the vadaam, it brought back all the memories and I started to wonder why Raja Amma called it so. I repeated “Karamaithavada” multiple times while shaping them and all of a sudden something stuck my mind. I got a clue! “Karam” in Tamil means “Hand”. “Vaiththal” means “To Keep” and “Vadaam” is the tamil term for “sun dried fritters”. I coined them together and got the meaning “Hand kept Fritters” (Karam Vaiththa Vadam). Hence the title of this post…”Hand Shaped fritters”.

Though the earthy flavor of the ingredients didn’t meet my dad’s gusto, I liked the spicy, nutty and crunchy flavor. When deep fried, these fritters makes a good accompaniment for yogurt rice.


1 Cup Shredded Winter Melon or White pumpkin ( I skipped this as the fritters will turn rancid soon)
1/3 Cup Toor Dhal
1/3 Cup Dehusked Whole Urad Dhal (Black Gram)
1/3 Cup Red Chori (a Dried Beans similar to Moth beans)
1/3 Cup Black Chana (Chick peas)
1/4 Cup salt (More salt is needed as it helps as preservative)
10 – 15 Dried Red chilli
10 – 15 Curry leaves
3 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Black pepper corns
1 tsp Asafetida


1. Take the dhals and whole spices (except pumpkin,salt and asafetida) in a large mixing bowl and soak in water for 4 hours. (I used to set this up before going to bed. Early morning it will be ready for grinding)
2. When the Dhals are plumpy and soft, drain the water. Take a cup of the mixture at a time in a food processor and grind to a coarse paste using less water while grinding. Grind all the dhal mixture.
3. Take the ground mixture in a mixing bowl, add pumpkin,salt and asafetida. Mix well.
4. Grease a cookie sheet or the winnowing basket with few drops of oil. Place a Tablespoon of the ground mixture at a time leaving enough space in between.

Karamaiththavada Fresh

5. If the weather is not windy, Place the cookie sheet as is, in a sunny spot outside. If it is windy, cover with plastic wrap and make small holes for ventilation before setting it outside to avoid dust collection.
6. Sun dry the fritters until there is no dampness. ( It will take 2 -3 days depending on the weather)
7. Deep fry the sun dried fritters in hot oil and use in recipes as needed.

Some times the weather might fluctuate. I got a rainy day in between the drying process. So, I refrigerated the cookie sheet till next day. This helped in avoiding mold.

Karamaiththavada Dry



1. Asha - July 2, 2008

My best friend in B’lore, they used to make these pumpkin sandiges every summer on the balcony, I used to help them to make these Sandiges, I never asked for the recipe. So glad to see it here. Looks wonderful and I know it’s tastes divine!:)

2. easycrafts - July 2, 2008

Thats a new and nice name to the traditional recipe…must appreciate your patience to make these in hot sun

3. Rashmi - July 2, 2008

What a cute name and story behind the name!
I love these sun baked dal vadas..my dadi used to make them with split moong and urad & we call them mangoris!

4. jayasree - July 3, 2008

Loved reading the story behind the name. I am sure the fritters must have tasted nice.

5. easycrafts - July 3, 2008

I have an award for u on my blog…congrats

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