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Masalas are nothing but ground spice mix to improve the flavor of dishes.   These  Masalas and Readymade mixes of Tamil Nadu are indispensable items and have helped the local cooks to prepare finger-licking dishes since ancient times. Now you know how sambhar is so delicious! There is a health angle too!

Here is a look at some of the authentic Masalas and Readymade mixes of Tamil Nadu.  While these mixes and powders are unique to Tamil Nadu, some of them are used with slight variations in the neighboring states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala

Rasam Powder

Rasam powder photoPhoto by Sam Felder

Rasam powder is used to spice up  Tamarind/Tomato juice to prepare hot and peppery Soup ideal for drinking or eating with rice and ghee.  The ingredients that go in are Coriander seeds, turmeric, Red Chillies, Tor dal(Pigeon pea), Chana dal(chickpea), black pepper and cumin seeds.  These are warmed in sun and grounded in bulk and used every day in small quantities for aromatic South Indian soup – Rasam.  This powder stays fresh for more than a month.

Health benefit: Cumin seeds in Rasam mix helps in digestion. Rasam rice is easily digestible and hence best for children above 3 years.

Idli powder: 

It is sometimes called gunpowder for its pungent taste.  Made using Urad dal(Black gram) and Chana dal (Chickpea) and red chilies, the ingredients are roasted and blended with salt.  It is mixed with gingelly oil to a liquidy consistency and eaten with Idlis and Dosas.

Health benefit:  Gingelly oil intake improves skin texture and is good for the heart while lentils are protein providers.

Sambar powder

The spices used for Sambar powder are Coriander seeds, chana dal (Chickpeas), cumin seeds, Red chilies, fenugreek seeds, mustard and curry leaves.  These are dry roasted and grounded for use and can stay fresh and aromatic for     1-2 weeks  It is added to tamarind juice and vegetables to prepare sambhar.

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Health Benefit:  Fenugreek seeds lowers inflammation inside and outside the body.  Cumin and coriander seeds aid in digestion and curry leaves are source of Vitamin A and calcium

Readymade mixes.

After the Masalas here are some Readymade mixes for ones who have no time to cook before rushing off to the office.  These mixes or pastes can just be added in right proportion to rice and viola! you have a special dish which goes well with papads or chips.

Puli Kachal or Tamarind mix

Tamarind juice is boiled with red chilies, ground nuts, lentils, salt and Gingelly oil.  It is cooked until the oil is released and the mixture becomes pasty.  Add this paste to hot rice and you get tamarind rice which tastes like heaven.

Health benefit:  Grounds nuts are a source of anti-oxidants, tamarind is a laxative and aids digestion.

Paruppu podi or lentil  powder

Tor dal or pigeon pea is roasted with red chillies, cumin seeds, asafoetida, black pepper and blended with salt.  Add this to cooked rice whenever you to hurry to office, add a dollop of oil/ghee and you have a tasty rice preparation ready.

Health benefit: Lentils are the only source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.  Eating Paruppu podi rice can improve muscle mass while giving your body essential amino acids, potassium and fiber.

Spice tamil nadu photoPhoto by vasanthcullen


Curry leaf powder

Curry leaf is dry roasted with Tuar dal peppercorns, Urad dal,(black gram) chana dal salt and red chili.  This powder has a shelf life of 15 days and can be mixed with rice for consumption.

Health benefit:  Curry leaves are a rich source of Vitamin A and Calcium.  They delay hair loss and hair greying.

Kothamilivara podi (coriander seed powder)

Coriander seeds area roasted with black pepper, red chillies and grounded with salt.  This powder also tastes great with hot rice and ghee.

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Health benefit: Coriander seeds lowers blood sugar and improves cholesterol levels.  It also helps maintain menstrual health.

Angayam Podi/Powder

Angayam powder is one rare variety of Masalas and Readymade mixes in Tamil Nadu.  You may find this only in shops or Joint families where senior members vouch for its utility at all times.  The list of ingredients of this powder is long and includes Tur Dal, Coriander seeds, Red chilli, pepper, cumin seeds, Arisi Tthippli(Indian Long pepper), Kanda thippli(long pepper), new flowers, sundaka vatthal (Turkey berry) and Asafatodeia.  All the ingredients are dry roasted and ground.  This spice can be with rice and ghee, at times, when one has digestion problems or when not feeling well.

Health Benefit: Angayam powder helps in digestion and works as a good medicine for all parts of the body.  It controls stomach discomfort.  Increases Thyroid hormone secretion, stimulates digestive and respiratory systems

These Masalas and Readymade mixes not only improves the taste but also reduce cooking time while providing various health benefits much necessary for the fast-paced life we are living.  It is only wise to adopt these age-old practices for better living and avoiding outside fast food as much as possible

Photo by wuestenigel

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