The idli , also romanized "idly" or "iddly", is a savory cake popular throughout South India. The cakes are usually two to three inches in diameter and are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice.
Most often eaten at breakfast or as a snack, idli are usually served in pairs with chutney, sambar, or other accompaniments. Mixtures of crushed dry spices such as milagai podi are the preferred condiment for idlis eaten on the go.
RECIPE OF IDLI Idli batter is poured into the round indentations of the idli pans (pictured) and placed into a pressure cooker. To make idli, two parts uncooked rice to one part split black lentil (Urad dal) are soaked. The lentils and rice are then ground to a paste. This paste is allowed to ferment overnight, until it expands to about 2_ times its original volume. In the morning, the idli batter is put into the ghee-greased molds of an idli tray or "tree" for steaming. These molds are perforated to allow the idlis to be cooked evenly. The tree holds the trays above the level of boiling water in a pot, and the pot is covered until the idlis are done. The idli is somewhat similar to the dosa, a fried preparation of the same batter.
Ingredients for Idli
Rava idli, a specialty of Karnataka
Southern Indians have brought the popular idli wherever they have settled throughout the world. Cooks have had to solve problems of hard-to-get ingredients, and climates that do not encourage overnight fermentation. One cook noted that idli batter, foaming within a few hours in India, might take several days to rise in Britain. The traditional heavy stones used to wet-grind the rice and dal are not easily transported. Access to Indian ingredients before the advent of Internet mail order could be virtually impossible in many places. Chlorinated water and iodized salt interfere with fermentation.
Newer "quick" recipes for the idli can be rice- or wheat-based (rava idli). Parboiled rice, such as Uncle Ben's can reduce the soaking time considerably. Store-bought ground rice is available, or Cream of Rice may be used. Similarly, semolina or Cream of Wheat may be used for rava idli. Yoghurt may be added to provide the sour flavor for unfermented batters. Prepackaged mixes allow for almost instant idlis, for the truly desperate. Idli Burger is another variation that can be made easily.
The plain rice/black lentil idli continues to be the popular version, but it may also incorporate a variety of extra ingredients, savory or sweet. Mustard seeds, fresh chile peppers, black pepper, cumin, coriander seed and its fresh leaf form (cilantro), fenugreek seeds, curry leaves (neem), fresh ginger root, sesame seeds, nuts, garlic, scallions, coconut, and the unrefined sugar jaggery are all possibilities. Filled idlis contain small amounts of chutneys, sambars, or sauces placed inside before steaming. Idlis are sometimes steamed in a wrapping of leaves such as banana leaves or jackfruit leaves.
A variety of idlis are experimented these days, namely, standard idli, mini idlis soaked in sambar, rava idli, Kancheepuram idli, stuffed idli with a filling of potato, beans, carrot and masala, ragi idli, pudi idli with the sprinkling of chutney pudi that covers the bite-sized pieces of idlis, malli idli shallow-fried with coriander and curry leaves, and curd idli dipped in masala curds.