I’ve been thinking about my childhood favorites especially since I live 10,000 miles away from my parents and traveling to see them isn’t likely to happen any time soon. As I was making a list of things to cook, I wanted to make something that was both easy and something that would keep in the fridge for those days when I can’t seem to get a decent dinner on the table! So this recipe for “thengai podi” came to mind. Grated coconut is something every Tamil household will have on hand, whether it’s to make coconut chutney to accompany your dosai and idlis for breakfast or added to a vegetable stir fry. “Thengai podi” which translates very simply as coconut powder is made by sautéing grated coconut so it’s lightly toasted along with aromatics like dried red chilies, curry leaves, mustard seeds, dry lentils and a heap of fried cashews! Once this powder is made, you can mix it with cooked rice for “thengai shadham” (i.e. coconut rice) or “thengai sevai” (i.e coconut powder mixed with rice vermicelli). And yes, you are allowed to eat it straight out of the jar too as a snack! This is probably one of the easiest and quickest ways to elevate plain rice and comes together in literally no time. This version keeps in the fridge for about two weeks. But if you’re looking to extend the shelf life of this podi, toast the grated coconut for twice as long until it turns orange and most of its water content has evaporated, resulting in a very dry powder. The dried version will keep for a month. Enjoy!
340g bag of frozen unsweetened grated coconut, thawed
2-3 tablespoons neutral oil (like vegetable oil)
unroasted sesame oil (if desired)
1/2 cup broken raw cashews (or more!)
2 dry red chilies
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons urad dhal (black gram)
1/2 tablespoon chana dhal (dry split chickpeas)
2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves, removed from stem
1/2 teaspoon asafetida powder
1 teaspoon salt
In a large wok, heat 2-3 tablespoons of a neutral oil and fry the cashew pieces until they turn golden brown, approximately 3-4 minutes of constant stirring. Remove cashews from the wok and set aside. To the remaining oil, add 1-2 teaspoons of unroasted sesame oil (if desired). Bring the oil to temperature on medium heat for 1 minute. Add the following ingredients and relatively quick succession: 2 red chilies (fry for 15 seconds) followed by mustard seeds. This will begin the fry and burst almost immediately. Add the urad and chana dhals immediately after. They should start to turn slightly brown within 15-20 seconds. At this point, add the curry leaves directly into the hot oil. Stand back as curry leaves contain water and will start to splutter and spit. Give this a stir for about 30 seconds and then add the thawed grated coconut to the wok. Add the salt. At this point, you can sauté the coconut mixture for about 10 minutes until it is relatively dry and pale brown. Add the asafetida powder and stir well. If you plan to make coconut powder that will last longer, continue sauteeing the grated coconut for another 20-30 minutes until it becomes orange/brown and almost all of the moisture has been removed. Turn the flame off and add the fried cashews to the coconut mixture.
To serve, you can mix 1/2 cup of plain rice (or 1/2 cup of cooked rice vermicelli) with 5 tablespoons of coconut powder. Add a drizzle of ghee or unroasted sesame oil and mix well. Devour! Store the remaining grated coconut in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (if lightly toasted) or a month (if toasted until brown).