Mar 15, 2023
In 2004, I worked in Ernakumal, Kerala and made many train trips between my home in Kolkata and Ernakulam. I would take the Coromandel Express from Howrah (the closest train station to Kolkata) to Chennai, then switch trains to Ernakulam.
While in Chennai, I would visit my cousin Peter Tseng, then a chef at The Park, Chennai. A restaurant near his place served vegetarian thali on a big steel plate with various vegetarian dishes in small bowls and rice in the middle. The waiter would deliver the thali to the table, then return to put ghee on the rice and dal powder.
I had vegetarian thali before, but not the dal powder. The combination of the ghee and dal powder was delicious. Years later, I would remember it whenever I had vegetarian dal rice at home in Scarborough, Canada. On one of our Masala Dosa dinners at The Nilgiris restaurant on Markham Road, I noticed they were selling dal powder at the counter! I finally found my old friend.
Every time I eat dal rice (typically Wednesdays), I add ghee and dal powder to my dal rice to recreate the joy I first enjoyed in Chennai. The bag of powder lasted me a few years, but it was finally finishing.
Luckily, I met Peter on my recent India trip, and he gave me a gift bag from Chennai that included a bag of dal powder! He called the dal power "Podi" (the Tamil word).