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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

NRI Mother-Daughter Duo Take South Indian Podi From Hyderabad to Atlanta

‘Consolation drizzled onto a dish’ is how most individuals would describe their beloved podis. The semi-coarse dry powders have graced many a desk, significantly in South India, the place it’s one thing of a hero for its sheer simplicity but ingenuity that it lends to each dish.

Alak Nanda, an engineer who’s now 35, says she was one of many many followers of the standard podi. And rising up in Hyderabad, it was a continuing on the eating desk. Even when the household moved to america when Alak Nanda was 12, the podi continued to be a stalwart of their lives, and her mom Vasavi (59) would concoct totally different recipes.

So, it’s no shock that the mother-daughter duo determined to kind a model out of this mutual love for podis, years later. Podi Life, because the model title goes, is an ode to the South Asian diaspora and features a vary of podis which have been created by Vasavi and Alak Nanda.

At the same time as Alak Nanda reveals to The Higher India the journey of Podi Life, she says the initiative is in any case a mirrored image of the love that she and her household have in the direction of this seasoning.

“My dad comes from an agricultural background, and we’d get {a magazine} each week whereas we have been in India. Titled ‘Annadatta’, the journal was all about how issues grew. And my dad, being keen about this, would immerse himself in it. My mother alternatively would backyard. Understanding the place our meals got here from was an integral a part of who I used to be.”

It’s attention-grabbing the way it began.

Podi Life co-founders
Podi Life has a spread of various seasonings made with substances and flavours particular to the Indian subcontinent, Image supply: Alak Nanda

A lockdown, a chat, and an concept

In 2020, proper in the course of the pandemic that was wreaking havoc all through the world, Alak Nanda discovered herself in India as a part of a job project with a photo voltaic firm in Hyderabad. “I discovered myself in the identical condo the place I had grown up, and my mom was right here too. It’s unusual as a result of the final time I used to be right here, I used to be a rebellious teenager. It introduced again plenty of reminiscences.”

She shares how the dialog they ended up having was majorly food-centric. Whereas Vasavi would share her attachments to meals and her mom’s specialities that she had grown up loving, Alak Nanda would discuss hers. With such conversations, the mother-daughter duo would go their time, and shortly the conversations took a flip.

“My mom started reminiscing how life passes you by. She felt like all her expertise had not amounted to a lot, and there was a lot left to do in life.” This was when the duo considered launching a web site. They have been locked up in the home for hours, they usually had an concept and the tech they wanted, so it appeared like an optimum time.

For Vasavi, they held a particular that means. “Podis are actually particular to me as a result of I’m the youngest of six youngsters and I used to be my mother’s sous chef all my childhood. I used to be very concerned in cooking together with her and particularly keep in mind our instances collectively making podis. They honestly embody my time with my mom, and I’m very glad to share the identical reference to my daughter.”

She goes on so as to add that certainly one of her favourites, ‘nutty moong’ holds a very particular spot in her life. “I keep in mind grinding roasted moong beans in an old-school stone grinder that wanted to be rotated; the beans would floor between the 2 stones. I beloved consuming this podi with sizzling rice, kanji and ghee — this meal at all times jogs my memory of my amma.”

Recounting again to the time, Alak Nanda says that 5 months after launching the web site, they have been flooded with orders and requests for extra varieties of podis, and for transport to cities throughout India.

Paradoxically, simply when their enterprise started booming, it was the time for Vasavi to return to the US, and Alak Nanda was now juggling the assorted asks of the enterprise on her personal. However she says it was liberating to see simply how a lot love the podis have been receiving.

“We’d even gotten orders from so far as the Northeast and Himachal! What was cool about what we have been doing was that we have been making these podis of a top quality which was not normally out there out of the southern states.”

However, with the pandemic’s second wave now in full swing, Alak Nanda needed to return to the US. Realizing there was such a robust validation that they have been receiving for the product, she was positive they might discover a marketplace for it within the States as properly.

Podi varieties
Podi is a semi-coarse powder made by grounding lentils and different spices, Image supply: Alak Nanda

Giving Atlanta a style of South India

For anybody questioning why the essence of the podi is so fascinating, the key lies in its mix of substances. Whereas podis are sometimes confused with their counterparts — sauces — there exists a stark distinction between them, starting with their consistency. Podis are powdered types of floor lentils — comparable to cut up Bengal gram, black gram, sesame seeds, curry leaves, and spices like chilli, black pepper, and cumin.

As culinary historical past tells it, the podi dates again to the Vijayanagar dynasty, a South Indian royal household that was dominant from 1336 AD to 1565 AD. Because the empire was situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra river, which is in present-day Karnataka, the podi too unfold in these areas and is well-liked in central and northern components of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.

Normally consumed with rice or sprinkled over a dish, the podi is a flavour bomb in itself, arguably even capable of carry the burden of the entire dish on its shoulders.

It was this incontrovertible fact that Alak Nanda wished to propagate via their vary of podis at Podi Life. So when she made a transfer again to the US in 2021, she launched the model there, however she emphasises there was plenty of training that was wanted whereas telling individuals concerning the model.

“Folks in Atlanta weren’t acquainted with lentil and nut-based seasoning. We did numerous branding workouts to carry the ethos of every podi to the fore.”

At the moment, via its collaborations, Podi Life tells a narrative of not simply its vary of merchandise but additionally the relationships that individuals share with podi in South India, of the culinary richness this one seasoning can result in on the eating desk.

She says it’s fascinating to observe Atlanta fall in love with its eponymous dish, and extra heart-rendering when individuals there share that they heard concerning the model from pals in India. “What I discover stunning and heartwarming is when individuals inform me that their child, who hasn’t lived in India, is aware of what podis are.”

The seasonings can be used in a variety of dishes and recipes, lending their flavour to these
The seasonings can be utilized in a wide range of dishes and recipes, lending their flavour to those, Image supply: Alak Nanda

A South Indian pantry within the works

Alak Nanda shares that whereas they may have termed the model a South Indian seasoning model, they wished to stay to the roots from the place it originated. “There’s large nostalgia behind it. To accompany it, there may be additionally an enormous shock as individuals discover it an unbelievable manner of utilising lentils. One in every of our prospects purchased twenty samples for her pals at Christmas!”

Whereas Podi Life ships all through america in the mean time, Alak Nanda shares that they see round 200 orders a month.

She additional shares they’re within the technique of curating a type of South Indian pantry, full with podis and a “few different particular typical South Indian gadgets”.

However whilst they increase their vary of podis, Vasavi says the garlic podi continues to be a success. “It’s really versatile, requiring 10 substances. We don’t use garlic powder, we really use recent garlic and layer it with dry coconut/copra, curry leaves, and all kinds of spices, making it stuffed with unbelievable flavour. It additionally smells nice.”

She continues, “I take advantage of it day by day in my dry vegetable sautées, in curries, in dal. My daughter makes use of it to even flavour noodles, roast meat/fish and sandwiches. It’s additionally particular as a result of we first made it after our first few prospects in India requested it; we had over 50+ requests for it.”

One of many prospects, Shruthi Hamsanathan, who ordered from the Podi Life, says, “The gunpowder and spicy garlic samplers have been too good! The curry leaf powder is recent and provides distinct savouriness. Sambhar and rasam powders are good as properly. General, for people who need to check out totally different flavours of South India, it is a one-stop equipment that provides versatility to your cooking.”

Because the mother-daughter duo unfold the fascination for podis in america, they’re happy with recreating the identical magic they grew up with, a timeless story whose spice has gained love throughout generations.

Edited by Pranita Bhat

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