(steamed version)

Chana  dal - 1 cup
onion - 2 big (chopped finely)
tomato - 3 (medium size) (blanched and grinded)
ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
curry leaves - few 
green chillies - 2
red chilly - 3 or 4
fennel seeds - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
salt - to taste
chilli powder - 1 tsp
water - as needed 
oil - 3 tbsp
cinnamon - 1 inch piece
bay leaf - 1
coriander leaves - a handful

soak chana dal for 1 to 2 hrs.
strain the dal and grind it along with red chillies, salt and 1 tbsp fennel seeds to a coarse paste. Do not add water to grind. If needed  add 1 or 2 teaspoons of water and grind.

Divide the dal into equal balls. flatten it and steam boil using idli pot or a steamer for 10 mins or till cooked well.
Let it cool
After it has cooled well break roughly. Not very fine.
Heat a pan and add oil.
Once the oil is hot add fennel seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, green chillies, curry leaves and add chopped onions and fry till it is transparent.

Add ginger garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears.
Add the tomato puree and saute till it thickens and leaves the sides of the pan.

Add chilli powder, needed salt and stir well for a minute.

Add a cup of water and let it simmer for atleast 10 mins or till the oil seperates from the liquid and starts to float on top.(patience needed)
Now add the grinded, cooked and broken dal  and needed water and check for salt.
If needed you can adjust your salt and chilli powder according to your taste buds at this stage.
Simmer it for 10 to 15 mins again.Check for consistency frequently as the dal absorbs more water.
If needed add water and simmer till all the raw smell disappears and acquires needed consistency.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with soft idlis.

You can even deep fry the vadas instead of steaming it.
But do not fry too crispy as it will be too hard while eating.
Take it out from oil when it is half cooked and strain and add to the curry.
I have tried both ways but not much difference in taste.

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