Pachadi (பச்சடி)

Anyone who thinks pachadi is just an un -obtrusive side dish in the South Indian meal, think again. Pachadi is generally thought of as the South Indian equivalent of the raita, but it is really so much more than a raita. The varieties that we have are indeed mind boggling, with each of the four South Indian states having different varieties of pachadis. Pachadi in Andhra refers to the tuvaiyals or chutneys that we know of in Tamil Nadu. The word Pachadi means to pound or crush and so we have vegetables that are grated, ground, diced, grilled, roasted, fried or sautéed and mixed with spices in yogurt.

This blog is only about the pachadis that I know of and make. I am sure there are many many more varieties that I don’t know about. To begin with, we have the two types of pachadis, the sweet and the savoury kind. Then again, in the savoury you have the raw vegetables pachadis like the grated cucumber or finely chopped tomato pachadi or the cooked vegetable pachadis that can be made with diced and cooked, grilled or fried vegetables in a yogurt base. Pachadis are generally made and eaten as a side dish to a spicy main dish, so that it provides a contrast in taste, texture and spice. And then we have pachadis that are made for specific occasions or for specific main dishes. A few of the popular pachadis are given below.

The most well known story regarding this fruit is of course, that of a poor lady giving her last Amla (which was for her own meal) to Adi Sankara as bhiksha. In order to alleviate her poverty he sang the Kanakadhara stotram, upon which Goddess Lakshmi showered the lady with gold coins. The tree and fruit are held to be very sacred and many Puranas refer to it, particularly partaking of the fruit on Dwadashi day. Even today, a pachadi is made by cooking the amla , mashing it and mixing with ground coconut and green chillies and mixed in yogurt on Dwadashi. It is garnished with curry leaves and tempered with mustard seeds and asafoetida and eaten mixed with hot rice and ghee. Since I have an அறுநெல்லிக்காய் (star gooseberry) tree at home, I use it for this pachadi. It is indeed a taste to be savoured.

amla or gooseberry

Easy to make and big on taste, this is made with with roasted urad flour and mixed in yogurt, tempered with mustard seeds and asafoetida. This is one of my father’s favourite pachadis. Any time we had vatha kuzhambu or karuveppilai kuzhambu at home we had to have daangar pachadi. It is definitely an acquired taste though. I love it, but my husband is not a fan and the first time I made it for him was also the last time he ate it!

daangar pachadi

Some people may call this a mor (buttermilk) koottu, we have always referred to it as a pachadi in our family. This is another favourite in our house and has ground coconut, jeera and chilies added to pumpkin that is cooked with turmeric and salt and then mixed with yogurt. Again, garnished with curry leaves and tempered with mustard seeds and asafoetida in coconut oil. This tastes amazing when eaten mixed with hot rice and ghee.

yellow pumpkin tayir pachadi

Raw grated cucumbers and chopped tomatoes can be mixed with yogurt and tempered with mustard seeds as pachadis. There is Greek equivalent of the raw cucumber pachadi called tzatziki. Okra and bitter gourd are deep fried and mixed in yogurt. Grilled eggplant pachadi is another favourite. Again, in Mediterranean cuisine there is a somewhat similar dish called baba ghanoush but that is mixed with tahini or sesame sauce. Cooked tomato or cooked onion & green pepper pachadis are a few more that come to mind.

fried okra pachadi

Sometimes when my mother made upma and had no chutney or gothsu to serve with it, she would mix a pickle like எண்ணெய் மாங்காய் (dry mango in oil) or lemon pickle (mashed up) with some yogurt as a pachadi. This is surprisingly tasty. The appalaam pachadi in which fried appalam is broken into bits and mixed with yogurt and spices is another last minute pachadi that I remember fondly. Boondi mixed with yogurt and spices makes for a good instant pachadi too.

This is a Chettinad specialty made with these flavoursome berries that are cooked and then sautéed with onions and tomatoes in a tamarind base. These berries are extremely beneficial for stomach ailments.

Raw mango pachadi
Definitely, the sweet pachadis are high on my list of favourites. This popular pachadi made with jaggery is the main dish to be prepared for Tamil New Year’s Day. It is tempered with mustard seeds, red chillies and neem flowers to represent an even distribution of all the facets of sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter experiences in our lives for the coming year. This is a personal favourite. It used featured regularly at our meals as all of us loved it so much. And now, I continue the tradition by making this as often as possible.

raw mango pachadi

விளாம்பழம் (wood apple)
Another type of sweet pachadi is the விளாம்பழம் (wood apple or elephant apple) pachadi. This fruit is known as कपित्थ (kapittha) in Sanskrit and has been referenced in many of our Puranas; the hard shell of the fruit symbolising the Cosmic egg with the inside pulp and seeds representing the entire creation. This is not very commonly made in many households these days but the inside of the hard fruit with its tangy, tamarind like taste makes for a very tasty pachadi.

wood apple

At weddings and other such occasions you might taste the sweet tomato or pineapple pachadi. Similarly, the sweet pachadi made with கடாரங்காய் (wild lemon) and the sweet வேப்பம்பூ (neem flowers) pachadi are also not very common these days. But the medicinal benefits of these fruits and flowers definitely warrants their presence in the mainstream of our food culture. So now do you believe that our pachadis are not just another humble side dish but a whole world of culinary delights?