Thursday, September 3, 2009

Malabar Roasted Coriander Powder/Vartha Malli podi

In the front bowl is the roasted coriander powder (vartha malli podi ) and the bowl at the back is the store bought coriander powder. I've showcased the podi with my grandma's errnanam (her belt) that I inherited from her. She wore it on her traditional kachi kupayum, a traditional outfit.

The above photo is the route that Vasco Da Gama took on his voyage - photo taken in Lisbon.

Vasco da Gama
came from Lisbon to Calicut on May 21st 1498. And what did the men shout as they came ashore? "For Christ and spices!" But to their disappointment there were plenty of Christians living in the Malabar Coast. This was with the arrival of a Syrian contingent many centuries earlier. But Vasco Da Gama was right about the spice. Calicut is the world's greater pepper growing region (source -

For many generations our families have been living in Calicut. Spices are a vital part of our food and life. Without spice there are no dishes made. Since the time I got married, the one thing that I always bring along with me from Calicut is the vartha (roasted) malli (coriander) podi (powder). I remember my mother doing the same when she was living in Mumbai when we were little. The roasted coriander powder is a mix of many spices and not just coriander seeds roasted. Every time when I go to Calicut and tell my mom I need roasted coriander powder, the powder is given to me all neatly packed. Never for once have I asked her for the recipe until my last visit last summer. This was after I started blogging and started to note down dishes that were made at home that I would take along with me to savor it later. In my last visit when my mom handed me the powder, assuming that the roasted coriander powder is just what it says - coriander seeds roasted, I, out of curosity asked her - " ide verum malli varthu podichattu annu (This is just coriander seeds roasted and powdered - right? ) " My mom laughed. She then told me the whole recipe and I was amazed by the ingredients that go into the vartha (roasted) malli (coriander) podi (powder). Some of the ingredients that were used - I wouldn't in my wildest dream think of putting it in making the malli podi.

Vartha malli podi adds a lovely color to meat dishes. Just a few spoons of the podi gives the gravy the right amount of thickness, a lovely aroma and the spices are just right without making the dish too unbearably HOT. Without the varthu malli podi we find our meat to be very bland. Although, I don't have a whole lot of recipes in my blog that I have published using the roasted coriander powder, I do use it very often at home while making simple chicken or lamb or beef curries. And it is also because I thought that, what is the point in posting a recipe without posting the main ingredient? So finally, the time has arrived.

Also, the timing for posting this was right - or rather after reading the topic for this month's Monthly Mingle and Click, this was the only thing that came to my mind. Well, it was about time I posted this.

This has been passed on to me by mom and to my mom from her mom. This is one spice that I would carry with me if my house were on fire! This is to my Umma (mom) and my methamma (grand ma).

Vartha Malli Podi/Roasted Coriander Powder:

  • 1 kg Coriander seeds
  • 250g Turmeric (whole)
  • 250g Dry Red chilies
  • 10 g Cinnamon
  • 10 g Cloves
  • 10 g Cardamom
  • 5 g Nutmeg
  • 5 g Shahjeera
  • 5 g Javatiri
  • 2 tbsps Fenugreek
  • 3 tbsps Rice


Roast all the above ingredients one at a time till you get the aroma of the spice and starts to change its color. Grind to a powder.

You can store this in an air tight container for about 6 months or so.

Here are some of the recipes using the vartha malli podi - Chemeen Biryani, Erachi Pathiri, Kheema Masoor Dal Pulao, and here

To read more about the Spice trade go to this link here.


Anonymous said...

Excellent spice mix!

bee said...

thanks for a delightful recipe. i'm originally from calicut too, so this brought back some memories.

bee said...

thanks for a delightful recipe. i'm originally from calicut too, so this brought back some memories.

MeetaK said...

i love spices and roasting and grinding at home is always the perfect way to add that perfect flavor. thanks for the entry to the monthly mingle!

Happy cook said...

Mom makes this in small quantity and she use it too.
I can imagine the aroma from your kitchen.

Joanne said...

The color in that spice mix is so rich - you can just tell that it would add a great depth of flavor to anything.

Soma said...

Lovely Podi & a pretty picture too!

lan said...

Thanks for this recipe. My mother-in-law gives us homemade garam masala powder and I know she also roasts each ingredient and grinds. Now that she is sort of retired I may never get the chance to get her to remember everything so this is just splendid as it sounds a lot like how she would do it!

s said...

great spice powder...its got great colour too

Shwetha said...

This is my first visit to your wonderful blog. There are so many recipes here that I want to make. And I loved reading this post - descriptive and informative. Thanks!