Breafast or evening meal : the story of South Indian most famous cakes

Idlis (இட்லி in tamil) are steamed rice cakes with an oval form you can found in all South India. They are in every traditional breakfast and even sometimes in the evening lunch of Indians from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka, from Kerala to Andhra Pradesh. You can even find them in Sri Lanka as well.

Picture idli 1

Idlis historical origins

Most ancient sources about idlis are from 700CE. The first recipe found is the one written in south Indian king Someshvara III’s encyclopedia “Manasollasa”. The encyclopedia written in 1130 includes a chapter dedicated to food and speaks about “iddarika” (Sanskrit name of the idlis).

Nowadays idlis are traditionally eaten in Tamil families with a famous sauce (sambar sauce or coconut chutney) or a more original one (mint, garlic or even peanuts chutney). When they are savored in a restaurant or street shop they are served with both sambar and coconut chutney.

Above all, idlis are really healthy food since they are steamed and not fried. They also have good nutritional qualities (from rice and lentils) and fermentation helps the digestive system. Sauces give them the flavor and spice they need to have a wonderful taste in your mouth.

 

 

 

The traditional recipe

Ingredients for 32 idlis :

• 3 idli rice full cups
• 1 ½ cup white lentils (urad dhal)
• ½ tea spoon fenugreek beans
• 4 tea spoons salt
• Water

Preparation :

Making idli only needs time and good managing of the quantities.
Start by rinsing the rice and soaking it a whole night.
Rinse lentils and soak them for an hour with the fenugreek.
Separate the lentils in two parts and grind them each, adding half a cup of water to obtain a smooth and fluffy batter. For all lentils you will add 2 and half cup water.
Do the same with the rice, mixing it in three parts with a half cup of water each time.
Mix both rice and lentils until obtaining a thick but liquid batter. Add the salt and your batter is ready for fermentation!

Let the batter rest for one night. Fermentation will give the batter a good smell. The batter will also rise and bubbles will form. You will obtain a smooth and light batter.
To help fermentation you can let it stand in the oven just turned off but still a bit warm. The perfect temperature stands between 25 and 28 °C.
Your idlis have now to be steamed!

You can put the batter in proper idlis’mould and steam it in a pressure cooker. Take care not to mix the batter but to gently take the above part of it. Let the water boil and then leave the idlis to cook over a slow fire for 7 minutes.
If you only have silicone moulds you can still steam you idlis in a steam oven at 100°C (212° Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes.

It is now time to enjoy your idlis with traditional chutney or sambar sauce

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