You are standing in the middle of the country. To your right is Chole Bhature, Lassi, Paratha that will entice you. To your left is Dosa, Vada and Idli. Well, we are going to tell you how steam-alicious idlis can be.
To prepare Idli we require black lentil, fenugreek and rice are soaked separately. They are ground to a batterand is brought to the consistency of a thick batter. The batter is then left overnight for fermentation. Next day, salt gets added into the mixture for batterand the batter is poured into the Idli moulds and steamed. Ta da! the Idli is ready. This can either be served with white, coconut-y chutney or tangy, tomato chutney and all-time favourite sambar (flavored lentil soup), the sight of which can leave one drooling.
The story of Idli:
If we turn the pages of history we find that Dosa and Vada had a 2,000 year-long history in India. Whereas Idli doesn't have a very long history. The recipe of Idli was first mentioned in 920 AD in Kannada writings of Shivakotiacharya. A woman served 18 different dishes to a bachelor who visited her home. Idli was one of them. But the recipe of Idli eaten during that time was different. In the 10th century, according to the description of one poet, Chavundaraya's Idli was prepared by first soaking black gram in buttermilk. Clear yoghurt whey, ground coriander, cumin, asafoetida and black pepper were then added. They were moulded into a circular shape. The biggest difference between the Idlis from that time and now is that, at that time, Idlis were prepared without rice, steam and fermentation, which is unimaginable, now. So we need to know that, where was rice, steam and fermentation added to this recipe.
According to the pre-17th century sources, a Chinese historian Xuanzang has written that there were no utensils in India at that time, which could steam food. So, who taught us how to make it? Kedli, the name sounds familiar, right? This is Idli's sister who was lost in the great fair. But, if you glance into the history, the Kedli from Indonesia used to be prepared with steam cooking rice and fermentation. From 800 to 1200 AD, many Hindu Kings ruled Indonesia who came to India to meet their relatives. These Hindu kings used to have Indian Chefs who brought the Kedli to India. The modern method to prepare Idli was derived from Kedli when these cooks, cooked them in India. That is why, the soft, light, fluffy, bright Idli is on our plates today.
Nowadays, blackgram, rice, steaming and fermentation are the most important parts of making Idli. It is hard to imagine Idli without these. The introduction of rice has been a topic of debate. But Northeast India, East Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and South China are regarded as its main producers.
When Aristobulus came with his army to India he described rice as, "A strange crop sown in a bed of soil which grows in water." Although crude and slightly vague, this confirms the existence of rice in 327 AD. In the 11th Century, the Bengali text called, Shunya Puran states that, at that time, Bengal solely produced 50 different types of rice. You might be surprised to know that, today, India has more than 2,00,000 varieties of rice. Besides food, rice has been a part a part of Indian culture in many aspects. Like showering rice on the wedded couples during weddings. Feeding babies, rice with milk during the Annaprasan Ceremony. Moreover festivals like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Onam in Kerala, Hootri in Coorg and Bihu in Assam are connected to rice farming.
Now the more we discuss about this great Idli, made with rice, the hungrier we get. It is healthy and suitable for balanced diets too. Isn't Idli the best? Maybe this is the power which fuels Rajnikanth. Now, stop drooling. Get up and visit the nearest south Indian restaurant.