Idli milagai podi is an indispensable condiment in every south Indian’s pantry. I find idli podi satisfying only when I could feel the coarse grits inside my mouth, and hence I do not like to use the finely powdered store-bought idli podi. We use roasted rice for its sandy texture, roasted asafoetida & raw garlic for the wonderful aroma that brings everyone to the kitchen while powdering it.
Idli podi reminds me of my childhood days spent in my mother’s village along with my siblings & cousins. Every morning we used to walk to the nearby river (Thamiraparani) for taking bath and spend a couple of hours there playing hide & seek inside the water. When we came out of the water our eyes were reddened and we were in grave hunger. We usually sat on the rocks to have our breakfast with scrumptious idli or dosa marinated in idli podi & cold pressed sesame oil (chekku ennai) packed in a banana leaf. When we begin to unwrap our food pack, a shoal of fish suddenly appears from nowhere waiting for us to feed them. In those days we just drink the river water itself to quench our thirst, and it is the sweetest water I have ever tasted till now. By the time we reach home our lunch would be almost ready that we could hear the mustard seeds crackling inside the kitchen. We all cherish those beautiful childhood memories forever.
In those days we prefer to carry our food wrapped in a banana leaf especially for a picnic like this or for long train travels, as it is used as an use ‘n’ throw wrapper. When hot food is enveloped in a banana leaf, it gets infused with an aroma of banana leaf, and we can catch the whiff of its unique pleasant fragrance while unwrapping the pack. Still some of the restaurants here use banana leaves for packing/ serving food. We also serve food on a banana leaf at home during festivals and other special occasions.
Now let us get into the idli milagai podi recipe:
Time Taken: 20 min
Yields : 1½ cup
- Sesame oil – 1 tsp
- A pinch of asafoetida block
- Red chillies – 25 Nos.
- Split black gram (de-skinned) – ½ cup (100 g)
- Bengal gram (split chickpeas) – ½ cup (100 g)
- Rice – 1 tbsp (15 g)
- Garlic – 1 bulb (10 pods)
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Heat a pan with oil in medium flame, roast asafoetida and red chillies separately.
- In the same pan roast black gram, Bengal gram & rice separately until they release nice aroma.
- Leave the roasted lentils aside until cool down.
- Add red chillies into a dry mixer-grinder jar & blitz into a powder.
- Then add lentils & grind into a coarse powder.
- Add garlic & salt and blend together in “pulse” mode.
- Transfer to an airtight glass jar or SS canister.
- We need to be careful while roasting red chillies and ensure that they don’t get burnt, as the color of idli podi is mainly dependent on the color of roasted chillies.
- We can use garlic pods even without peeling its skin to enhance the flavor.
Variations: We can make some little changes in this milagai podi’s recipe to make ellu podi or karivepiliai podi as below:
Ellu milagai podi (Sesame seeds idli powder) : We just need to include sesame seeds (½ cup), and alter the quantity of black gram to ¼ cup & Bengal gram to ¼ cup. I prefer to omit garlic & asafoetida as they may interfere with sesame seeds’ nutty flavor.
Karivepilai podi (Curry leaves idli powder) : We need to include Curry leaves – ½ cup and alter the quantities of Black gram to ¼ cup & Bengal gram to ¼ cup.
Tips to make flavorful asafoetida:
Freshly roasted asafoetida is more flavorful than store-bought asafoetida powder. You can buy an asafoetida block that is soft & supple (if it is hard, you can keep it in a warm place for few hours), pinch and shape into thin sheets or tiny balls, dry them & store in a cool dark place so that it won’t get melted again.
These pieces can be used for the recipes like sambar (as it is dissolved in boiling water) or added into any masala powder (as it can be powdered) but not while stir-frying legumes (sundal), or vegetables (as it never gets mixed while stir frying). Alternatively we can roast these pieces in hot oil (or dry roast them), crush them into powder and store in a dry jar for later use.