This recipe is about the podi(or powder) that is eaten on the side with Idlies(steamed rice cakes). As kids when we were served idlies as breakfast we were asked what we wanted with it - podi, chutney or sugar. Most kids love sugar. I wanted podi or chutney both of which are spicy accompaniments to the rather bland albeit super soft and spongy idly.
The south Indian cuisine which tends to be vegetarian and even vegan centric although not intentionally tends to incorporate the required protein in everyday meals. I have to admit, I never had to understand the concept of carbs, protein and fiber till I started cooking on a regular basis and realized my cooked seemed very lopsided (read favoring carbs).
So I started to dissect the meals I was served as a child - a heavy breakfast of carbs accompanied with veggies and legumes, a lighter lunch which usually but not always was a duplicate of the breakfast but lesser in quantity and evening snacks which was freshly cut fruit or a piece of fried legumes and finally dinner which was the lightest meal of the day and eaten by 8 pm.
This continued till I turned into a rebellious teen refusing to ‘stuff’ herself in the morning and returning home ravenous and ready to eat her own fingers. This trend has continued to this day and I have since tried to make changes.
I failed to realize for a long time that meals were made a certain way for a reason, tradition wasnt tradition for the sake of traditions. Festivals encouraged rich and heavy food but it also provided energy and encouraged going out and playing to burn away all the calories. None of this has been spelled out in terms of calories and yet, makes so much sense.
Long story short, the idly podi or the spicy powdery accompaniment for a lot on south Indian breakfasts, is filled with legumes a source rich in protein and is super easy to make and store. That’s a huge bonus for lazy bums like me.
So I spoke to Amma and decide to share her idly podi recipe on the blog.
Rice - 1/2 Cup
Urad dal - 1/4 Cup
chana dal - 1/4 Cup
asafoetida - 1 Tsp
salt to taste
dried red chillis - 8 (Reduce or increase based on your preferred spice level)
Jeera/cumin - 1 Tsp
Dry roast the above ingredients and grind to a fine powder. I use my Oster at high setting and use the liquify option - works everytime. Store in an airtight container and use preferably within 6 months. It does last longer but its more fun to make in smaller batches because you can try a different combo each time and experiment with a different taste.
I wanted to also add a small note on how this is eaten - a heaped teaspoon is usually put on the plate and a depression made using your index finger deep enough for 1/2 a teaspoon of oil. The oil and powder are then mixed well enough to form a paste of sorts. We usually dip a piece of idly/dosa or sometimes even mix rice with this spicy paste and its a meal!
The idly podi is such a versatile dish that one can add, subtract, divide ingredients to create a different taste each time. Try adding dry curry leaves, garlic, basil leaves, mint leaves to add a depth of flavor.
Cricket has been a huge part of the majority of Indian homes and from the looks of it, will continue to be. This has been one religion that marries the whole of our country. Tensions leading to heavy betting and self mutilation(nail biting included) are all part and parcel of this religion.
Fortunately or not the only exposure I’ve had to this game was when my cousin played with his friends in the little make shift playground behind our rented house. That was when I was 10. Pappa was a Tennis fan and so I grew up watching tons of tennis tournaments and having crushes on Agassi and Boris Becker and admiring Steffi Graf. I then grew some more and realized that all my friends knew so much about cricket and I was clueless. I ditched Tennis to try and understand the game that my peer group seemed to be crazy about so that I could “fit in”. I wasn’t very successful - I still dont fit in. I don’t understand the thrill behind every match and I don’t understand the lbw or the wide and I have no clue who the players are anymore - except Tendulkar ofcourse!
So I take comfort in being in my safe place and playing the game that I have come to enjoy - cooking :) One of my favourite comfort food is Idly with THenga or Ulli CHamanthi(Coconut or Onion CHutney). 80% of my school lunches has been idly with sambar or chutney. I’ve never dared to try making the idly batter myself till very recently when the greed for the fluffy steamed rice cake overcame my fear of making its batter.