Did you know that the humble, soft, pillow-like idli that we call our own is not even from India? If there has been one dish that has been a true game-changer of the way south Indian food is perceived and eaten in India it has to be the humble and ubiquitous idli sambar. A dish that relies on family traditions, the idli sambar differs across regions, communities and households.
Idli was developed in Indonesia, a part of which was ruled by Hindu kings. It was called Kedley there, and the Indian cooks of these kings returned to India with the process of preparing the dishes. Old dishes like modern idli have been mentioned in many ancient Indian works. The Kannada language work written by Sivakotiyacharya in 920 AD finds about the “idlige” dish in Vaddardhain, which was prepared only with black gram solution. Later, in 1130 AD, King Someshwar III of the Pratikya Chalukya (now Karnataka) named this dish as idli in his work Manasollas.
Modern idli omits three major aspects of the process described in ancient Indian works. This includes the use of rice (not just black gram), long fermentation of the mixture, and steaming it to allow it to flourish. The process of making modern idli appears in Indian works after the 12th century.
To make idli, one part of whole white lentils (kala chana, vigna mungo) from four parts uncooked rice (idli rice or parbad rice) is soaked separately for at least four hours to six hours or overnight. . Alternatively spices such as fenugreek seeds can be added at the time of soaking for additional flavor. Once soaked, the lentils are kept as a fine paste and the rice is placed separately on the ground, then mixed. Next, the mixture is left to rise yeast overnight, during which its volume is more than doubled. The prepared idli solution is put in an idli tray for steaming. The perforated molds allow the idli to cook evenly. The tray is placed above the level of boiling water in a pot, and the pot is covered until the idli is cooked. Long ago, leaves were used in place of trays.
Idli along with its side servings is one of the best and balanced nutrition for breakfast or any day of the meal. The side servings coconut chutney, sambar and milakai podi provide more essential nutrients to the body.
Now a days, we have innumerable varieties of idli that are made from ingredients like rava, ragi, vegetables, cheese and even chocolate. And they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. It may have originated in the outskirts, but idli is now considered the most suitable Indian dish.