A pudi, or "Powder" in Hindi, is part spice blend and part thickener used in many Indian dishes, especially soups or stews. Rather than breaking down all the spices, grains and legumes at the time of cooking a dish, like sambar, they are mixed together in a fine powder that can then be added when needed to a dish.
This particular pudi is used to thicken and richly flavor sambar, a lentil stew.
2 teaspoons chana dal
1 teaspoon red lentils
1 teaspoon brown lentils or yellow split peas
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 Tablespoon long-grain rice, raw
2-inches cinnamon stick
20 fresh kari leaves (or 1 teaspoon crushed, dried)
3 dried red chilies (stemmed, seeded, broken into pieces)
Preheat a large skillet, add all ingredients and toast over a medium heat until the mixture is very aromatic and the rice has toasted brown.
Cool mixture and grind into a fine powder*
Sambar pudi will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months in an airtight, glass jar. 3 months if kept unrefrigerated.
*I have found that a small, electric coffee grinder works nicely. Run a tablespoon or two of raw, white rice through first to clear out coffee residue. After grinding pudi run more raw rice to clean again.