Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Many of you may wonder when I include Sambar podi as an ingredient in not only Sambar, but also in rasams, kozhambus and koottus, various curries. I even use them in North Indian currys such as Paneer Butter Masala or Gobi Aloos, Koftas and so on. I also use it as a garnish on dahi vadas, pachadis, in aloo parathas and literally every other dish that calls for chilli powder. The term ‘SAMBARA’ in Kannada means “pungent or aromatic vegetable substance used as flavoring” as per the dictionary. The Sambar podi (Spice powder) in my kitchen shelf is the queen of all spices and it combines very well with the other specified ingredients to lend a unique flavor to various dishes.
When I set up an independent house hold after my first child was born, mother sent me jars and jars of this sambar podi – the most precious gift a girl in that position would wish for - with who ever visited me from her place. My mother–in–law supplied me with her special flavorsome rasam podi. All my dishes turned out quite delicious with the two podis ruling my kitchen.
With the advent of the 21st century , when all the younger generations are scattered all over the globe, it is impossible for them to find help to pound the spices, or take the spices to the “misheen” (shops with grinding machines).
This post is for the die hard connoisseur who is willing to get the traditional flavours of the Sambar podi, from wherever she/he might be stationed. Chillies also come in a variety of shapes, sizes and shades of red, and all types are not available everywhere. The chilli variety I use is Guntur Red Chillies, as they are quite spicy. Byadagi chillies are less pungent, but provide a bright red colour. Here is a good site that describes different chillie varieties in India. You can however use any variety that appeals to you, in terms of pungency and colour.
For convenience and since some of you asked for cup measures rather than grams, I have provided the recipes using red chillie and turmeric powders instead of the whole spices. In this recipe I have used ready made MTR Chillie powder. If you want the recipe using whole spices and large quantities, do check this post.


1. Red chilly powder - 2 cups (Whole red chillies are not used here, since it can not be contained in cup measures. Same applies to turmeric sticks also.)
2. Turmeric powder – 2 heaped tea spoons
3. Dhania (Coriander seeds) – 2 cups
4. Tur dal (Red gram / split pigeon peas ) – ¼ cup
5. Chana dal (Bengal gram dal) – ¼ cup
6. Urad Dal ( Black gram dal) – 1 tbsp
7. Black pepper corns – 2 tbsps
8. Cumin seeds – 2 tbsps
9. Fenugreek seeds – 2 tsp
10. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

1. Grind all the ingredients except the turmeric powder and the chillie powder into a fine powder.
I usually mix all the ingredients and them and keep them in the Sun for a while so that it gets powdered easily. If this is not possible, the ingredients may be allowed to stand in a hot pan for a while. It should NOT be roasted though, as that will change the flavour completely.
2. When the powder is fine enough, add the turmeric powder and run the mixer.
3. Finally add the chillie powder and blend in the mixer.
4. Stop running the mixer at intervals so that it does not get heated, as even this little heat will roast the ingredients and change the flavour!
6. An orangish red coloured sambar podi is now ready.
7. Store the sambar podi in clean, dry, air tight jars to preserve the flavour.
The snap above shows the various lovely colours in the mixer stage by stage - lentils and dhania (corriander seeds), then addition of turmeric, and addition of red chillie powder little by little, that finally contribute to the lovely orange red of sambar powder. Now your Spice Queen is ready to rule your kitchen.

The measures above give about 5 cups of powder, and this quantity lasts us about 2 weeks for a family of 3 to 4 members, and we use this in almost every other dish. However, depending on how well you store it, this powder can retain almost all its original intensity and flavour over six months – maybe more. My daughter stocks up on Sambar powder when she visits us once or twice a year. She stores it in tightly sealed plastic bags, and keeps the bag in air tight jars. Just a little is brought out every alternate week in small amounts, and stored in a small box for daily use.

25 Post your Comments:

S.R.Ramachandran said...

nice aroma while preparing m.podi. appa

Lakshmi said...

ahaa..wonderful post! Our sambar powder does not contain dals! I have to make it your way next time.

Uma said...

My version of sambar podi doesn't contain dals either! Your version looks more aromatic and nice.

Chitra said...

My MIL makes it with slight variations.Nice post ammma:)

sharada said...

Home made podi always smells great than store brought.
i can smell the aroma...
thanks for dropping by.

Asha said...

LOL @ "Misheen", tumbe varshavagittu adanna keli! :D

Great post. I think good Bydagi chiilies makes all the difference in taste and color in pudi. I will look for MTR chilli pd, never saw that in here. Good post to learn and with links, thanks.

My Mysore ajjis Saarina pudi had about 16 masalas, they make it once a year and throw in whole Garlic with skins on them in the pudi too! :D

Priya Suresh said...

Thats a wonderful post...Nice aromatic sambar podi..

Ria said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this post!! I had been looking for an easy to follow authentic sambar pwd recipe for so long. I plan to try this next weekend. I also like the idea of storing in small batches given that I am not likely to cook with it every week.

Manju said...

ahh..this defenitely is the queen of spice. Loved reading the post!

Dori said...

Wow, great color... Send over a jar for me ;)

Cham said...

I guess the MTR podi bring such an attractive color! Very aromatic! I make with lentils too!

Adlak's tiny world said...

i could feel the nice aroma of the powder here... nice post.

lubnakarim06 said...

Aromatic and flavourful powder.

Chutneytales said...

This is a perfect sambar podi recipe.I will try your version.Thank you!

YOSEE said...

Nothing to beat the flavour of " from-the-scratch" preperations of course. But i take the easy way out.I mix 200gms. of MTR chilli powder with 200gms. MTR Sambar powder and 50gms. coriander powder- this last, dry roasted and powdered at home, to satisfy myself that i did some honest work :-)

Unknown said...

Lovely recipe for sambar podi.

Vaishali said...

That's one good-looking sambar podi. I have a stash from my sis-in-law that's perfect but it's going to get over in the not-so-distant future. Glad to have your recipe.

Le @HC said...

Nice post. The whole process of making it is enjoyable... Thanks Chitramma

Curry Queen said...

I look forward to trying out this recipe later this week! I have trouble identifying the dals, and don't really know what ones to use, as I have never heard of these. I live in the Middle East and everything here is in Arabic.
Any ideas, anyone?

Chitra Amma's Kitchen said...

I enquired a friend who is learning Arabic.She identifies Tur dal as toor ki dal, bengal gram dal as chane ki dal and black gram dal as urad or udad ki dal.
I think your India store can provide you with the necessary ingredients.Have a look at the picture before you go shopping.Thank you for taking all the trouble to prepare the spice powder.Chitra.

Anonymous said...


I have started to make this podi..
Need to try making sambhar once..


SwamiNathan said...

When you add the sambar podi to the boiled tamarind water and vegetables, it gets heated any why is it important to avoid heating the ingredients?...for longet sorage of flavour in podi form ?



Dibs said...

Dear Mr Swaminathan, That's correct. The aroma of the powder is retained and stays intact and fresh as long as it is not heated. The moment you heat / cook it is when all the flavours get released and thats what you want just when cooking the sambhar, and not wasted away before that.

Ponnammal said...

nice preparation with good aroma

Unknown said...