Sunday, May 18, 2014

Menthya Hittu (Fenugreek powder)- nothing bitter about this delicious condiment

Let me start with, "I love this pudi (powder)" which I hope will give you the confidence to read through the rest of the post and may be try it and become addicts just like me. I have seen many people turning their noses up the moment someone mentions fenugreek (including my own DD) because of the inherent bitterness of these seeds. Though this powder is made with a substantial quantity of fenugreek, bitterness is not in its elements, it just lends the powder a distinct aroma of roasted fenugreek and the rest of the ingredients bring down the bitterness. So if you have never had it, now is the perfect time to give it a taste. I will show you two super delicious ways of consuming this powder once ready, choose the one that calls out to you more intimately.
When Nammamma made this powder back in the days, it was always a treat in the evening once all the powders got done and stored in the larger containers for long term storage and smaller containers for table use. I didn't care if she had any other side dish to go with rice at all as long as there was fresh menthya hittu on the table. Amma would make the seasoning with dals & mustard seeds to add to the rice (we called it khat-khata because of the sounds the roasted dals made when you took the bites :-)). A dash of lemon on the hot rice would immediately emit the unmistakable flavor of freshness and elevate the simple dish miles higher. I honestly did not need anything else for dinner. It is great to keep the dinner simple (not necessarily light though) without elaborate cooking sometimes.
One of my little nieces loves this menthya hittu. A couple of years back when I was in India and was visiting them for the 2nd time since she was born, she was really not open to talking with this atte (aunt) whom she didn't remember. I tried all the tricks I knew to make her talk to me for a couple of hours without much progress, she definitely moved from hiding completely behind her mom's dress to peeking at me when I was not looking (or so she thought) at her and whisper something in her mom's ears :-). Then we sat down for dinner. Most everybody in my family knows my love for all things spicy and chikkamma (my aunt) offered me her home made Menthya hittu. As I put heaps of it in my plate, little V's eyes widened and she became interested suddenly and said, "Menthittu, tuppa anna tumba chennagiratte (Menthya powder, ghee and rice tastes very yummy)" :-). So as I mixed it in, she slowly inched her way from her mother's lap to stand next to me and then sit in my lap in no time to enjoy the delicious morsels with her newly acquainted atte. We had a great dinner, eating multiple rounds of menthittu(as V calls it) , tuppa and rice. I was happy, little V was happy and every one around was smiling while chikkamma was complaining that she never should have shown us the powder since all her other side dishes were being completely ignored :-). This delicious powder was instrumental in our bonding and after dinner she stuck to me like glue and chatted away to glory. Here is my home made menthittu for putani V.
We call it Menthya hittu (as the powder is really fine unlike the coarsely ground chutney pudi) and not Menthya pudi. Nammamma used dried turmeric roots in all the powder preparations and not the turmeric powder which gave her pudis a better fragrance and color. I use store bought powder since I don't anyway get good quality turmeric root and my blender seems to have hiccups if I put in too much hard ingredients for it to break :-).

