Indian condiments: A game of flavours and colours
A look at various regional Indian condiments that add their own.
One of the best things about an Indian thali is that it is full of colours, textures and flavours. The platter usually contains a mix of flatbreads, lentils, vegetables, a savoury fried snack, and at least two condiments. Existing in the form of powders, chutneys, pickles, raitas and sauces, the condiments enhance the meal with their sweet, spicy and sour flavours.
While there are numerous regional condiments across the country, let’s read about some of the popular preparations.
This preparation is an old, traditional recipe from the Chamba valley of Himachal Pradesh. A recipe that has been passed on through many generations, this chutney is made using local sun-dried red chillies. The chillies are first soaked for half an hour and then ground to a paste. A citrus fruit extract such as lemon juice and local spices are added to the soaked and ground chilli pulp and cooked over a low flame. The smokey-flavoured Chamba Chukh is usually eaten as a condiment but it’s also used in cooking to add a delicious punch to various dishes.
This delicious powder is a traditional Maharashtrian recipe that is found in many households. The warming and slightly spicy metkut is a mix of lentils, grains and spices that are ground up together. This finely powdered preparation contains quite a long list of ingredients including rice, wheat, split chickpeas, urad dal, moong dal, dry ginger powder, coriander powder, cumin powder. The whole ingredients are first roasted and then ground to a fine powder and then combined with the powdered spices. Metkut is often consumed with warm rice and a dollop of ghee.
Milagai podi goes by many names — idli podi, idli karam podi, malgapodi, chutney podi and gunpowder. This coarse spice powder is a popular condiment in south India. It is a mixture of ground dry spices that includes dried chillies, black gram, chickpeas, salt and sesame seeds. Milagai podi has a nutty and smoky taste due to the roasted lentils and dried spices in it. It is generally mixed with sesame oil or melted ghee and consumed as a side with idli or dosa.
Ouu khatta is a sweet and sour condiment made in Odisha. This popular dish is prepared with elephant apples post the monsoon. The fruit is quite sour so most of the recipes use jaggery or sugar to balance it. The condiment also has spicy versions with ingredients such as mustard and garlic paste to give it a sour, spicy, tangy flavour. This pulpy preparation is often consumed with steamed rice.
Chammanthi podi is a dry alternative to the moist coconut chutneys that usually get spoilt very quickly. The word ‘chammanthi’ means chutney, and ‘podi’ means powder. To make this dry powdery condiment, shredded coconut pieces are first roasted with urad dal, dried chillies, curry leaves, salt and asafoetida in a pan on a low flame. The moisture in the ingredients evaporates during the roasting process. Roast until the coconut pieces turn brown. When it has cooled down, the mixture is ground and stored in an airtight container. This dry coconut-based chutney, which is popular in Kerala, remains edible for a few months.
For those who prefer their food on the sweeter side and avoid extremely spicy condiments, the raw mango chunda or choondu from Gujarat is a good choice. This pulpy and sweet and mildly spicy preparation uses sugar and some salt as the preservation method. For a quick recipe to prepare chunda, first wash and peel raw mangoes and grate them. Take some sugar and salt in a pan and add the grated fruit to it. Cook on a low flame until the sugar melts down to a thick syrup and the mixture becomes dense and has a jam-like consistency. Add some roasted cumin powder and some chilli powder if you’d prefer it to be slightly spicy. Enjoy this sweet and sour pulpy condiment with parathas, rice and curries.
What are your favourite condiments? Tell us about them in the comments.