Condiments are often times under appreciated or under estimated in comparison to main stream dishes. A pickle, a Podi (spice mix), a Thokku, a relish (sweet or savory) are what I call the simple joys of life. They seem like inconsequential bits and bobs, but when you think of it, they can elevate a dull meal, resurrect the taste buds, uplift one’s mood, bring a flurry of nostalgia or simply tickle the palate. This post is akin to “stop to smell the roses” to acknowledge the role of condiments and in particular this simple Podi, in our daily lives.
Ok. If that sounded a bit heavy duty, let me tell you that I simply want to share with you a recipe that we just cannot seem to do without. Because, it is as much a staple in my pantry as Ghee is.
And for the longest time, this has been my daughter’s favorite. A kind of a constant when all her other preferences keep changing. As she’s growing older, her taste buds are asking for more variety. More range. She’s now interested in all kinds of condiments. She checks with me from time to time if her Podi is in stock. She just won’t touch Idli or Dosa without “Podi” as she calls it. I make this powder by a jarful and before we know it, I’ll have to make another batch. So irreplaceable is this condiment in our house.
Dosa and Idli are a popular choice for breakfast in our home made at least twice or thrice a week. What make Idli and Dosa the star dishes that they are without their accompaniments, without the assortment of chutneys, podis or the tasty potato filling, right?
During rushed mornings when one is packing all the boxes to go and there isn’t enough time to make chutney is when the Idli Dosa Podi comes to the rescue. Or better yet, on lazy weekends when an elaborate breakfast is what the heart calls for and chutney alone won’t suffice and you need a special something and don’t know what that something is.. That is when you make a tiny mound of podi on one side of the plate, dig a well in the center with your forefinger and fill the well to the brim with cold pressed sesame oil or peanut oil, swirl it in and dip the dosa or Idli and pop it in your mouth to experience the burst of flavors.
Chutney Podi or Milagai Podi or just Podi, a variety of them have always been there since childhood. However, this is a recipe I learnt from my mom-in-law and calls for just a handful of ingredients, mainly the lentil duo of black gram and bengal gram which the South Indian masala Dabba is incomplete without. From tempering to ground masalas to spice mixes aka podis, this lentil duo is indispensible in South Indian cooking and my pantry.
This is an easy recipe to make and stock. I’m hoping you’ll like it as much as we do and make it a part of your culinary repertoire.
Makes about 250 gms
- 1/2 cup Urad Dal / Black gram
- 1/2 cup Chana Dal / Bengal gram
- 9 Byadagi Red chillies
- 1/4 cup White sesame seeds (or 2-3 tbsp if you like less)
- 2 tbsp crushed dark brown jaggery (Bella)
- 2 tsp Peanut oil
- 1/4 tsp hing /asafetida
- salt to taste
- Heat 1 tsp oil in a heavy bottomed skillet or kadai. when the oil is hot, add byadagi red chillies and sauté on low heat until they change color, are hot to the touch and not smoking. Remove to a plate.
- Now add 1/2 tsp oil and Urad dal (Uddhina bele) and sauté until golden brown and fragrant. Add hing, stir and remove on to one side of the plate.
- Now add the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and Chana dal (kadale bele) and sauté until golden brown and fragrant. Remove on to the plate.
- Now, dry roast white sesame seeds until they just begin to splutter. Remove on to lentils side of the plate.
- Let all the roasted ingredients cool. Once cooled, grind red chillies first in a spice grinder or small jar of the mixer. When powdered, add all the remaining roasted ingredients, salt and jaggery and grind until powdered, consistency in between not too fine and not too coarse.
- Enjoy served alongside hot Dosa or Idli with a spoon of sesame oil or peanut oil mixed in.
Try not to let the lentils burn while roasting.
Grind roasted chillies first to a powder, then add everything else and grind. This way, chillies are not left as flakes.