This powder is not something we use with idli or Dose (Dosa) generally but if you are like me and really fall in love with it, you can just about eat it in any form. The list of ingredients may seem a little daunting but they are all in ordinary Indian kitchens every day and is very easy to procure from your local grocery store if you do not have them. When I had asked Nammamma for the recipe of Menthya hittu the first time I made it, she had said that almost every spice in the kitchen goes in :-) which is pretty much true. She used whole wheat kernels instead of the upma rava I have below and it is a substitution she recommended.
What do you need to make Menthya Hittu?
1/2 cup Toor Dal
1/2 cup Chana dal
1/2 cup Moong dal
1/4 cup Urad dal
1 Tbsp Dhania/coriander seeds
2 Tsp menthya/fenugreek seeds
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
2 dry red chilies
1/2-3/4 Tsp black pepper
1 inch cinnamon
2 cloves
1 Tbsp Upma rava (in place of whole wheat)
1 Tsp rice
1/2 Tsp turmeric powder
salt (adjust to taste)
How do you make Menthya hittu?
  • Heat a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. 
  • Dry roast the 4 dals one by one stirring frequently until they turn crunchy and a deep pink in color. Do not burn any ingredients. 
  • As they get toasted, put them aside on a plate to cool down. 
  • Warm coriander seeds for a minute or two until you get the aroma and it heats up nicely, this doesn't have to change color. Keep aside to cool. 
  • Roast rava until it turns light pink. 
  • Roast rice until it turns brittle and transparent. 
  • Roast the remaining ingredients except red chilies until fragrant. Add red chilies, salt and turmeric powder at the end, switch off the stove. 
  • Once everything has cooled down completely, make a fine powder in the mixer or coffee grinder. 
  • I use the small sieve to sieve the powder, return it back to the mixer for another round of grinding to get a fine powder. 
  • Store in a dry, air tight container for upto 2 weeks, the freshness reduces  over time and I prefer to make small quantities. You can refrigerate it for longer shelf life. 
Now that we have the menthya hittu, how do we consume it? Here are a couple of delicious ways to eat this yummy condiment. 

Menthya hittu anna(rice): 
  • Mix 2 Tsp of the powder into a bowl of warm, cooked rice (cook rice so the grains are separate, tastes better than using mushy rice) along with 1/2 Tsp of ghee or oil. 
  • Make a seasoning of Tsp of oil, mustard, urad dal, chana dal and a few small pieces of dry red chili (Byadagi variety works best as it is not too hot and you can bite into the crunchy bits :-)). 
  • Pour a Tsp (or more to taste) of the seasoning on top of the rice.
  • Add 1/2 Tsp of lemon juice and a Tsp of finely chopped onions. 
  • Mix everything together with light fingers (very important not to mush up the rice), adjust salt or powder as needed and enjoy :-)

And here is an extremely easy gojju that is a favorite with akki rotti in our home. It is equally tasty when mixed with rice. 
Menthya hittu gojju: 
  • Soak a gooseberry sized tamarind in 1/2 cup water for 20 minutes and extract the juice. 
  • Make a seasoning of 1/2 Tsp mustard, pinch of asafoetida, a few dry red chilies and a couple of curry leaves. 
  • Take 2 heaped Tbsp of Menthya hittu in a bowl, add seasoning it to the bowl along with a Tbsp finely chopped onions, mix well. 
  • Add the tamarind extract, 1/2 Tsp crushed jaggery or brown sugar. 
  • Adjust salt, jaggery or consistency of the gravy (it is slightly runny than a dip but not flowing). 
  • Seasoned cast iron pans work best for all powder making as they spread heat evenly, you get a heavy airplane body material pan in India which works very well too, do not preferably use non stick pans.
  • Nammamma has gained the experience over years of making the powders to mix and roast ingredients as she understands which 2 (or more) take the same roasting time, Given my heavily multi tasking nature, I prefer to roast the ingredients one by one and give the passing attention they need :-), choose whichever method works for you. Bottom line is to roast them well and never burn any of them. 


Nandita SS said...

You know what? Only yesterday I was thinking about making this powder and today I see it on your blog. Menthya hittu looks wonderful. Thanks so much for the recipe :)

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

That's a really flavorful podi and what a way to lure a niece on to Atte's laps :) Food does bring people closer.

Srinath Sastry said...

Many thanks for Menthya hittu..

Can you post the recipe for Vangi bath please..?


Kannada Cuisine said...

nice one! I have never tried this one. It is a nice recipe for summer...

NamsVeni Pothas said...

nice healthy podi with beautiful pictures

Priya Suresh said...

Wow, this fenugreek powder looks absolutely my kind of food, loving it, cant wait to make a batch soon.

Jayanthy Kumaran said...

tasty delicious
Tasty Appetite

Jayanthy Kumaran said...

wow..aromatic n flavorful..