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slightly chewy, somewhere between smooth and granular, and with just a hint of sourness. what's almost more important is the quality of the sambhar and coconut chutney. but what do i know? i'm only a know-it-all bengali and the first idli i ever ate was at a small "restaurant" improbably called madras cafe, right outside the camp gates of air-force station adampur (a few miles from jalandhar)--even more improbable was the presence a few doors away of something called kerala cafe. of course they had the same menu as the madras cafe. (this was in the mid 70s.)

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Almost all Restaurants use make Idlis using Rice Rava( fine grits) due to it's contribution to the illusion of a spongy feel. If made well, which is not very often, I prefer the traditional style that uses finely ground urad dal and rice.

So I guess that would make it soft, smooth with a texture of bread and sour.

I like to have it with my homemade chatni which is made the usual way but with a very large quantity of curry leaves. I prefer rasam to sambhar and sometimes will smear gunpowder chatni.

I fry by the heat of my pans. ~ Suresh Hinduja


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I love them anywhichway :biggrin: Whether it is the traditional soft,white idlies served across the restaurants, plateforms of train stations in the south, many my friends houses - or the not-so-common but authentic nonetheless, or how about these pieces of idly cooked with onions and tamarind sauce, served with three chutneys and sambhar ?

[so identify where were these two served ? :raz: skchai is disqualified ] :laugh:

Edited by anil (log)


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I love them anywhichway :biggrin: Whether it is the traditional soft,white idlies served across the restaurants, plateforms of train stations in the south, many my friends houses - or the not-so-common but authentic nonetheless, or how about these pieces of idly cooked with onions and tamarind sauce, served with three chutneys and sambhar ?

[so identify where were these two served ? :raz: skchai is disqualified ] :laugh:


those yellow idlis with the cashews look good. They almost look like desset, are they sweet. tell us more about them. thanks

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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I like mine soft and not sour. Ofcourse the way I eat them would cause most South Indians to jump out an open window.. I like to cover them in sugar and pour some warm Ghee on them.. and YUMM

In our house, my aunt makes them stuffed with pickle gravy, covered in egg wash and then pan fried. they are quite delightful

I do have a confession to make I prefer the semonlina idlies to the ones made with rice. :unsure:

The only rice idlies are liked were soft tiny ones I ate at a small shop near my college in Bangalore. Now he knew how to do them right

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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I do have a confession to make I prefer the semonlina idlies to the ones made with rice.  :unsure:

Though I do like rice idlis(eaten with lots of virgin sesame oil and podi), semolina idlis are definitely my favorites as well. I like mine with green peas in them :rolleyes:


Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking


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I like my iddlies large and flat and barely set - when its only just made the transition from batter to iddli. At that point, if they're made right, they have the perfect soft, slightly granular texture. I'm going to add here that I have a view on iddlies that nearly all my Tamil friends disagree with violently and that is that the perfect iddlies are almost never made at home, but in restaurants.

My friends tell me vehemantly about the wonderful iddlies their grandmothers make and they are very good indeed, and for that matter my grandmother makes nice light iddlies herself. Yet I never feel they are quite perfect and the reason I think is that you can only get perfection when iddlies are made in large quantities - there's something about the mass of batter that needs to ferment, or perhaps its that with restaurants they can discard the first few iddlies that are less than perfect or perhaps its just the result of working at the speed and with the experience you get in large restaurants, but that's what I think leads to perfection (are there other dishes best made in quantities like this?) The only people who are even better than restaurants are wedding caterers.

I am not a particular fan of semolina iddlies or Kancheevaram iddlies (the extra large ones, with a lot of other stuff added in), I feel the extra stuff distracts from the essence of the iddli which is all about texture, and being the perfect medium for the sambhar or curry and the taste of the iddli itself is an unnecessary distraction. One doesn't often realise it, so closely are iddlies linked with vegetarian Tamil Brahman cooking, but they are much used in the other non-veg Tamil tradition, like Chettinad cooking, and they perform brilliantly to sop up the fiery meat gravies. I remember one tiny place in Madras that was known mostly for being open late to cater to the late night, post-nightclub crowd. It didn't do any cooking - the Chettinad curries it dished up were brought in from outside and kept warm in chafing dishes. But it was served with the most wonderful big iddlies and it was total bliss late at night.

The other type of iddlies I like are the small ones called panniyaram, though that's a slightly confusing term. Old books refer to panniyaram as a light fritter that was a Tanjore speciality, but at some point it was also applied to small iddlies made in a special pan which had several little moulds for them (or perhaps that's how the Chettiars always referred to them):


These are also rather annoyingly called cocktail iddlies and I really have eaten them at cocktail parties served with chutney as 'coconut dipping sauce'. I do not recommend this. But panniyarams are somehow rather endearing and the pan has even more to recommend it. I was recently told by a Bombay designer who's also a very good cook that she has taken to using a non-stick panniyaram pan big time to make low fat versions of fritter type dishes that would otherwise require deep frying. Instead of the tons of oil, you just lightly brush the panniyaram moulds and drop the same batter into them and they come out perfect and with much less oil. She gave me dahi-wada and falafal made this way and I have to say they tasted pretty good, crisp enough, but not drowned in tons of oil.


