What is a pachadi? For many people, it is equivalent to a raita, and indeed there are curd or yoghurt based pachadi dishes that have similarities with the raitas of the North of India. They are both yoghurt based dishes that contain mashed, pounded or diced vegetables, less often fruit, and seasoned with spices. Pachadis vary from raitas in the flavourings and spices used. Typically a yoghurt based pachadi will contain coconut and be seasoned with mustard seeds, ginger, curry leaves and chillies. Raita is typically seasoned with coriander leaves, roasted cumin seeds, mint, chillies, chaat masala and/or other herbs and spices.
It is these yoghurt based pachadis that are the most well known variety of pachadi throughout India. Even Wikipedia believes these are the only pachadi varieties in some regions like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
But my goodness, there are quite a few variations of Pachadi, from the ground vegetable and green ones of Andhra Pradesh, to the mashed vegetables of the South, to ones that contain raw or cooked vegetables or fruits in a non-dairy white sauce or coconut based sauce, to the sweet pachadis of Kerala (also without yoghurt).
Pachadi means pounded. So all varieties of pachadi are typically made of finely chopped, blended, ground, minced, mashed or diced vegetables or fruit prepared according to the custom of that region. Boondhi and other items can also be used in place of the vegetables or fruit.
Pachadis generally take the form of side dishes, salads, pickles or chutneys, depending on the type, although there is no real approximation to any pachadi outside of India. The closest in western cuisine is a side dish or dip, or a yoghurt salad. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a condiment, but they are quite unlike traditional western condiments like salt, pepper, mustard and horseradish. The yoghurt based dishes have a cooling effect from the yoghurt, to contrast with spicy curries. The mashed ones are spicy and add heat and flavour. Some are gentle and almost unspiced, a perfect foil for strong heat in other dishes. They are generally eaten fresh and commonly served with rice and a spiced dish, although some from Andhra Pradesh can last for months. For each type of pachadi there are many varieties made from the same key recipe.
Pachadis from the state of Andhra Pradesh are vegetables or greens ground to a paste with spices, and these are commonly called chutneys in English. They full under the general category of thokku which are vegetable based “chutneys”. They are similar to the Tamil Nadu dish Thogayal, a pureed vegetable with spices, also referred to as a chutney.
In Karnataka, Pachadi is made mostly from many greens and vegetables like carrot and beetroot as their main ingredients. It is prepared by grinding the raw vegetable with spices and then mixing it with yoghurt. They are generally simply spiced. Many different seasonal vegetables and herbs (often medicinal) can be used.
In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh a Pachadi is made for the Ugadi festival that consists of neem flowers and raw mango in a spicy, thin tamarind water base with jaggery, chilli and salt. The five flavours this dish contains – bitter, sweet, salty, sour, spicy – represent the facets of life. In Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, a pachadi is made on New Year’s day of Neem flowers in a tamarind, salt and jaggery water thickened with rice flour and seasoned with chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves.
In Tamil Nadu pachadis are often made from fresh or cooked vegetables mix with seasoned yoghurt or a non-dairy, simply spiced sauce. They often contain coconut and are seasoned with a tadka of brown mustard seeds, ginger, fresh green or dried red chillies and/or curry leaves.
Yoghurt pachadis can also use sago, poha (aval), powdered dal, or sambar vadam in place of the vegetables.
There other varieties of Pachadi in Tamil Nadu as well. Sour or sweet-sour fruits can be ground with jaggery and salt and seasoned with mustard seeds and chilli. Some dried fruit vadam are ground and treated the same way. Sauteed chopped vegetables can be added to a tamarind water with jaggery and salt, thickened with rice flour and seasoned with mustard seeds, curry leaves, fenugreek and asafoetida.
Tamil Nadu also has a large range of ground chutneys (thuvaiyal or thogayal) which are similar to the pachadis of Andhra Pradesh.
in Kerala, yoghurt based pachadis are similar to those of Tamil Nadu. They also have a sweet pachadi that is made with pineapple, grapes or pumpkin and is part of the sadhya feast during Onam and Vishu.