Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Popu (Tadka, Tiragamata)

Ingredients of Popu or Tadka -

Popu rescues the dals and the curries from ‘bland’ hell. Simple technique, but it saves and uplifts them to spicy heaven. Almost all types of curries, chutneys, lentil preparations like dals, sambhars and rasams are enhanced by the addition of popu at the start or just before serving. The most common ingredients of popu or tadka are

1. Dried red chilli pieces (Endu Mirchi)
2. Garlic (Vellulli)
3. Curry leaves (Karivepaku)
4. Chana dal (Bengal gram, Sanaga pappu)
5. Urad dal (Black gram, Minapa pappu)
6. Mixture of Mustard seeds and Cumin (Avaalu+jeelakarra)
(listed according to arrangement in the photo above)

Tadka or popu in one teaspoon of oil

Popu or tadka (tiragamata) is toasting the listed ingredients in oil or ghee. Take oil or ghee in a small pan. The quantity ranges from a teaspoon to tablespoon for dals, sambars and curries. Heat to warm. Quickly add and toast curry leaves, dried red chilli pieces, garlic, chana dal and urad dal to red color. At the end add cumin and mustard seeds. When seeds start to pop, turn off the heat. Add the contents of the pan to the preparation. The quantity of above ingredients are usually a pinch, a dash, just few pieces and not much. All of them have excellent health benefits and popu or tadka provides a neat way to have them regularly through our meals. Multi vitamin pill everyday.

There are certain foods and occasions, where we avoid adding garlic. Examples are chitrannam (lemon rice),pulihora (tamarind rice) and daddojanam (yogurt rice) etc.

Fenugreek seeds (menthi),
hing or asafetida,
black peppercorn (miriyalu)

are also part of popu or tadka, but they are only added in a few, specific recipes.

To store all the ingredients of popu or tadka, every Indian kitchen has a spice box conveniently placed at hands reach in a kitchen drawer. And every Indian cook has her own way of arranging the ingredients in Popu dabba (spice box). Placing them all in separate little containers in one big box is not only convenient, but also saves lot of time by making the cooking little bit easy.

This is how I arrange my spice box:

Popu or Tiragamata Dabba (Spice Box)

Popu or Tadka Dabba (Spice Box) – click on the image to enlarge

So, do you own a spice box? How do you arrange your spice box?

Many Indian grocery stores carry ‘Spice Box’ or ‘Masala Dabba’. Depending on the box and containers size, the price varies from 10 to 20 dollars.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra,Indian Ingredients,Indian Kitchen,The Essentials (Monday March 13, 2006 at 10:11 am- permalink)
Comments (28)

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28 comments for Popu (Tadka, Tiragamata) »

  1. wow ! the pics are great as usual. Is it true that adding the popu to cuury in the final stage enhances the taste of the curry? Like when we make Tamaring curry – puzhi Kuzhambu we add the popo finally 5 minutes before switching the stove off, the same for sambar and lotsa of the other curries. I arrange the same way as u have arranged ur spice box except for the curry leaves and garlic. I have methi seeds instead. I have a seperate box for whole garam masala spices, and one for spice powders with lid ( its a plastic spice box)

    Comment by priya,ar — March 13, 2006 @ 10:57 am

  2. Indira:

    I totally agree. My first year here, I did not have the dabba and I was so lost. Finally went to an Indian store to get one. The last time I went to India, I had to get one :).

    My ‘masala dabba’ is arranged a little differently. I don’t have garlic or curry leaves in mine. I have turmeric, chili powder, jeera, mustard seeds, red chilis, chana dal and urad dal.

    Comment by Luv2cook — March 13, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

  3. Hi Indira,
    nice post and great pictures! Where do you keep turmeric powder, chilli powder etc.? Do you have a different box for it?


    Comment by priti — March 13, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

  4. Unfortunately, my spice box is lying unused…

    I like your cast iron pan for tadka. Is it from India? In my family, tadka for some dishes like rasam are added at the end while for some dishes like sambar, curry etc it is added right at the beginning and then the entire dish is cooked with tadka. Is there such differences in Andhra cooking?

    Comment by mika — March 13, 2006 @ 1:31 pm

  5. its funny how i never thought of getting a ‘popu dabba’ for myself here though i’ve grown up seeing my mom use it in the kitchen. thanks to this post, i’m determined to buy one ASAP. using all the popu ingredients from different containers can be taxing!

    Comment by Bharti — March 13, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

  6. Hey, what a coincidence!! I was taking pictures of my spice dabba this morning 🙂

    Mine has very different ingredients however. I keep turmeric, chilli powder, hing, red chillies, jeera mustard and udad dal in mine.

    I keep the curry leaves in the fridge.


    Comment by Saffron Hut — March 13, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  7. As always fantastic pictures…I love your iron pan.Where did you get it from?I’ve heard that cooking in iron pan enhances the taste..and its healthy too.

    Comment by Annita — March 13, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

  8. Indira: Cool picture. Aroma of curry leaves makes all the difference to our dishes. We mostly do this seasoning part at the ending of cooking process, though for some recipes we do it in the begining.
    Initally i used this box, but quite often i find all mixing, so these days i stick to individual tight-lipped box:) though i have this spice box sitting simply…

    Comment by Karthi Kannan — March 13, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

  9. i’m living in croatia and i don’t have access to curry leaves… what do you recommend as a replacement when a recipe asks for curry leaves?