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I have just been reading Achaya's entry on iddlies in his Historical dictionary of Indian food book and its very interesting. He suggests a southeast Asian origin for iddlies. First he gives several ancient references to iddlies in Sanskrit and Kannada literature, where it appears under the term iddalige or iddaraki. But then he goes on to say:

In all these references, up to c.AD 1250, three elements of modern iddli-making are missing: the use of rice grits along with urad dhal; the long fermentation of the mix; and the steaming of the batter to fluffiness.

In AD 1485 and AD 1600, the iddli is compared to the moon, which might suggest that rice was in use; yet urad dhal flour is itself off-white, and moreover there are references to other moon-like products made only from urad flour. The Andhra area still has cakes of steamed urad flour called vasina-polu. The Indonesians ferment a variety of products (soybeans, groundnuts, fish) and have a product very similar to the iddlie, called kedli. It has been suggested that the cooks who accompanied the Hindu kings of Indonesia during their visits home (often enough to look for brides) between the eigth and twlefth centuries AD, brought innovative fermentation techniques to south India. Perhaps the use of rice along with the dhal was an essential part of the fermentation step which requires mixed microflora from both grains to be effective. Yeasts have enzymes which break down starch to simpler forms, and bacteria (which dominate iddli fermentation) carry enzymes for souring and leavening though the formation of carbon dioxide gas.

Xuan Zang was categorical in stating that in the seventh century AD India did not have a steaming vessel. But steaming can be achieved by such simple means as tying a thin cloth bearing the material to be cooked over the mouth of a vessel in which water is being boiled, the antiquity of which would be impossible to establish.

One other interesting point with iddlies is the difference that the vessel in which the batter is steamed can make. The mixture can be spread between banana leaves or as a compromise the banana leaf is used to line the iddli moulds (particularly for butter iddlies, I think). But apparently its in Karnataka that people really make a big thing of iddlies steamed in different types of leaves. A small Jaico published book I have called 'South Indian Tiffin' by Vijaya Hiremath lists several kinds, all with what sound like Kannada names.

These include iddlies made in containers jack fruit leaves (kotte), a kind of stiff palm leaves (moode), teak leaves (hoye kadabu). Achaya, who has the rather endearing trait of never missing an opportunity to laud Kannada cooking (its endearing because absolutely no one apart from Achaya seems to share this feeling), calles these leaf moulded iddli type preparations as tharagu-kadabu and has quite a bit to say on kadabu in general.

Episure do you suppose these different types of kadabu are available in Bangalore?


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I love them HOMEMADE, HOT and more sour-ish than most people like them. Leftover idlis ( which is a crazy term to see .....as usually this is a nonexistent thing) are good , cut up and fried in ghee!! Is it any wonder I am on pravachol? I have to stop this sort of thing.

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Freshly steamed from the Gits box! :laugh:

Seriously though... I have trouble getting idli batter made from scratch to ferment properly. Guess I don't live in a hot enough climate for that. :sad:


"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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no problem sleepy_dragon - that's something my mom and i discovered years ago when we were trying to make dosa batter during a central New York winter.

we actually had a kitchen setup where the microwave was above the oven. so what we did was put the batter in the microwave, and then turn the oven on to self-clean. the ambient heat from the self-cleaning process gave us just the right amount of fermented sour goodness.

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why can't you make a proper coconut chutney in Canada lidiab?

I don't have time to make it out of real coconut. Plus, it is rather difficult to find good and fresh coconut here. And I don't like coconut chatney from dry shreded coconut.

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These include iddlies made in containers jack fruit leaves (kotte), a kind of stiff palm leaves (moode), teak leaves (hoye kadabu).

Hi Vikram,

The kottes for some reason taste so much better than normal idlis. As a child I used to love watching my aunts, grandma and mom in this joint collaboration of weaving the jackfruit leaves into a cup. Still do, actually. A new broom (kanta jhadoo) was kept only for this purpose. They would 'staple' the leaves together into a leak-proof pouch with bits of the broom. My mother takes jackfruit leaves back to Dubai with her each time she visits India. AW! Now I'm missing my Kotte and I can't eat them for at least another year!


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I don't have time to make it out of real coconut. Plus, it is rather difficult to find good and fresh coconut here. And I don't like coconut chatney from dry shreded coconut.

Freshly grated and frozen coconut is available now at Indian grocers in the U.S. I guess most probably in Canada too. Once it is thawed to room temperature it makes real good coconut chutney.

Edited by Peppertrail (log)

Ammini Ramachandran


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