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Idli - South Indian Cake

Idli is a round cake made with a fermented blend of rice and de husked black lentils. It is not only a compulsory part of traditional South Indian breakfast but also healthy, nutritious and tasty when eaten with chutney, sambar or any other Indian gravy (Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian). Idli is a light food that is easy to digest and suits anyone, young and old. It is a safe food for even infants, elderly or those with delicate stomachs.

With a History that began in 920 AD, the Idli first appeared in the Indian State of Karnataka. At that time these Indian cakes were made only using ground mix of de husked black lentils. The cooking process employed to make these early versions of Idli was also different.

The idli has gone through several transformations over the last several years both in terms of ingredients used and method of preparation. At present a calculated proportion of rice and de husked lentils, soaked for at least 4 hours are ground separately and blended together before they are allowed to ferment overnight or at least for 8 hours. This batter is then transferred using a ladle to greased idli trays and steam cooked.

In traditional South Indian homes, a clean white cloth is spread over the idli tray and no oil is applied on the tray, making idli healthier. After steaming these in an idli cooker, the cloth with the round white idli cakes is turned over into a vessel.

Idli is a nutritious food rich in carbohydrates and low in fat. Packaged idli mixes have now hit the stands and are a boon to novices. Idli can be prepared as a sweet dish and even semolina (rava) can be used to make idli.

Idli is a bland dish which is eaten with spicy coconut /onion/tomato/coriander chutney or sambar. A selection of Indian spices, roasted and ground into a powder called ‘milagai podi’ is mixed with gingili or groundnut oil and is another hot accompaniment for idli. Besides these traditional options, idli goes well even with non vegetarian gravies, stews and jams.

It is a common practice for South Indians to use excess idlis to prepare snack dishes like idli upma and fried idli. These are delicious ways to recycle idlis.
Though belonging to South India, Idli is now consumed throughout India and even abroad. With easier options to make idlis, this nutrition packed Indian food is certain to make its way into many more cuisines.

Picture courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Here are a couple of books on Idli

Buy IDLI: An Indigenous Fermented Food from Flipkart.com

Buy Idlis & Dosas by Tarla Dalal on Amazon.com

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