A delightful spicy yet tangy accompaniment to curd rice, adai, dosa and chapati is veppilakatti. Veppilakatti is a truly masterful innovation of the Palakkad Iyers (Palghat Iyers) that is loved by people from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
One naturally will think that veppilakatti is made from neem leaves (veppila means neem in Tamizh and Malayalam) but is actually made from citron leaves. This along with Vadukapuli or Ganapathi naranga pickle is available in pretty much every household in the Palakkad district.
This traditional side dish is made from wild lemon leaves (citron like Vadukapuli). The tender leaves are carefully plucked from the thorny tree, washed and patted dry. A handful of fresh curry leaves is pounded along with the citron leaves and salt in the old mortar and pestle often used to pound rice.
Red chillies, hing, tamarind and sometime green chillies are pounded separately and added to this mixture and pounded till almost fine in texture. This is done in small quantities to ensure even blending of the spices and leaves. The juice released from the wild lemon leaves and salt acts as a binding agent.
The pounded mixture is transferred into a large vessel and mixed well. Small sized balls are made from the fine mixture and stored in either bharanis (jars) or airtight containers. Some prefer to use the bitter narthangai leaves to prepare this spicy digestive. Wild lemon leaves are very good for digestion, helps reduce body heat and cure nervous ailments.
One must remember to take only a very tiny portion of veppilakatti with curd rice as it is extremely spicy and quite tangy. Veppilakatti with a drizzle of sesame oil and jaggery really adds a little something extra to dosa and adai.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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