Idli milagai podi is an indispensable condiment in every south Indian’s pantry. I do not like to use store-bought idli podi as it is finely powdered; I find idli podi satisfying only when I feel the coarse grits on my tongue. We use roasted rice for its sandy texture; roasted asafoetida & raw garlic for its wonderful flavor that brings everyone into the kitchen while grinding.
Idli podi reminds me of my childhood days spent in my mother’s village along with my siblings & cousins. Every morning we had to go to a nearby river (Thamiraparani) for taking bath but we used to spend couple of hours there playing hide & seek. We came out with red eyes and were in a grave hunger; we all sat on the rocks to have our breakfast with scrumptious idli or dosa marinated in idli podi & sesame oil. While we started unwrapping our food, a shoal of fish used to appear suddenly from nowhere waiting for us to feed them. After the food we just drank the river water itself and it was the sweetest water I have ever tasted till now. By the time we reached home our lunch was almost ready; we could hear the mustards crackling! We all still cherish those beautiful memories!
In those days we carry our food wrapped in a banana leaf as shown below. It was an eco-friendly, use ‘n’ throw wrapper used for a picnic like this or for long train travels. When hot food is enveloped by a banana leaf, it gets infused with an aroma of banana leaf; we can catch the whiff of its unique pleasant fragrance while unwrapping! Still some of the restaurants here use the same method for packing food and also food is served on a banana leaf. We do serve food on banana leaf at home during festivals, or 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.
- When roasted lentils reach room temperature, add red chillies into a dry mixer-grinder jar & grind into a powder.
- Then add lentils & grind into a coarse powder.
- Add garlic & salt and blend together in “pulse” mode.
- Store in a dry air-tight container.
- Please be careful while roasting red chillies, avoid them getting burnt, as idli podi’s color is mainly dependent on the color of roasted chillies.
- You can just use garlic pods even without peeling its skin to enhance the flavor.
Variations: We can make some changes in this milagai podi’s ingredients to make ellu podi or karivepiliai podi as below:
Ellu milagai podi (Sesame seeds idli powder) : We have to include sesame seeds – ½ cup, alter the measurements for Black gram – ¼ cup & Bengal gram – ¼ cup and omit garlic & asafoetida as they may interfere with sesame seeds’ nutty flavor.
Karivepilai podi (Curry leaves idli powder) : We have to include Curry leaves – ½ cup and alter the measurements for Black gram – ¼ cup & Bengal gram – 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 some time), pinch and shape into thin sheets or tiny balls, dry them & store in a cool dark place so that it wont get melted again.
These pieces can be added in 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 you can roast these pieces in hot oil, powder them and store in a dry jar for later use.