I talk frequently (in life, on my blog, etc) about popping spices, adding aromatics, then tomatoes, then dry spices, etc to make a rough gravy, then adding veg, beans, or whatever. This video does a top-notch job of showing, in video, the exact steps, and how it works, from adding the oil, to adding the mustard seeds, the urad daal, etc etc. OK, it's in Malayalam. I don't speak Malayalam either. I speak Tamil. (Granted, the two languages are extremely similar, so I can more or less follow her, but the point is that the /video/ is excellent.) Essentially, she starts with a couple tablespoons of oil, a few healthy pinches of mustard seeds, and urad daal. Notice how she waits for the seeds to pop and splutter before adding anything. That's how you know that the oil is hot enough to pop the mustard seeds. If the mustard seeds don't pop, the flavour doesn't come out.
All the other steps are pretty straightforward from there. If you're interested in any kind of South Indian cooking, watch the video, and just take notice of the technique. Also, the Keralites make the best food in India (sorry, Amma; we both know it's true--anyone who uses that much coconut every day has my vote), hands down, and I'm not even /from/ that state. She's got solid technique, and a charming personality. She was suggesting a few times (as a Keralite would) that you could quite happily add grated coconut, coconut milk, etc. Anything you say, Ms. Nair. <3
In this particular video, she's showing you how to use up leftover idli to make a sort of curried idli masala thingy.
That white powder she uses (aside from the salt) that she calls "Kaya Podi" is dried banana powder, which is another very typical Keralite thing.