Andhra podis and pachadis
In the heart of India’s southern culinary wonderland lies a gastronomic treasure trove waiting to be explored – Andhra Pradesh. Beyond its picturesque landscapes and vibrant culture, this coastal state boasts a culinary heritage that is as diverse as it is delectable. At the center of Andhra cuisine, are podis, pachadis and perugu pachadis.
In their latest cookbook, Absolute Andhra, authors Anu Chitrapu and Nirmala Garimella have embodied the bold, spicy, and tangy essence that defines Andhra cuisine as an ode to their mothers, Satyavathi Chitrapu and Vanka Subbalakshmi. The book is beautiful, full of illustrations that are a visual feast; I have it displayed in my home as a coffee table book. Almost everyone is drawn to the center illustration specifically commissioned for the book, The Courtyard by Padma Shri Thota Tharani.
During the COVID lockdown, Chitrapu and Garimella realized that not only did they miss the traditional foods prepared by their mothers, but lamented that traditional family recipes were slowly disappearing. Garimella recalls visiting her maternal grandmother’s ancestral home, where the women would sit in the courtyard with heaps of mangoes to make avakai: whole mangoes stuffed with spices, dried and stored in large ceramic pickle jars (jaadis).
I am enthralled with the vast array of vegetables and lentils that can be used to make podis (powders), avakayas (pickles), and pachadis (chutneys.) The section on perugu pachadis (raitas) is a particular favorite of mine. The Gujju in me is so partial to a raita with my meal.
Chitrapu and Garimella shared some of their favorite family recipes with us.
A traditional Andhra meal starts with a spicy lentil powder mixed with rice and a dollop of ghee or sesame oil. The lentil provides the protein, the rice the carbs, and the oil the fat, spice, and flavor. Most of these last up to three months in an airtight jar (be careful not to use a wet spoon.)
Flaxseed Podi (spicy flaxseed powder)
Recipe by Manorama Mocherla Khare
A high protein powder to incorporate into your Andhra meal without compromising on taste or spice. This is not a new-age dish, but one that our grandmothers were making even before grinders were invented.
½ cup roasted flaxseed
¼ cup sesame seeds
6 garlic cloves
6 red chilies
1 tsp jeera seeds
2 tsp oil
1 tsp salt
- Add 1 tsp of oil to a shallow pan. When the oil is hot, turn the stove down to a low setting and roast the garlic cloves, frequently turning them to cover all sides.
- Add the red chilies and jeera to the pan and continue roasting till the garlic turns light brown, about 10 minutes on a low flame. It is important to do this on a low setting, or the garlic will become dark brown and bitter. Keep aside to cool.
- Add the remaining oil to the same pan, add the sesame seeds and toast them till they turn a coffee brown, then remove from the pan.
- Add the roasted flax seeds to the same pan and warm for 2-3 mins, and set aside.
- In a coffee grinder or mixer grinder, grind the sesame seeds using a pulse setting. Remove.
- Pulse the garlic mixture, then add the flaxseed, a third at a time, until the mixture is a coarse powder.
- Add salt and mix all ingredients well.
- This podi will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a month.
A traditional Telugu-speaking household always serves pachadi with lunch. Vegetables, fruits, peels, lentils, edible leaves…all qualify to be made into spicy pachadis.
Gongura Pachadi (gongura chutney)
Recipe by Seethamma Mallavarapu
A quintessential pachadi from this region, Gongura pachadi is that one pachadi that any self-respecting person from Andhra has a lot of opinions about! In my grandparents’ home in Araku Valley, the children of the house would be tasked with plucking fresh gongura leaves from the garden. And then a bunch of us would sit on the verandah and remove the leaves from the stems. Male members of the family also participate in this activity.
½ cup oil
3 cups gongura leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric powder
Roast and grind:
1 tsp methi seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
12 red chilies
A pinch of hing
1 tsp mustard seeds
5 curry leaves
1 sliced onion (optional)
- Add 2 tbsp of oil to a pan and sauté the gongura leaves till they look wilted. Remove the leaves from the stove and set aside to cool to room temperature. Grind the gongura leaves in a grinder to a coarse consistency. Keep aside.
- To the same pan, add 1 tbsp of oil. When the oil is warm, add the garlic cloves and saute till the cloves turn light brown. Remove the garlic cloves from the oil with a spoon and keep aside.
- In the same pan, roast the methi seeds, mustard seeds, and red chilies till the methi seeds turn brown and give out an aroma. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cool, grind these together to a coarse powder.
- Replenish the oil in the same pan by adding the last tablespoon of oil and when the oil is warm, add the mustard seeds, hing, and curry leaves. Switch off the flame and add the ground powders, turmeric, and salt.
- Add the roasted garlic and the powders to the gongura and mix well.
- Optional: Serve with raw onion slices.
A major summertime activity in Andhra, avakaya-making requires meticulous planning. A specific variety of red chili is procured as is very good quality mustard and farm-produced sesame oil. Any compromise on quality will majorly impact the taste.
Menthi Baddalu (Instant mango pickle with fenugreek)
As summer starts in Andhra Pradesh, mango flowers transform into little green mangoes. Some grow to their fullest and become fruit, and some fall to the ground. All the little fallen mangoes are collected by children and brought back to the adults, who then cut them into small pieces and make this quick, tasty, and fresh accompaniment that is best experienced with roasted tuvar dal and rice, or fresh yogurt rice.
2 firm medium size mangoes
3 tbsp gingelly oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp methi seeds
4 red chilies
½ tsp hing
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp shaved jaggery
- Chop mangoes into 1-inch pieces with the peel intact.
- Pan-roast the methi seeds in 2 tsp of oil till they turn the color of coffee beans. Now add the mustard seeds and the dried red chilies and fry till the chilies turn brown and the mustard splutters. Add hing and let this cool on the side. Once it comes to room temperature, grind to a coarse powder.
- Add this powder to the chopped mango pieces along with the salt and mix well.
- Add shaved jaggery.
- Now heat the rest of the oil and pour over the mango pieces. Let this mixture rest for a day. This allows the mango to soak up the spices.
- Transfer to a ceramic jar and store in a dry place. This instant pickle will last for a week.
Perugu Pachadis (raitas)
Yogurt or perugu in Telugu, is an important part of Andhra cuisine. No meal is complete without “peruguannam” or yogurt rice, had at the end of every meal, as it cools the insides after a spicy meal. These raitas can be made with any vegetable of your choice, with an added tempering.
Tomato Perugu Pachadi (tomato yogurt chutney)
When you want a quick, healthy pachadi as an accompaniment for a rice dish or rotis, try this no-grind, no-fuss perugu pachadi, using a vegetable of your choice. We used tomatoes in this recipe but you can substitute with snake gourd, spinach, or okra for other flavors. This is the South Indian version of the popular North Indian raita.
1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
2 tsps oil
2 cups yogurt
½ tsp salt
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
2 red chilies
4-5 curry leaves
- In 2 tsp of oil add the chopped vegetable (tomato/ snake gourd/ spinach/ okra) and saute for 6-8 minutes till soft.
- Beat the yogurt in a bowl, add salt and the sauteed vegetable (tomato/ snake gourd/ spinach/ okra).
- Prepare the tempering. In a pan, heat oil to medium, add mustard seeds, urad dal, red chilies, and curry leaves till the mustard seeds splutter.
- Pour the tempering over the vegetable yogurt and mix well.
- Serve with rice, pulao, or biryani.