Curry Leaf Spice Mix
If you ask me to pick one herb that is my most favorite, without even thinking or blinking I’d most likely say “Curry Leaf” and perhaps I might answer that in my sleep as well. Quite confident on that. And ever since I started blogging, I am getting to know myself at a whole new level and I am really liking it. As, never before did I have this depth of realization or inkling about my affinity for Curry Leaf, surprisingly enough.
Until recently, I had not shed a thought on turning Curry Leaf into a spice mix, though spice mix has never been an alien concept to me. No idea why I did not think of making it before, but I am happy I did now.
Podi(s) (means powder) or spice mix(es) in plain English are an integral part of South Indian meals, coming in such versatile variations that the same name could stand for a range of myriad ingredient permutations and combinations, depending upon where you are in the neighborhood/locality or town/city or state, even differing from house to house. The reason I say this is, my aunt and my mom make it in two different ways and they are sisters. You get the idea, right?
I am sharing both versions today, in case you have that question popping up.
Karuveppelai (in tamil) meaning “a black Neem leaf” (yes, of the Neem tree), in spite of being a key seasoning ingredient in South Indian food, is most often discarded because most people either don’t know that it needs to be eaten (let’s face it!) or they do not like to chew on a dark leaf (dark truth) or may be they don’t quite like it when some random leaf takes them by surprise in their mouth. In fact, I was quite shocked to read in an Indian cookbook (don’t remember the name, luckily for the author!), when curry leaf was listed among spices/herbs that need to be discarded before serving/eating. Anyways, whatever the reason, the net result is, a chlorophyll and nutrient rich herb that is so good for health, never gets eaten, forget about being assimilated et al.
While I was trying to gather my thoughts on this topic, it became vividly clear to my mind the necessity or the origin of this chutney podi. This is for all those of you, who use Curry Leaf as a mere flavor enhancer to only chuck it out of your plate at mealtime. This chutney podi ensures that you actually ingest all the good qualities of the curry leaf well beyond its aroma, enjoying its taste equally.
For the uninitiated (and there’s no shame in that!) here are five ways to use this Podi:
- Mix it with hot steaming rice, white or brown anything will do or even broken wheat, optionally with a quaint dollop of ghee. Eat it as your first morsel, it is heavenly.
- Serve a generous portion on your plate, make a well in the center and mix it with a good oil of your choice – olive oil, sesame oil or peanut oil will do. Savor it accompanied with Dosa, Idli, chapati and the like. There’s no need for chutney!
- Make Rasam substituting this chutney podi with Rasam powder. I have done it and it tastes wonderful.
- Add to curries to enhance taste and flavor.
- This one is slightly unconventional. Add to pasta or noodles as a seasoning for a special South Indian twist. *wink*
And, if you have a Curry Leaf plant at home, you might find these Tips to care for your Curry Leaf Plant in winter quite useful.
KARUVEPPELAI CHUTNEY PODI RECIPE
My aunt’s recipe
Things you’ll need:
- 1 heaped cup Curry leaves, washed and towel dried
- 1/4 cup toor dal / pigeon peas
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 8 dried red chillies (byadagi or any mild heat variety)
- 1/8 tsp asafoetida / hing
- about 1 tsp size seeded dried tamarind
- about 10, 1 inch long 1 cm thick dried coconut (Kobri) slices
- 1 tsp grated or crushed jaggery
- 1 tsp peanut oil
How it’s done:
Heat oil in a skillet or cast iron kadai over medium heat. When oilis hot enough or shimmering, sauté tamarind until dark and crisp, without burning it and strain it onto a plate.
To the same oil, add black pepper and sauté until it just begins to crackle; strain onto the plate. In the remaining oil, sauté red chillies and curry leaves until crisp and aromatic. If it starts to smoke, you would have burnt it. Remove onto the plate.
Add toor dal and hing and dry roast until dal tuns light brown and opaque; remove onto the plate. Make sure to scrape out all the residual hing. Lastly, dry roast dry coconut (Cobri) pieces until light brown. This step removes any residual moisture from it and adds to the shelf life of the spice mix. Remove onto a separate plate. Let all roasted ingredients cool before grinding.
In a spice grinder or Indian mixer/grinder, grind the roasted spices adding salt, jaggery and roasted coconut pieces halfway. Do not grind it too fine, ground coffee consistency is just right.
Version II (My mom’s recipe)
All other ingredients being the same,
- in place of toor dal, use three equal portions of toor dal, bengal gram /chana dal and black gram / urad dal to make 1/4 cup
- 1/4 cup coriander seeds (dhania)
How to identify byadagi chillies? They are crinkly as opposed to their smooth high heat counterparts, contorted more than straight and orange-red colored rather than a deep red. You are most likely to find them in an Indian grocery store.
Curry leaves dry up soon when stored in the refrigerator. If you have curry leaves that are dried up to begin with, do not wash them. Just wipe them with a dry cloth and use. When dried curry leaves are washed, they almost instantly lose aroma and tend to mold easily.
And because, they don’t store well in the refrigerator for long, as soon as you bring them, wash, towel dry and microwave in 30 sec intervals on a plate until crumbly crisp. Store in an airtight container when cooled. Though this method is not the best at preserving its aroma, it is certainly better than having none at all.
Do not dry roast red chillies without at least a drop of oil ever, unless you want your kitchen to be filled with pungently stinging and almost choking chilli fumes.