Whether or not every Tamilian house has rice or sugar or milk, they will definitely have idly milagai podi (aromatic spice powder) stored in an air tight container around the kitchen corner. I am sure you guys would have understood its significance by my-much exaggerated sentence (above) :-) We eat idly podi with idly, dosa, upma, adai, sometimes bread too. They are crunchy with a mild spice kick and loaded with the awesome smell of sesame oil, which is used as a liquid medium to make a paste out of it.
This flavorful spice mixture is served with nallennai /gingelly oil (sesame oil) or ghee as a side. Every family has its own version of the spice powder. Some may increase its spicy level while some may increase the amount of asafoetida or sesame seeds or my mom also adds horse grams certain times. Since my son seems to love its taste, I drastically reduce the number of red chillies and increase the amount of roasted channa dhal (pottu kadalai).
Here is the version which my family makes.
15 dry red chillies
1 cup urad dhal (white lentils)
1/2 cup channa dhal (black gram)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon asafoetida chunks (solid variety) or powder
1/2 cup horse gram - Kollu/ sesame seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Heat oil in a kadai and cook the solid asafoetida first. If using the powder, we can use it at a later stage. Saute each ingredient separately in oil and cool them. Make sure that you don't burn them. Always have an eye when you saute them. It will take about 5-8 minutes to roast each lentil.
Once cooled, grind them into a fine powder. Adjust salt to taste(use rock salt - if possible). Store in a clean air tight container. Enjoy the delicious podi with idly/dosa.
Serving suggestion: For those who love the coconut flavor, mix 2 -3 teaspoon idly podi with 2 teaspoon water and 1 teaspoon coconut oil. Mix thoroughly and spread over the idly and serve.