Small White Wonder

Alisha Shinde
Thursday, 29 March 2018

On World Idli Day, we catch up with city chefs to know about the origin of the humble idli, its journey and the variations

This small white wonder is not just a powerhouse of nutrients but idli is also one of the most simple and filling foods. This South Indian staple is a popular and quick breakfast fix for many. Not just for breakfast, steaming hot idli can be had for lunch and dinner too. On World Idli Day (March 30), we talk to a few Pune-based chefs to track the journey of the small white wonder.  

“Idli was brought to southern India by Arab settlers who were strict in their dietary preferences since many of them came here when Prophet Mohammed was still alive,” says Sathish Reddy, executive chef, Courtyard by Marriott, Pune, Chakan. He further explains that these Arab settlers were neo-converts to Islam because of which they insisted on halal food and Indian food was quite alien to them. “To avoid the confusion regarding halal and haram in food they began to make rice balls as it was not only easy to make but also was the safest option available,” he explains, which were then flattened and consumed with coconut paste. 

Idli has come a long way since then. “Flavoured idli is made by infusing the juices of vegetables or by adding chopped vegetables in the regular batter,” says Sheik Mohideen, chef, Savya Rasa. He adds that you can take your idli game one level up by opting for different ingredients such as rawa, wheat, green moong dal, pressed rice and even red rice. “If you are in a mood to experiment and completely change the way idli is, try Tomato Idli, Coriander Idli or Cucumber Idli,” he adds. 

Deepu Alamchandani, chef, Rustom Batliwala, says, “Idli is the best comfort food because it is steamed and easy on the palate, especially for kids.” He says that even doctors often prescribe idli diet when people fall sick. He adds that even though fast food joints push on selling burgers and pizzas, the humble idli has been able to retain its popularity and is one of the best comfort foods. 

- Steamed idli... - 2 
- Cheese slice... - 2
- Spicy mix chutney...     - 2 tbsp 
- Bread crumbs... - 200 gm
- Gun powder... - 50 gm  
- Tomato chutney/ coriander chutney as required 
- Oil for frying

- First slit the steamed idli horizontally.  
- Take the spice chutney and spread it gently. 
- Add the cheese slice and cover it over like a sandwich. 
- Gently cut the edges and make it look a square.
- Dip it in refined flour and water batter gently.  
- Roll it over crumb and gun powder.
- Gently fry it in oil and remove when crispy.  
- Serve hot with chutney.

(Recipe by executive chef Sathish Reddy of Courtyard by Marriott Chakan, Pune)

- Medium-sized idlis..    . - 8
- Dry red chillies... - 5-6
- Peppercorns.. - .1/4 tsp
- Cumin seeds. - ..1/4 tsp
- Peeled garlic.. - .6 pods
- Curry leaves.. - .10-12
- Asafoetida.. - .1/4 tsp 
- Bikaneri sev... - 400 gm
- Vegetable oil... - 3-4 tbsp
- Lemon.. - .1
- Salt to taste

- First, cut the idli into four pieces.
- Add dry chillies, pepper corns, cumin seeds, peeled garlic pods to a dry mixer grinder and blend using the pulse feature only three times.
- Then in a nonstick pan, add oil and the masala mixture. Cook well for 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the idlis to the mixture and toss on high flame till the idlis are coated well with the cooked masala mixture.
- Now squeeze lemon on top of the cooked idlis.
- Sprinkle it with Bikaneri sev and serve hot.

Tips: Best made with one day old idlis

(Recipe by chef Deepu Alamchandani of Cafe Rustom Batliwala)

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