Spice Powders: Idly Milagai Podi

Whether or not every Tamilian house has rice or sugar or milk, they will definitely have idly milagai podi (aromatic spice powder) stored in an air tight container around the kitchen corner. I am sure you guys would have understood its significance by my-much exaggerated sentence (above) 🙂 They are crunchy with a mild spice kick and loaded with the awesome smell of sesame oil, which is used as a liquid medium to make a paste out of it.

This flavorful spice mixture is served with nallennai /gingelly oil (sesame oil) or ghee as a side. Every family has its own version of the spice powder. Some may increase its spicy level while some may increase the amount of asafoetida or sesame seeds or my mom also adds horse grams certain times. Since my son seems to love its taste, I drastically reduce the number of red chillies and increase the amount of roasted channa dhal (pottu kadalai).

This spice powder is a great dip for South Indian dishes like idly, dosa, upma, adai and pesarattu.

Here is the version which my family makes.


Source: Amma

Yields: Close to 2 cups


  • 15 dry red chilies
  •  1 cup urad dhal (white lentils)
  • 1/2 cup channa dhal (black gram)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida chunks (solid variety) or powder
  • 1/2 cup horse gram – Kollu/ sesame seeds (optional)
  •  1 teaspoon olive oil
  •  Salt to taste, about 1-2 teaspoon


  1. Heat oil in a kadai and cook the solid asafoetida first. If using asafoetida powder, skip this step.
  2. Roast each ingredient separately in very little oil and cool them. Make sure that you don’t burn them. Always have an eye when you saute them. It will take about 5-8 minutes to roast each lentil on medium low flame.
  3. Once cooled, grind them into a fine powder. Adjust salt to taste(use rock salt – if possible). Store in a clean air tight container. Enjoy the delicious podi with idly/dosa.

Serving suggestion: For those who love the coconut flavor, mix 2 -3 teaspoon idly podi with 2 teaspoon water and 1 teaspoon coconut oil. Mix thoroughly and spread over the idly and serve.

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