Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I love Idli

Idli (English pronunciation: /ˈɪdliː/, also romanized "idly" or "iddly", plural "idlis"; Kannada: ಇಡ್ಲಿ; Malayalam: ഇഡ്ഡലി; Tulu: ಇಡ್ಲಿ; Tamil: இட்லி; Telugu: ఇడ్లీ, ఆవిరికుడుము (Aviri-Kudumu)) is a savory cake of south Indian origin popular throughout India. The cakes are usually two to three inches in diameter and are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. The fermentation process breaks down the starches so that they are more readily metabolized by the body.      
Idli with purple potato curry, coriander chutney and pepper chutney

We live in San Diego: a city with its pros and cons, like any other. One major pro are all the specialty markets that cater to the wide variety of nationalities that live here. There are multiple Chinese, Philippine, Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Korean, Middle Eastern and Japanese supermarkets within a 20 mile radius. I have been told that San Diego is a hub for refugee processing entities, and that many of the world's refugees start out right here. Maybe that's true, maybe not. I would venture that its the weather, which is pretty much perfect all the time (average 70F, blue skies, etc) keeping people here. Whatever the case, I love this perk and make frequent pilgrimages to all of these awesome markets. (I will explore different markets in future posts.)

I shall now extol on the virtues of what many call "Little India". Located on Black Mountain Road in Miramar, this mini strip mall is host to two medium sized supermarkets, multiple restaurants, an ayurvedic beauty salon, a music store, a yoga studio, an Indian bank, an Indian clothing store, and my favorite fast food joint in town, Surati Farsan, where you can eat delicious Indian street food for under $10, and that includes a Mango Lassi. Not to mention, they ALWAYS have Bollywood dance videos playing on their large screen TVs. The place is hip. My only complaint is that all their food comes in styrofoam dishes: a real shame. In addition to all the sweets in the display case, they sell dosa and idli there, which I'm told are typical Southern Indian fare. Both are wheat free, delicious foods.

our idli pan in action
I love idli so much that I bought Ryan an idli pan for his birthday last year so that I could have it whenever I wanted to. They sell pre-made idli batter in the refrigerator section at Bombay Bazaar, (one of the grocery stores in Little India), so making this dish is a complete no-brainer. If you want to be able to eat this at home, you've got to get one of these proprietary pans. I got Ryan's at Bombay Bazaar for about $20, and it fits into a soup pot that we already have. All you have to do is spoon the idli batter into the indentations, stack the trays up in the pot (with about 1 inch of water at the bottom), cover and steam for about 10 or 15 minutes. A future post will explore how to make the fermented idli batter from scratch, but I haven't bothered to go there yet as the ready made stuff is so easy. (Another secret to no-brainer Indian home cooking: pre-mixed spice boxes for any dish you can think of. More on that later.)

Ryan says that idli is usually eaten simply with a chutney, but since I had leftover potato curry, I served it up as well as the chutneys, which turned out to be delicious.

(I made dosa, from a similar ready made batter, yesterday with a potato curry. I hadn't started this blog yet, so I didn't take pics but next time I do, expect a post. Dosa might be my all time favorite thing on the face of this earth. Think tangy, savory Indian crepes.)

All right. I am already breaking my first promise, (no long-winded blog posts). I'll stop yakking already! I hope that you have an Indian market near you...

Full disclosure: I have never been to India. I practice yoga regularly, and as a vegetarian I just know that India is the place for me. Ryan lived there for about 2 years, and he is my main source of information on most things India. I like to think that I know what I am talking about, but if my recipes are off...well, now you know why!


  1. K,
    Your most welcome to come to Mumbai and eat fresh idli any day!
    Idli is usually served with sambar, a red soupy dal. You can probably get a special spice mix for it in the grocery.
    Have you eaten wada (vada)? Wada is also eaten with sambar.
    Need any Indian insights....? I have surpassed a decided in the sub-continent and not leaving anytime soon....

  2. Thanks so much for the offer Jill! It's been quite a while.
    I am looking forward to trying my hand at wada... will post the results. And I'll be sure to make sambhar too...
    Expect us in India one of these days in the not so distant future.