Karibevu Chutney Pudi | Curry Leaves 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.

Karibevu (in Kannada), Karuveppelai (in tamil) means “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 pudi. 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 pudi ensures that you actually ingest all the good qualities of the curry leaf well beyond its aroma, enjoying its taste equally.

Five ideas for Karibevu Chutney Pudi:

For the uninitiated (and there’s no shame in that!) here are five ways to use this Podi:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Make Rasam substituting this chutney pudi with Rasam powder. I have done it and it tastes wonderful.
  4. Add to curries to enhance taste and flavor.
  5. 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.


My aunt’s recipe

Printable 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
  • salt

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.

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26 thoughts on “Karibevu Chutney Pudi | Curry Leaves Spice Mix

  1. cookingrookie says:

    I have never tried curry leaf, maybe it was in some sauce, but I did not know. I am so curious to try your chutney. I have to find fresh curry leaves, probably in an Asian grocery shop..
    Thanks for your wonderful recipes and Happy 2012 to you, Radhika!

  2. Niru says:

    Looks so good, Radhika. I brought curry leaf powder with us here on our South America trip and have been adding it every place we cook something in a hostel. Smells so good and reminds me of home. How nice it would be to have a small sachet of your-style podi now. Missing south indian food so much now. 🙂

  3. Michael @ Herbivoracious says:

    This is great to know, Radhika. I’ve always done as I was told and used curry leaf the way you would use bay leaf in western cooking – infuse and dispose. And I’m crazy about the flavor of curry leaf. I like all of your options for using the mix once it is made.

    • Radhika says:

      Thanks Keerthana.. It is pretty simple isn’t it? We tend to think something as difficult to make when we are used to our mums and moms in law making it for us.. 🙂

  4. Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb says:

    very informative post about the curry leave. I have discovered this little plant in Goa and since I know too how to use it it ends up frequently in some dhal or curry of mine. we have a bunch of them growing in our compound. I had tried to plant it closer to my house but it is somehow not growing, means it is still there but nothing is much moving. lol thx for the growing tips too, I ll go check that out now.

    • Radhika says:

      Thanks Helene.. Lucky you! To have so many in your compound; having a curry leaf plant of our own is a luxury here..
      Back home, it was taken for granted so much..

  5. Sonia says:

    I heard a lot about this podi but never have had it ever. Radhika, pics are really getting better n better at your front. 🙂 Love everything here, especially that rustic kadai and all pics 😉

    • Radhika says:

      Thanks Sonia, you have the very best words always..
      Guess, now you can try 🙂
      That kadai is from bangalore, unfortunately it is ONLY a prop now thanks to the cooktop..
      Miss all my cast iron cookware

  6. Farwin @ LoveandotherSpices says:

    Hi radhika,what a lovely post and superb pictures ! We use curry leaves a lot but tend to discard when eating.looking for ways to include the nutritious herb in my diet and this post is timely.Got one question,though.What i dried tamarind ? I normally use the pulpy one but i don’t think you can use it in a podi.

    • Radhika says:

      Thanks Farwin..
      It is quite a good start now that you know you want to include it more..
      By dry tamarind, i mean the regular tamarind that is usually sold in stores, neither the wet pulpy ones nor the concentrate. regular tamarind, once sauteed, grinds well, you’ll be surprised..

  7. Soma says:

    I always have to have podis at home for the kids. they love it with ghee and rice. (and me too 🙂 ). I almost never had this at home while growing up unless we visited friends from down south, but now i am hooked to it. LOVE your Kadai and great photographs!

  8. Swathi says:

    I totally get what you say about how you can eat it 😀 I eat it mixed with cooked oats and yogurt 😉
    I havent tried making rasam out of it..should try it…for adding a healthier twist, flax seeds can be roasted, ground and added!

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