Of Wadis and Papads

Golden Temple
Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab

Despite living in Punjab’s neighbourhood all my life it is only this year that I finally visited Amritsar for the first time. While I couldn’t find much time for a city tour, I did visit the Harmandir Sahib in the evening. Harmandir Sahib, also called the Golden Temple because of the gilding on its walls and domes, is the most sacred of Sikh shrines. Work on the temple started in the late 16th C and over the next couple of centuries it attained much of its present form. Maharaja Ranjit Singh is credited with the exquisite marble and gold work on the temple.

Outside the Temple are many shops and dhabas catering to pilgrims and the casual tourist. I was told the best place to buy the famed spicy Amritsari wadis and papads was right there. I picked on one that claimed to be dealing in these commodities for over a 100 years. Seemed like they would know what a good wadi should be.Wadis are available with varying degrees of spicy-ness. I naturally, asked for the spiciest ones. Then I had to pick between ‘with or without plums’. Hmm…with plums sounded nice, but plain ones are classic. So I got both. When I was paying for them there was some confusion regarding which were which – after discussing at length I managed to confuse the shopkeeper as well 🙂 . To tell you the truth, I couldn’t tell even after cooking, unless by some strange coincidence, I ended up keeping all of one kind for myself and distributing the other between family and friends. Family and friends, those of you with better sense of taste, please stand up and let us know if you detected any note of tart plums in yours.

wadi papad

When choosing papads I had a choice between mild, medium, and hot. No prizes for guessing which ones I bought. The traditional Punjabi papad is much thicker than the Punjabi masala sold by Lijjat. Thick papads are best served fried – the hot oil aids thorough cooking. The thinner one can be cooked on a open flame, over coals, in the toaster, or even the microwave oven.

Wadi-making is a household industry all over Punjab and every maker has her own take on the spices to use. The main ingredient of Punjabi wadis is some kind of lentil, soaked and ground, combined with spices. The Amritsari wadis are made with urad dal and spices such as whole peppercorns, and crushed red chillies. A handful of the spicy batter is impressed with the thumb to create a small hollow and put to dry in the sun. When dry they may be stored in airtight containers for months. Wadis made with moong dal are called mangodies and are less spicy.

I remember wadis at times such as now when the heat is trying to sap our energies and kill our appetites. A tiny bit of wadi, fried in a little oil before adding the aromatics, make the taste buds sit up and take notice, and gets the juices flowing. If you have never used these before, you’ll be amazed at how aromatic a tiny piece of wadi can be. The flavour is concentrated and intense and I find one piece quite sufficient to use in a dish for six people. Of course, the wadi may vary in size. Punjabis, like the Kashmiris, mostly tend to think bigger is better – so traditional wadis are large – half of a tennis ball in size.

The wadi finds its way into many vegetarian preparations in the traditional cuisine of Punjab. But wadi-aloo is a classic, and the only way I know 🙂 !

Some other Punjabi ways with the wadi:
wadi with radish (mooli-wadi subzi)
wadi with eggplant

Here is my take on the Punjabi classic:

wadi aloo

Wadi Aloo
(Potatoes with spicy lentil-chunks)

4 medium floury potatoes (such as Agra potatoes), peeled and cubed (3/4″ cubes)
1 Amritsari wadi, crushed into uneven bits not larger than 1/2″
One bunch spring onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 t (heaped) coriander powder
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t red chilli powder (omit if you like it mild)
1 t cumin seeds
pinch of heeng
1 T oil
1/2 C chopped coriander leaves and stems

wadi aloo

Prepare all the vegetables. Heat oil to nearly smoking in a pressure cooker. Add the cumin seeds followed by the heeng. Stir and add the wadi pieces. Fry till browned – maybe a minute or less. Add the onions (white parts first) and fry till they become translucent. Add the potatoes and stir around for a minute. Add the remaining spices and stir till fried; a couple of minutes. Add the onion (green parts), tomatoes, salt, and half of the coriander leaves. Stir again for another minute, add a cup and a half of water and cook under pressure for 7 minutes. Let the pressure subside. Add the remaining coriander leaves and serve with roti or rice. A bowl of yoghurt or raita is a good accompaniment.


Published by


A self professed urban ecologist!

32 thoughts on “Of Wadis and Papads”

  1. I’ve never had these wadis. First it was Musical, now you. I am left with no choice but to look for these in the Indian store. It does sound like more than just a little bit of heat, it’s protein added to the veggies, too.

    But here’s what I can’t get over – that you haven’t tried making these yourself. You’re the Queen of All Things Dried!

    That pic of the Harmandar Sahib is so serene!

    I think I’m gonna ask Musical to ask her biji for an authentic ‘pind’ recipe (Musical, you there?)… 🙂 then I’ll be all set to make my own!

    Harmandir Sahib is a picture of serenity, and the sound of Gurbani is calming as well. All Gurbani singers are trained in classical music as against the Panditji with his grating singing of the arti in most of our temples. The Gods must make a quick exit at arti-time! 🙂

    1. Hey! You can now buy all the authentic ingredients from Indidelights.com. They also ship worldwide and have the best quality of products.

  2. Lovely post, Anita. The picture of Harimandar Sahib ji (or Harminder Sahib ji as we Punjus call it) is so peaceful…..and the spicier the better. i miss Amritsari wadis! the ones in the stores here are really not anywhere close to the original, neither in spice, nor in aroma. i agree with you on one wadi being enough for 5-6 servings!

    i just love aloo-wadiyan. there is a saying/rhyme pin Punjabi:

    “Aloo-wadiyan kyon dhariyaan,
    bhua-bhatiji kyon ladiyan”

    meaning, “why did one prepare the aloo wadiyan, why did the aunt and niece fight”, meaning that this sumptuous and spicy sabzi can make even the loving aunt and her sweetie pie niece fight 😀

    So you will ask biji? 🙂

    Aloo-wadi is a real classic! But I must try your mooli-wadi too!

