South Indian Snacks to Cure your Winter Quarter Blues

By Aarya Chidambaram

Easily one of the worst parts of attending college some five hundred miles away from home is the fact that I cannot enjoy my mother’s South Indian home-cooked meals at my sudden desire anymore. Foods which remind me of home remain my most tried and true cures for homesickness; however, I am definitely not a pro in the kitchen–I teeter between “beginner” and “very mediocre.” As such, I’m usually sticking with recipes I can’t mess up horribly, don’t take up a horrific amount of time, and don’t require multiple trips to Trader Joe’s in the rain at 7 at night. Lucky for our readers, I have two recipes that fits the bill: Chana Sabzi and Split Pea Vada.

Some of you reading this may not even feel homesick, especially not for South Indian comfort food. Nevertheless, I can guarantee that these two dishes can, at the very least, ease anyone’s winter quarter blues and nourish you as you cram for midterms and finals. So when Raja’s really isn’t cutting it, try out these recipes straight from my Amma’s kitchen. Not to mention, both recipes are 100% plant based so, for all my fellow (struggling) vegans out there, this one’s for you! Head to your nearest grocery stores, blast your favorite throwback Tamil soundtrack (my personal fave is Kandukondain, Kandukondain) and let’s get started!

The first recipe is Chana Sabzi, a.k.a. Chickpea Curry. It’s hearty, warm, flavorful, and you can eat it with naan, rice, or all by itself. It’s perfect as a side dish, for food prep, or to grab when you’ve almost missed your bus and you don’t want to be stuck on campus with nothing to eat for the eight long hours you’ll be stuck at the Silo or MU. Not to mention, it’s gluten-free and has tons of protein!

Chana Sabzi

Makes: 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 min

Cooking time: 15 min


2 cans of canned garbanzo beans

2 tablespoons of cooking oil (castor, vegetable, coconut, or olive)

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped tomato

2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste

Chili powder (to taste, I recommend ¼ teaspoon)

¼ teaspoon coriander powder

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves

1 or 2 bay leaves

⅛ teaspoon clove

⅛ teaspoon cardamom

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Salt (to taste)


  1. Heat oil for 1 minute
  2. Add bay leaves, let them simmer for 1 or 2 minutes
  3. Add cardamom and cloves, stir for 1 minute
  4. Add ginger garlic paste, sautee for 1 minute
  5. Add chopped onion, and after onions become translucent, add chopped tomatoes
  6. Saute together for a 3-5 minutes (until tomatoes are soft)
  7. Add the rest of your spices
  8. Saute for a few more minutes (wait until an aroma arises!)
  9. Drain water from the cans and add in the garbanzo beans
  10. Let boil completely, and lightly mash a few garbanzo beans (to help vary the texture)
  11. Taste test! If you need to add salt, do so to taste. If it is too spicy for your liking, squeeze in some fresh lemon juice and pray
  12. Garnish with coriander leaves
  13. Enjoy!

Don’t be daunted by the number of spices in the list ingredients. Work with what you have and get creative! You can pop the leftovers in the fridge for 4 days and the freezer for 1 month.

Vada is as South Indian as they come. In fact, they have been around Tamilnadu since 100 BCE and continue to be happily devoured today. I can’t translate the dish perfectly in English, but the closest description would be ‘fritters’ or ‘cutlets;’ either way, they are the perfect, crispy, fried snack that will not completely clog your arteries. Also, more protein!

Split Pea Vada

Makes: 15 vadas

Preparation time: 2 hours

Cooking time: 30 mins


1 cup of split peas

2 dried green or red chilis

Salt (to taste)

1 handful chopped coriander leaves

½ cup thinly chopped onion

¼ teaspoon chopped ginger

200 grams of vegetable oil

2 pinches of hing powder (optional)


  1. Soak split peas for two hours
  2. Drain the water completely–make sure there is no water left!
  3. Put aside a tablespoon of your soaked split peas
  4. Put your split peas, ginger, and chilis in a blender
  5. Blend until the mixture is coarse
  6. Add chopped onion, coriander leaves, hing powder, salt, and the reserved tablespoon of split peas
  7. Pack into a ball (like you are making cookies out of dough)
  8. Heat oil on medium flame for 5 minutes
  9. While you wait, take your vada balls and place them in your palm. Press gently, but do not flatten completely!
  10. Very carefully drop them into the oil one by one. It’s best to do only five at a time.
  11. In 3 or 4 minutes, the vada will rise to the top. Once this happens, turn it over. Until then, don’t touch ‘em!
  12. Once it’s cooked on both sides, place them on a towel to let the oil drain out
  13. Serve hot and enjoy!

Tip: if your mixture is a little watery, just add a pinch of rice flour before you press blend. Also, you can serve these babies with sambar, yogurt, chutney, ketchup, and probably any other condiment you can think of. My personal favorite is Maggi Sauce!

For future reference, here is a very informative (and quite accurate) video to aid you in your Indian cooking endeavors. Link here:

Good luck to everyone trying out these recipes- I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Please feel free to comment any ideas or requests for other recipes you would like to see featured on Other Collective, and let us know how you did!