Ill mannered brats and unwary American guests – the joys of chutney podi!


“Oooh….aaaahhhhh….is this gunpowder??!!” ..was the reaction of a startled American guest when we were quite little. Americans were a novelty back then and so we stood around watching him eat – and his attempts at eating a dosa with a knife and fork sent us small and ill-mannered fry off into peals of laughter – which had to be suppressed till we were behind closed doors as we caught my father’s stern eye! Forks and knives themselves were a bit of a novelty – since our regular eating stuff consisted of a steel “thatta” or plate off which all meals including snacks, were eaten and resultant mess on fingers licked off! 

The gunpowder in question was “chutney podi” – a podi much loved by my father who could eat literally anything with it as an accompaniment – including finger chips!  The story had a happier ending, however, as our American guest, once the fumes out oh his ears and nose and eyes had settled down, began to enjoy it thoroughly and asked for seconds and thirds – much to the delight of my mom – who LOVED feeding up people – as evidenced by the sizes my brother and I have attained! For us, the small and giggly souls, we thought the homily on our manners or lack thereof, that we got from dad later – with his favourite lines “Raanu raanu Rajugaari gurralu gaadidelavuthunnayi” (as days goes by, the king’s horses are turning into donkeys!) was well worth seeing the poor American chappie eat – wonder what he made of us junglees! Actually we knew all dad’s lines so well that we got seriously worried when he slipped up on some of those lines – all was NOT well with the world then!

The south of India is full of podis – it’s a wonder that we are not always sneezing! – and each region and indeed, every household has different varieties. At this very point, for instance – let me take an inventory of my kitchen – not counting stuff like dhania powder and jeera powder, sambar and rasam powders which cannot be eaten on their own – I see idli molaga podi, garlic pappu podi, non- garlic pappodi (thanks to picky eater of a husband!), karepak podi, menthi kootu podi (these last two have already been featured on this blog) and of course, the prince of them all – CHUTNEY PODI! May have missed a few!

Chutney Podi

  • Dhaniya (coriander seeds) – 3 cup measures
  • Red chilies – 2 measures
  • Chana dal (bengal gram) – 1 measure
  • Urad dal – 1 measure
  • Putani (fried gram/ pottukadali/putnaala pappu) – 1 measure
  • Copra (dessicated coconut) -grated – 1 measure
  • Asafoetida – 1 thumbnail sized lump (not if you have hu-MON-gous nails!)
  • Tamarind – 1 measure
  • Jaggery – 1.5 measures
  • Sesame seeds – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1 tbsp
  • Sesame oil – 2 tbsp

In a few drops of oil, fry the asafoetida. Add the dhaniya and roast till you get a – roasted dhaniya aroma – what did you expect – Chanel no.5 aroma?? Set aside and roast each of the dals in a few drops of oil separately. The putani doesn’t really need a roasting – just drop it on top of the hot roasted other stuff. Roast the copra also till it yellows. Separately fry the tamarind in a tbsp of oil. The tamarind will turn black and smell a bit. Ignore! Set it aside – it will turn crisp when cooled. Roast the sesame seeds. Grind everything except the tamarind and the jaggery together. Add the tamarind bit by bit to the powder and grind. The mixer will tend to jump around violently but don’t get scared! Add jaggery and grind once more.

When completely cool, bottle and store – not in a frig. This lasts for two months at least. When you need some to eat as a side with idli or dosa or upma or even with yogurt like my dad used to – just take a teaspoon of it and add a few drops of sesame oil. Mix and hey presto – you got a ready instant chutney! 

p.s. Gosh, just realised i’m growing so like my dad that i eat this with yogurt only all the time!


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