While most of you probably know what a chutney is, if you’re not from South India, you might be wondering what “chutney pudi” is. A ‘pudi’ translates to ‘powder.’ So, “chutney pudi” as the name suggests, can be called a dry chutney. It is a ground mixture of dry-roasted herbs and spices that tastes spicy, sweet, sour, and salty all at the same time thanks to ingredients like dry red chilli, dry unsweetened coconut, and jaggery (palm sugar). There are different kinds of chutney pudis based on the main ingredient being showcased (i.e. dried curry leaves or kari patha leaves are the main component of a “kari patha chutney pudi”). Chutney pudi is a staple condiment for many South Indians, and like most pickles or chutneys, it’s eaten in small quantities to enhance the overall flavor profile of items on your plate. In Karnataka, chutney pudi is traditionally mixed with steamed rice and ghee (clarified butter) or combined with plain yogurt and served as a dip with a South Indian crispy snack called chaklis (or chakris). Like coffee, it can be a fine grind or a coarse grind. My absolute favorite is when it’s a coarse grind, like the photo above. I sprinkle chutney pudi on as many things as I can, including pasta and pizza. It makes everything taste better, honestly. Sean laughs whenever I pull it out of the cupboard with a big smile on my face. There is nothing like homemade chutney pudi.
Saroja Aunty was my mom’s older sister who lived in Bangalore, and made the best chutney pudi I’ve EVER had. This is the recipe I share with you below. Hers was coarsely ground and she always achieved the perfect texture, color, taste, and balance of flavors. I like it coarse because I can taste distinct bits of toasted coconut blending effortlessly with darkened palm sugar and channa dal with just the right bite from the red chillis.
Growing up in Canada, I would sometimes visit India during the summer holidays. The first stop was always Saroja Aunty’s house on 8th Main Road in Vasanth Nagar near Mount Carmel College in Bangalore. I still consider it my Bangalore home, and can picture sitting at the dining table at 8 years old watching Saroja Aunty pull out her stainless steel container of homemade chutney pudi. She passed away in 2013. I miss her and think of her often. I miss her house too. It’s since been turned into a Café and Pâtisserie called Desserted whose Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef describes it as a place to “stop by for a coffee, pastry, quick bite or a long chat.” My Saroja Aunty was a tough lady who was full of life and loved to host a diverse set of friends in her home. I think she would’ve liked the idea her home being a café and pâtisserie today, constantly filled with vibrant people and interesting conversations. After all, her house was the place where we would all would stop by for coffee, a quick bite, or a long chat.
Karnataka-style Chutney Pudi
- 1 cup urad dal
- 1 1/2 cups channa dal
- 20 dried red chillies – “Byaddagi” or “Kashmiri” variety
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (or powdered jaggery)
- 1 cup dry unsweetened coconut
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind root cut in small pieces
- 1 cup kari patha (curry leaves)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
- Set aside three medium size bowls and one large bowl.
- In a small frying pan on low heat, dry roast channa dal until it is aromatic & light red in color. Do not brown. Transfer to one medium size bowl and let it cool.
- In the same frying pan on low heat, dry roast urad dal until it is aromatic & light red in color. Do not brown. Transfer to the second medium size bowl and let it cool.
- In the same frying pan on low heat, roast red chillies with 1 teaspoon of oil until they are slightly brown. Transfer to the third medium size bowl and let it cool.
- In the same frying pan on low heat, roast kari patha (curry leaves) with 1 teaspoon of oil for 1-2 minutes until they are crisp. Add to the third bowl with the roasted red chillies.
- In the same frying pan on low heat, dry roast unsweetened coconut for no more than 30 seconds. Add to the third bowl with the roasted red chillies and curry leaves.
- Cut tamarind into small pieces and in the same frying pan on low heat, roast for 1 minute. Add to the third bowl with the roasted red chillies, curry leaves and coconut.
- Let everything cool to room temperature.
- In a food processor OR blender, coarse grind the channa dal for one minute. Then add the urad dal and continue grinding until the whole mixture is coarse ground (not finely ground). Transfer to the large bowl.
- In the same food processor OR blender, grind all the remaining ingredients until coarse ground. Add mixture to the large bowl with the coarse ground channa dal and urad dal.
- Add salt and brown sugar, and mix well.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.
Note: Instead of fresh tamarind, you can use tamarind powder (1 ½ tablespoons) or 1 teaspoon sour salt.
For those of you who are planning to make this terrific chutney pudi recipe, here are additional photos of what the roasted red chillis should look like — in response to B’s question down below: