Angaya Podi- A Must for New Mothers

-by Sheela Rani Chunkath

There is a classic Tamil cookbook called 'Samaithu Par' which is dear to my heart. Quaintly translated as 'Cook and See', it was written in 1951 by Ms. Meenakshi Ammal and has since seen many reprints. It has been translated into English and many other languages and is a no-nonsense cookbook which is invaluable for newlyweds, students and all who would like to try their hand at traditional South Indian vegetarian cooking.

What I really like about the book is that in addition to the wonderful vegetarian recipes, the book has sections dealing with traditional home remedies for lactating mothers, for indigestion, convalescing patients and for the sick and elderly.

One such podi is the angaya podi a delicious, slightly bitter podi made from coriander seeds, dried neem flowers, sundakkai and manathakkali vattal, curry leaves, pepper, a small stick of kanda thippili, red chilly, cumin seeds, omam, dried ginger, asafoetida and rock salt. Many Tamil Brahmin homes have their own recipes handed down from their grandmothers. This podi is great for post-partum and lactating mothers, for diabetics and for those who need a digestive aid. The podi is eaten with really hot rice and ghee or gingelly oil. I have had many queries regarding the best traditional dietary supplements for post-partum mothers. Angaya podi is one such traditional preparation which can be made at home. Sowbaghya sunti and Dasamoola arishtam which can be bought in stores (about which I had written earlier) are also excellent for new mothers. I have given the recipe we use in our house.

Recipe for Angaya Podi

Coriander Seeds half cup

Dried Neem Flowers quarter cup

Sundakkai Vattal (dried Solanum torvum berries) 20 to 30 berries

Manathakkali Vattal (dried Solanum nigrum berries) quarter cup

Curry Leaves half cup

Pepper 3 teaspoons

Kanda Thippili (Piper chaba) a small 1 inch stick

Red Chilly 1

Cumin Seeds 3 teaspoons

Omam (Ajwain) Seeds 1 teaspoon

Dried Ginger a small piece

Asafoetida a small piece

Salt (Rock salt or induppu) 1 to 2 teaspoons

All ingredients are dry fried in a wok or kadai and ground to a smooth powder in a kitchen grinder. Once you have made the podi and tried it, you can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.

Angaya podi has been used in many Tamil households for years. This podi is a felicitous combination of spices and herbs. Coriander is an anti-oxidant, has cholesterol reducing properties, is an anti-bacterial and a diuretic. Dried Neem flowers helps improve eyesight and helps in the treatment of digestive disorders especially those relating to the liver. It is traditionally used for expelling intestinal worms. Sundakkai and manathakkali vattal when fried and eaten help in reducing gas. Sundakkai is said to have anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. Manathakkali is a rich source of Vitamin B and the leaves are often cooked and eaten to treat mouth ulcers. It is excellent for maintaining the health of the liver. I make my own Sundakkai vattal by getting the green Sundakkai, cutting it half open and soaking it in salted buttermilk and drying it in the sun. It is, however, readily available in most stores. Curry leaves and coriander contain large amounts of fibre. Curry leaves are rich in iron, is anti-diabetic and also an anti-oxidant. It prevents premature greying of hair. Recent studies even indicate that it contains anti-cancer compounds. Try not to use the store-bought curry leaves since commercially grown curry leaves are usually drenched in pesticides. Get some organic curry leaves from a home-grown plant. Cumin again is useful in treating flatulence and is a good digestive aid. Cumin is also a lactagogue and increases lactation. It also reduces nausea during pregnancy. Dried ginger and asafoetida are very good digestives and useful in treating vata conditions. Angaya Podi is one Podi that should be made in households where there are new mothers.

--- The writer was earlier Health Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu and is currently Additional Chief Secretary and Chairman & Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation. She can be reached at Sheelarani.arogyamantra@gmail. com. Earlier articles can be accessed at