  3. Anita, you made my day. i am a Sikh and seeing the picture of the Golden Temple first thing this morning was a true pleasure. Thanks for that. This is one of the thing on my to do lists – visiting the Golden Temple.
    And now I just added one more thing to that list trying one of those wadis!

    You are very welcome, Meeta. The Temple has such a calming effect, specially in the evenings (as in this picture), when the crowds are thin and lost in the darkness, and the stillness reflected in the waters of the sarovar. I’m sure you know many other ways of preparing the wadis.

  4. Golden Temple looks beautiful. Never been there before. I have Mungodis,tastes so good too.I have to make some of Punjabi wadis too this summer.Aloo wadi looks great,my fav:))

    Now mangodis are on my ‘to try’ list!

  5. What a beautiful post! It was the perfect way to start the day. I discovered wadis through Mika’s post a couple of years ago, and boy, it is wonderful to have them in the pantry for spicing up last-minute subzis. I found a bag at Patel bros. in NYC that tasted quite good (although, what do I know about wadi authenticity?).

    Hi, Nupur. Blogs have become a source of continuous discovery for us all – and a lifetime is not going to be enough!

    With wadis, it is always a matter of luck! I myself don’t have any brands that I favour -these are still more of a household industry – but these were good.

  6. now i am wadi wadi hungaddee.

    langars at gurdwaras – bliss. and i love the kirtans too, though i don’t understand the language very well.

    Yes, the langar food is so great – the mah ki dal, and the prasada! And kada prashad is in it’s own class! Made with all that devotion, it couldn’t be anything else.

  7. Hey Anita,

    Won’t be possible to ask Bibiji and Mom…..

    except in my dreams 🙂 but i can ask my Dad to get me the recipe from other ladies of the house like my Tayi ji etc 😀

    i am eager to make my wadis too-but kya karein mere apartment mein balcony nahin!

  8. Musical, get hold of the recipe. I’ll make some over our hot hot summers and send you half of what I make. Deal? Or No Deal? Not kidding here. Very serious.

    Yes, Musical. Make that call now! And share your recipe – I’ll send if I have a willing suitcase – but Manisha is already sending you half! Wow! Home made should be great everytime! It can’t bee too hard to do?

  9. Did you mean moong dal? Or ‘moog dal’ is something else?
    Lovely post.

    Tomayto-tomahto 🙂 I meant moong – but my acquired Marathi heritage came to my rescue!

  10. Anita, what a fabulous photo of the temple. Do you have any more to share?

    I have always been fascinated by the wadis that I see in the Indian stores, but didn’t buy them because I didn’t know what to do with it – in fact, I thought that they were to be used like nutrela chunks. Am I glad that I didn’t try such a thing! They are also quite small in size, about 1/2 inch in diameter, do you suppose these are chunks of a large wadi?

    Nope, just the one! I wasn’t even sure if I’ll catch it well enough.

    There may be smaller wadis around though 1/2 inch seems too small for the Amritsari kind. Ask the shopkeeper if they are spicy or not. On Amritsari masala wadis you should be able to see lots of whole (or nearly whole) peppercorns and red chilli flakes, as also crushed coriander. Mine seem to have some kind of greens as well – methi maybe (?). Mangodis are usually a pale yellow in colour while wadis are brown.

    Good you didn’t soak them like nutrela! Am Umreeki friend claims to have mistaken them for whole grain cookies – but I have a feeling he was calling my bluff! He’s the ‘jokey type’ (as we would say in Punjab). 😉

  11. My mom makes awesome alu wadis! And she serves them with brown chawal(rice pulao with browned onions).. It is yummmmmmmmmmmmm! Nice post btw 🙂
    P.S. the mangodis are used majorly in rajasthani cuisine 😀

    Today I’m making a rice pulao with browned onions served with baingan with browned onions! You wouldn’t happen to have any recipes with mangodis that I could use? Then, next time I can buy those mangodis at the Haat 🙂

    Forgot to say last time – you are obviously a Harry Potter fan! 🙂

  12. I happen to hv mangodi recipes… gimme ur email and will mail u one.. i hv it in a book.. will hv to type it out.. but i will b more than happy to share it 😀 Yesh! I LOVE HARRY POTTER 🙂

    One e mail coming your way!

  13. Hi Anita, first time in your blog and so many awesome pics. Loved the pic of golden temple. It also reminds me of how it was beautifully shown in the movie rang de basanti. I wish I can visit sometime. loved your blog and so many recipes to choose!! will be back for more.

  14. Anita, I finally bought wadis like the ones in your picture (bought here, source unknown), and tried your recipe – the result was FANTASTIC. Thanks so much for your recipe!

    😀 You are very welcome, ET.
    It’s spring onions season again here, and I am going to make this tomorrow…maybe throw in some peas as well…

  15. I see I’m not the only one visiting this post today! I hope to make the Varanasi-style wadis this weekend- using the oven on low to dry… but I have such a craving for this dish and lots of potatoes to be used so I’ll be using my so-so wadis that I have in stock; but oh, how I miss the Amritsari ones! 😉

  16. I made this for dinner last night and LOVED it! Thank u for such a simple recipe and SO flavorful!
    The only changes i made were using 3 wadis as the ones I got from the Indian store are rather mild and did not use the pressure cooker…maybe that was why the wadis were not soft..hmmm..! Well, there si always the next time!

  17. Hi,
    i have gruh udyog, i listen many more people panjabi wadi very famous, pls i want to know the make panjabi wadi. now i am making but not possible for make panjabi wadi. pls suggest me

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s