November 8, 2009

Thengaipodi or Chammandhipodi (A Spicy Coconut Chutney Powder)

My two weeks away from home meant that I did no cooking at all. Now I am back, I still haven't got back into my routine like it used to be before the vacation happened. I cook, and we eat but I haven't been taking pictures to blog about it all.
There a lot of little things (nothing earth shaking, or a matter of life and death) that just need to be done first. I shall do my best to keep posting here regularly and answering mail, but it looks like it is going to take me a little bit longer to get back to visiting your blogs.

Now onto the matter of this post. As I have mentioned many times before, I come from coconut country. This definitely one way to describe my home state, considering one can see coconut trees almost everywhere one goes in Kerala. So naturally coconut tends to be omnipresent in our cooking.

Every Keralite (a person belonging to the south Indian state of Kerala) worth his salt, in those days, would have a few coconut trees (if not a whole grove) around his house and having to buy a coconut would probably be classified as one of the worst things that could happen to a person.
No, I am not joking. I remember my mother-in-law being quite upset that we (who lived in Mumbai first, and Goa later) had to buy coconuts from the market while they got theirs from the backyard!
My maternal grandfather was equally passionate about the coconut trees (and banana plants) in his back yard . He used to personally tend to the coconut trees ensuring excellent coconut yield, until he was in his mid-80s.

Now things have changed a bit, at least in the cities, with many people living in high-rise apartments here, growing one's own coconut trees is an impossibility. I mean, who can grow a coconut tree on the 3rd floor? If it ever does happen that this (growing coconuts on the 3rd floor!) becomes possible, I can bet you that it would be a Keralite who discovers how this could be done!
Even today, anyone in Kerala who has a little bit of soil within the walls of his compound is bound to have at least 2 coconut trees growing there!

One might then wonder what people did with all the coconuts they got from their trees, apart from cooking with them.
Well, some would be given as offerings in the temples, some given away to neighbours and friends or occasionally sold to anyone who came asking to buy coconuts, while many people used the more mature coconuts for extracting fresh and pure coconut oil.
And if you still had coconuts which had crossed the stage where you could cook with it but not quite dried out (yes, there are different stages of coconut maturity, each good for different dishes), you sometimes made thengaipodi/ chammandhipodi.

As an aside, when coconuts are harvested they are stored as they are and not de-husked. This ensures they keep longer. Even when they are de-husked, a small conical portion of the husk is left over the "eyes" of the coconut to ensure they don't go bad.

"Thengai" means coconut and "podi" means powder. Thengaipodi is another Palakkad Iyer preparation, this time borrowed from Kerala where it is known as "Chammandhipodi" (this means chutney powder). A lot of chammandhi podi recipes include shallots and some have garlic as well, but a typical thangaipodi will not have either.

You will find a variety of thengaipodi recipes in cookbooks and on the internet. This is how I make mine. As an improvisation, I sometimes add curry leaves (if I have them in excess, along with the red chillies) but this is not done traditionally.
Thengaipodi or Chammandhipodi (A Spicy Coconut Chutney Powder)


1 1/2 cups fresh grated coconut

3 tbsp split black gram lentils (urad dal)

4 to 5 dried red chillies (increase or decrease to suit taste)

small bit (about size of a grape) of tamarind

1/4 tsp asafetida powder

salt to taste

1 tsp oil


Put the coconut into a wok/ pan and toast over low to medium heat, stirring frequently, till the coconut is quite brown. Take care to see it doesn't burn.
Just before the coconut has browned and is ready to take off the fire, add the red chillies. Ensure the chillies don't darken or burn while sautéing. Keep aside.

In the same wok/ pan, heat the 1 tsp of oil. Add the lentils and sauté till golden brown in colour. Add the asafetida powder, stir a couple of times and take the pan off the heat. Cool to room temperature.

Put the toasted coconut, red chillies, browned lentils and asafetida powder, salt and tamarind into the jar of your mixer/ grinder/ blender and grind to a slightly coarse powder. When done, the coconut will become finer with a slightly gritty feel from the lentils.
Bottle and store at room temperature (will keep for a few days) but refrigerate if keeping for longer.

Serve with warm rice and ghee (mix a couple of spoons with rice and ghee) or with yogurt and rice (this is my absolute favourite way of eating this chutney powder). You can also serve it alongside idlis or dosas, mixed with a little oil, instead of milagaipodi.


♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

Welcome back A! Never knew chammandipodi could look so goood! :) It's one of our fave!

Pari said...

Aparna, this looks like a quick chutney with very basic ingredients. my MIL adds chana dal also to this and makes it slightly wet.

Bharti said...

Mmm....the podi sounds flavorful and yummy. I'm visualizing all those coconut trees in the backyards...would love to visit Kerela some day. It looks beautiful in the pics I've seen.

Sunshinemom said...

He he! I remember Daddy planting 5 coconut trees in our backyard when he stayed in a bungalow earlier. We used to have tengaipodi so often then and bring back lots with us to tide over the next couple of months! Tasty podi esp. with toasted bread:). I have tasted chemmandipodi but don't like it as much due to presence of garlic.

Did you visit Adam's and Blossoms?

shayma said...

Aparna, this chutney takes the biscuit. i love it. i have to share it with my mummy, she loves the 'chatpatti' (as we say in Urdu/Hindi) condiments. it's so lovely to read a blog written by someone from our part of the world. there are so many other beautiful ones, i didnt even know they existed!

jodie said...

Hi, I really love reading your blog. It makes me want to visit Kerala. Your recipes always sound mysterious and delicious.
best wishes and thanks from Jodie in Melbourne Australia

toni said...

I just discovered your blog, and what a treat! I've only been to India twice, and the closest I came to Kerala was Tamil Nadu. What I love is the incredible diversity and subtle differences in each region's food!

Thanks for adding the tips on how to use this powder. I'm ready to try it!

Ilva said...

Thanks Aparna, this is really interesting for me as an Westerner and, you won't believe this-it made my Monday even better!

The Cooking Ninja said...

I don't know what this is nor ever had this but it looks good. I do wonder how it taste like or smell like. :)

When I was little, I used to live in a kampong (small village) and we had coconut trees, papaya, guava, banana trees everywhere. It was so convenient. Whenever my mom needed a coconut, she would sent us out hunting for it and we love de-husking it, then sat on a long wood with a coconut grater spike at the end, happily grating coconut to see who finished first. :)

Happy cook said...

Oh yeah when we were at home the montly guy used to come also for plucking the coconut and each of us were allowed to have a tender coconut and also loved the flesh inside.
Now a days when ever my sister comes from B'lore mom pot so many coconut in their car telling her use these ones than buying them.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I have never had anything like this - chutney powder - sounds like the new molecular gastronomy, maybe they got their ideas from the Keralites!
Sounds very tasty indeed. I haven't tackled a whole coconut before - but I'll add it to the list. ;-)

sra said...

I heard of this first, where else, in hostel! Didn't take to it but that's the only time I had it. Am quite willing to try it a second time.

Dhanggit said...

this looks like a quick easy and delicious chutney recipe!! welcome back Aparna!!

Indhu said...

we call this thengai - milagaipodi in our house... My mother used to prepare this in a HUGE bottle and I would take it to the hostel when I was doing my undergraduation... hostel food was so bad and this was my saviour.. I used to mix this with rice and eat... love the first picture... am drooling :)

jayasri said...

I too make this podi the same way, but reduced doing it now as scared about cholestrol, love this podi so much, you have got wonderful click, aparna.., that's a really good one, looks so delicious

Aparna said...

Thanks. I must say I also liked my picture. :)
Especially as this was not what I started with while taking pics, and then this just happened!

Never seen a wet chammandi podi before, Pari.

Then you must visit Kerala, Bharti.

So you know what I'm talking about, Harini! :)
Yes, visited both places and shopped there too. :D

Thanks, Shayma.

Next time make sure you visit Kerala too, Jodie.

If you say that I made your monday even better, then that's a compliment, Ilva.

Pam, what you describe sounds so much like how it is here. :)
I have a coconut grater most of us do in India) like the one you described.

HC, that sounds like what my MIL used to do whenever we went down to Kerala on vacation! Oh, the arguments my husband and his mom had over those coconuts! :D

Natashya, LOL.

Hostel is a great place to learn stuff, Sra. :)

Thanks, Hilda.

Indhu, for us, milagaipodi is different.

I know, Jayasri. I don't make it too often either! :(

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Thanks for this post!! I've seen this chutney in many places, ALWAYS wondered what is was!! Off to the cook it goes :)