Friday, May 3, 2013

Kandi Podi - an essential condiment in a typical Andhra thali

Thalis (meal plates) are such a good way to give you samples of what a cuisine can be. You may like some and you may not like some but you get introduced to the breadth of that meal through the Thali. Thali is a plate, in restaurant lingo, it is a plate of assorted items making up the motif of the meal. If you visit Indian restaurants you would have atleast seen a South Indian thali and a North Indian thali in the most generic places while you may have had regional thalis in specialized places. I think it is a good way to get introduced to a hitherto unknown cuisine (safety net) since if it is any good you are bound to enjoy some of the items on the menu while also familiarizing yourself with others in small quantities so you can avoid them in the future :-).

So let me focus on the Andhra thali for today, now that would be misleading as I am not going to be talking about the thali itself rather one specific condiment that seems to light up many a face when you say the name and is usually kept in a vessel on the dining table outside of the thali.  So why did I do that long drawn description about thalis you may ask, ah let me say that was a warm up or prelude. If you have visited my blog a few times or have read 'About me', you probably know that I am born into a Kannada speaking family from Karnataka and married a Telugu guy with roots from east Godavari in Andhra. I had no exposure to Andhra culture, language, heritage or cuisine before I got married. How different are they, you may wonder being neighboring states and people from both places migrating all the time. Well, it is very different, at the same time very similar. Like everywhere else, human values, struggles, emotions are all same but the way they are expressed differs.
Before I got married, I didn't know much about Andhra including where it was on the map which is not surprising as I was not a Geography enthusiast in school. Given my messed up sense of direction I can never get maps right, 'turn left in 0.5 miles, go straight for 2 miles' is the kind of gadget I like :-), I didn't have any friends from Andhra in school or college so obviously I knew nothing of the language either. Amma gave me idli & chutney the first time I went home and then it was a rice, pappu & pachadi lunch the next time both of which I liked although I was hoping she would treat me to some really spicy pickles :-), didn't happen until later.

After all the wedding excitement, we all went to a restaurant in Bengaluru called Nagarjuna which served good Andhra food according to my new parents. It was lunch and they served thali meals. A humongous plate with a number of small cups carrying different colored  food came in but what was interesting for me was the fancy caddy with multiple containers kept in the center of the table. As I opened each of them, I found avakkai, gongura, red colored powders, oil, salt etc in the caddy. Amma pointed to one of the powders and said it was Kandi Podi and asked me to try it. I mixed it with rice and as directed put some oil and took a mouthful. While I saw the eagerness on my new family's faces as to whether I would like it or not, I really didn't like it much. For one it was way more garlicky than I could handle back then and secondly as I was used to the complex layers of taste of chutney pudi, I didn't relish this powder as much. I guess amma saw the disappointment on my face.
Later she prepared kandi podi at home, skipped garlic completely and I had it with rice, I was blown away. Amma usually serves it with a tamarind based tangy gravy such as pulusu or a fire roasted eggplant curry. I realized that the restaurant podi had a lot of fried gram (chutney dal) which is usually a time saver for them but totally altered the taste. Kandi podi  is very simple taste compared to chutney pudi, no tamarind or coconut or curry leaves. But the simple mixture of dals is both elegant and delicious. Over the years, I have eaten many different Kandi Podis at various relatives' places and they vary slightly, proportions of dals, addition of garlic etc but here is the recipe as taught to me by my MIL as taught to her by her MIL :-). Infact in all these years, I had never made it myself as I would always delegate it to amma whenever she is here. BH loves to eat it with hot rice and usually she makes smaller quantities and it gets over in a couple of days. As her tolerance for spice is going down, she makes it with extra doses of red chilies for the son because he enjoys it spicy hot. Then since I wanted to post this recipe on the blog, I made a call to the source and made sure I had noted the right proportions for the ingredients and I am glad it turned out just like my MILs which she says is just like her MILs. Here is how we make the special Andhra kandi podi at home.

What do you need to make kandi podi? 
1 cup Toor dal/kandi pappu/togari bele
1/2 cup Moong dal/pesara pappu/hesau bele
1/4 cup Chana dal/senaga pappu/kadle bele
1/8 cup Urad dal/minapa pappu/uddina bele
8-10 dry red chilies (per taste)
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp cumin seeds
How do you make Kandi Podi? 
  • Heat a thick bottom pan on medium heat until it is warm to touch. 
  • Add the toor dal and roast it until it turns dry and very light pink. 
  • Add the moong dal and continue to fry until it develops a slight color.
  • Add the chana dal and repeat the process. 
  • Finally add the urad dal and roast until all the dals are golden brown. 
  • Keep stirring constantly the entire time and do not let any of the dals burn or turn dark in color. 
  • Add the dry red chilies and fry for 2 minutes, add cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds. 
  • Pour all the ingredients into a wide plate and let them cool. 
  • Add salt to the hot pan, roast it for 10-15 seconds and put it on the plate with other ingredients. 
  • Once cool, blend it into a fine powder. 
  • Mix it with steamed hot rice (traditionally white sona masoori rice) and a dollop of ghee (or oil if you are watching that waist line)
  • We usually mix spicy red chilies (such as Guntur variety) with the bright colored ones (such as Byadagi variety) to get the optimum heat and color. 
  • Amma says salt needs to be roasted too in this recipe and I follow that. I think the practice may have originated when people used rock salt and sometimes it would be wet or sticky and the frying helped make it crisper. 
  • The order of dals in the frying process ensures that each type of dal gets the right amount of frying time it needs, follow the sequence. 
  • One of BH's atta (aunt) keeps the fried ingredients in an airtight container in the refrigerator and powders little quantities as needed so it is totally fresh. 
  • I believe I made amma stop using garlic in this powder, if you like the flavor add a clove or two for this proportion. I have heard that people add raw or roasted garlic but I am not an authority on the subject so I will let you figure it out for yourself. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow kandipodi with oniouns really mouthwatering . nice recipe with colorful pictures

Navaneetham Krishnan said...

This podi is so interesting, another condiment for rice. That looks so flavorful and splattered with simply the right ingredients. Need to try out soon because my family will love this podi.

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Even though, paruppu podi as we call it was ever available in my mother's kitchen, I never enjoyed it much...but my daughter is a great fan of it and I've started preparing it at home now...and enjoying it too..
Like your versions

Vijayalakshmi Dharmaraj said...

Nice n yummy podi...

Meena Selvakumaran said...

never tried adding moongdhall,looks so delicious.podi is my favourite will try your version .lovely accompaniments.

prathibha Garre said...

we make mostly without moong this powder