Ah! What can I say about puliyodarai that hasn’t been said. It’s a kind of mixed rice, what we call “kalanda sadam” in thamizh. The gravy that it’s mixed with is made up of tamarind extract and a spice mix that has chana dal, red chilies, coriander seeds, a little bit of black pepper, and most importantly, sesame seeds. These spices are toasted in a bit of oil, preferably sesame, and made into a powder. The tamarind juice is boiled with a bit of oil, hing, chana dal, red chilies, and curry leaves and made into a thick paste – this is called pulikachal. It’s then mixed with rice, a bit of the spice powder, and tempered with more hing, curry leaves, and roasted peanuts. Heaven! It’s a very popular prasad in many temples, travels really well, and is part of the meal on one of the pongal days along with coconut rice, and yogurt rice, and fried papads, vathals. The most important thing to note about puliyodarai is that it needs sesame oil, and sesame oil only. None other will do if you want authentic puliyodarai.
This specific version is the Iyengar version as I’ve learned. The Iyer version stops with making the puli gravy with chilies, curry leaves, methi powder and hing. At that stage, it can be mixed with rice and eaten. The Iyengar version goes one step further and adds this beautiful spice powder, the dominant flavor there being sesame seeds.
To summarize, there are 3 steps in making puliyodarai:
1. Make the pulikachal paste (this will stay in the refrigerator for a couple of months, so make a good quantity)
2. Make the spice powder
3. Make the rice, and mix, add tempering