Most of the south Indian cooking won’t be complete without tempering. In Tamil, we call this process “thalippu”. The most important ingredients for the tempering are mustard seeds and curry leaves, but the combination will vary depending on the dish.
In some curries tempering will be done at the very start of the preparation and in some dishes tempering will be done at the end as final touch. Sometimes tempering is also called as seasoning. In my recipes, I use the word tempering when it is done at the beginning and use the word seasoning when it is done at the end.
For tempering, heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds. Wait until the mustard seed crackles (you can hear the crackling sound of mustard seeds), then you can add the other ingredients as per the recipe. Usually the combinations are:
- Mustard seeds + curry leaves
- Mustard seeds + curry leaves + Dry chilies
- Mustard seeds + cumin seeds + curry leaves + Dry chilies
- Mustard seeds + urad dal + curry leaves
- Mustard seeds + fenugreek seeds + dry chilies + curry leaves
- Mustard seeds + fenugreek seeds + dry chilies + shallots + curry leaves
- Cumin seeds + curry leaves (This combination is used in some dishes. In this case the cumin seeds won’t crackle, so add the curry leaves once the color of the cumin seeds changes to golden brown)