Our flavour bases- article hindu metroplus

Hindu metro plus , Spice to Life


Whether it’s podis, pickles or appalams, nothing can beat the home-made variety


Indian food is known for its complex tastes. When entertaining  guests from abroad, we like to showcase authentic Indian food for its sheer variety, especially the vast repertoire of vegetarian food. A German friend once pointed out that while one flavour was predominant in other cuisines; it was difficult to pick one particular flavour in Indian cuisine, as there were so many layers to a single dish. This made me realise that we take our bases for granted. Like our podis, vatthals and pickles. These are much more than just accompaniments. They turn the simplest of produce into lip-smacking delights. A few days ago, when I was hard-pressed for time, I used a chilli-garlic-cumin-coriander podi instead of a fresh chilli-garlic-ginger marinade. The dish turned out great and I now have a new respect for my home-ground spices.


I have read many cookbooks and listened to many chefs advocating shortcuts in place of slow cooking techniques. So, we have Nigella talking about garlic-infused oil that negates the need for chopping or pureeing garlic; Kylie Kwong suggesting a soy sauce and honey chilli glaze that can add an instant zing. Fresh herbs in vinegar, pickled onions and gherkins, sundried tomatoes… the list goes on.


However, this has been a part of traditional Indian cooking for centuries. Back when a family consisted of 15-20 people, the monthly or annual ritual of preparing blends of spices and pickles was more a necessity than just a pleasurable task.


Various communities have their own unique blends of spices. The proportions also vary. I am no expert in traditional Brahmin cuisine, which does not use onion and garlic but still manages to excite your taste buds. My aunt Jaya spoke excitedly about the deliciousvathakuzhambhu that she made with a special mix bought from Mythili maami .


I love vathakuzhambhu and the thought of making an authentic version was too good to resist. A quick phone call later, I was all set to meet the Mythili maami , who also sells a range of rice appalams , seasonal pickles,kanji , javvarisi and onion vadams and special packets of powders for puliodharais and yummy gravies. She, her brother Venkatesh and his family have been making these for many years. They also door deliver their orders. The pickles are packaged in glass bottles or plastic pouches, depending on the customer’s preference but cost the same.


They use only cold-pressed nallaenai for their products. Recently they have begun sourcing unusual products to add to their home-made goods. For example, from Nagercoil comes an orangey yellow maravalli kizhangupaapad and a pepper paapad . Her moru milagai — tiny chillies soaked in buttermilk and sundried — are extremely popular. She says that while the vadagamsneed to be fried, the appalams can be turned over an open fire.


The work is laborious and sometimes they don’t have even a minute for a cup of tea, says Mythili. But she is more than willing to share recipes and processes. It delights her when people want to make typical South Indian food. She talks of how manathakkali vatthal is a cure for all respiratory ailments. It also bothers her that children clamour for burgers and pizzas. Nothing beats a helping of hot rice, paruppu podi , vatthal kuzhambuand an appalam on the side,according to her. I couldn’t agree more!



Contact Mythili maami @ 9944941697 or Venkatesh @ 9976540540


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2 Responses to Our flavour bases- article hindu metroplus

  1. Anand September 15, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

    Nothing beats a helping of hot rice, paruppu podi , vatthal kuzhambuand an appalam

    Couldn’t agree more Shanthini!

    • Shanthini Rajkumar September 23, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

      Yes Anand ! True comfort food :)

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