    Comment by argus — March 14, 2006 @ 2:47 am

  10. Indira,

    It is tiraga mOta , not maata 🙂

    I love your website.

    Comment by Anon — March 14, 2006 @ 4:18 am

  11. indira, in the popu, do you add the raw Chana dal and Urad dal or are they soaked first? thanks, i got my box last week and am ready to start experimenting.

    Indira replies:
    HI Neek, for popu, chana dal and urad dal are added raw usually. Toasting in oil turns them hard crisp and tasty.
    Congrats on your purchase and enjoy.

    Comment by neek — April 1, 2006 @ 6:01 am

  12. From where my name Popu ie originating.?
    What do you think? Marian Popu

    Comment by Marian Popu — April 29, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

  13. Good for you on being picked up by the CS Monitor! Congrats to you, Indira!

    Indira replies:
    Thanks Manisha. I greatly appreciate your well wishes.

    Comment by Manisha — June 7, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

  14. That is great Indira. That would have given me an instant ‘high’. How did you feel?

    Indira replies:
    Extremely happy:).
    Vijaysree is kind enough to send this photo along with her article to the editor. To my surprise, the editor approved.:)

    Comment by Gini — June 8, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  15. Hi Indira,
    I just wanted to clarify about Popu/ Tadka ingredient. There’s chana dal and urad dal. I believe the popu/ tadka preparation is to saute all ingredients. What confuse me is the chana dal & urad dal if it only to saute it, would it not be remain hard? what texture should I expect when I saute chana dal & urad dal. Thanks Indira.

    Indira replies:
    Hi Lil, They do turn hard and crunchy when sauteed in oil. That’s why they are added in tadka. Unexpected crunchy taste in the middle of foodbites. Particularly in dals and curries they taste good. Sort of like adding crumbled tortilla chips to soup or salad.
    Hope this helps.

    Comment by Lil — June 16, 2006 @ 12:56 am

  16. I kept curry leaves in tadka dabba but they got spoilt at room temp. Do you have any special trick?

    Pl. let me know. Love your site.

    Comment by Sowmya — November 2, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

  17. I have friends from India and their home has the most wonderful smell. I have bought so many Indian cookbooks and have yet to find one as nice as this website (which I found thru NPR). I can’t wait to set up my “spice box”. I am sure to be a frequent visitor. Thank you for sharing your wonderful culture!

    Comment by Sherry Kishman — December 6, 2006 @ 5:26 am

  18. I like your cast iron pan for tadka. Where did u buy it. If it is in usa, which store did u buy it?

    Comment by Priya — May 16, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  19. How do you store curry leaves so they don’t turn brown?

    Comment by susie sokol — May 20, 2007 @ 6:45 am

  20. Freeze about five curry leaves into every section of an ice cube tray. Then you can just defrost as many as you need in a cup of warm water. They keep for months.

    PS love the site, great recipes

    Comment by Tim — July 31, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  21. Is there a good substitute for urad dal? I have several varieties of lentil hanging around, will any of those work to flavour curries?

    Comment by Kinni — November 28, 2007 @ 8:34 am

  22. I am now adays trying to cook
    But not getting the result satisfactorily.
    I Cook only DAL.(We eat Dal and rice)
    My mother add vegetables in Dal only;first by Cooking them in Cooker and later add them to Boiled dal.
    But i feel that by cooking Vegetables in Cookker their essence is lost so iam not trying that.
    My problem is:
    I add Boiled Dal to preprepared Tamarind and green chillies juice( while DAL is cooked in Cooker i put tamarind and Cut chillies in little amount of Water and squeeze so that juice is prepared) and again putthis mixture on Cooker for boiling again.Mean while Take some ghee ;heat it put some udagda,ChanaDal,and mustard seed.Here is my problem:
    Either they get overcooked or not heated properly and ultimately becoming KARELA taste.
    So iam not able to make proper TIRAGAMOTA.
    So please sugest something

    Comment by Kiran — December 12, 2007 @ 7:46 am

  23. It is strange, so many fans were asking after your cast iron pan, and you do not want to share the information.

    Comment by Kamala — February 4, 2008 @ 6:36 am

  24. How about searching the archives before making assumptions? Or just go to a store and look for something similar. How about growing up and not wanting to be spoon-fed! Here’s the secret. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!

    Comment by Manisha — February 6, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

  25. has masala dabba boxes and has cast iron skillets in both 6′ and 8″ sizes. Lodge sells at almost all hardware stores.

    Comment by Judi — February 16, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  26. Hi Indra, which dishes do you use menthulu (methi) and the rest that you mentioned? What is the effect if used in dahl?

    Comment by Lakshmi — September 22, 2009 @ 8:20 pm

  27. […] For the strangers to vadagam:  Follow Indira’s method of doing the tempering. […]

    Pingback by Spicy Green Pepper stew / Kuda Milagai Kuzhambhu - Cook Food, Serve Love — January 24, 2015 @ 4:42 am

  28. […] For the strangers to vadagam:  Follow Indira’s method of doing the tempering. […]

    Pingback by Spicy Green Pepper stew / Kuda Milagai Kuzhambu - Cook Food, Serve Love — January 24, 2015 @ 4:43 am

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