Tamil cuisine is typical of south Indian cuisine, in that rice and rice-derived dishes form the major portion of a diet. There are regional sub-varieties namely Chettinadu, Kongunadu, Madurai, Tirunelveli varieties etc. Rice is the staple food of Tamils and is typically eaten mixed with coconut chutney sambhar (with or without ghee), vegetarian or non-vegetarian kulambu, rasam, curd and buttermilk. This is accompanied with various vegetarian and/or non-vegetarian dishes like kootu, aviyal, poriyal, appalam, varuval, peratal, kothsu, varieties of pickles and chicken, mutton, or fish fry.
Breakfast and snack items include dosai, Adai,idly, vadai, pongal, appam (aappam), paniyaram,puttu, uppumavu (uppuma), santhakai (a sort of noodles), idiyappam and uthappam. These items are eaten along with sambar, varieties of chutney and podi. Traditionally prepared filter coffee is unique in taste and popular all over the state.
The Chettinad region is famous for its spicy non-vegetarian cuisine, while Ambur and Dindigul are known for their Biriyani. Sweet items that are native to Tamil Nadu are Athirasam, Chakkarai Pongal (prepared during Pongal) and Kuli Paniyaram. The city of Thirunelveli is renowned for its unique sweetmeat, Thirunelveli Halwa, while Palani (pazhani) is known for its Panchamirtham.
When it came to cooking for this state, I was totally lost. I did not know what to cook. One day in our BM group chat, I think it was Kamilika who mentioned that Idli is the food for this state, followed by Pongal. That day I decided it was Idli for Tamil Nadu. Couple of days later I spoke to my nephew who had just come back from India and was in Madurai for few days. I asked him how the food was and he said when it comes to food, idli is all they spoke about it. It is as if they had invented the best food in the world, how light and healthy it is. He also went on to say that if he was given same kind of idlies that he ate in Madurai, he would not mind making it part of his diet and the idlies he ate there were different from what he had eaten at home and were really good. After talking to him, I was even more firm that I have to make idli or something similar to that.
So I started pulling my head as to what to do and then remembered Kanchipuram idli. I heard a lot about it but never really checked out how different it is from regular idli. The main difference is that the batter is seasoned with black peppers, cashews and few more spices, and steamed in tumblers. Batter can be steamed in a container and then cut into different shapes. Traditional idli molds are not used for these idlies. This sounded different than the regular idli and decided to do it. To go with it, I made couple of chutneys and onion sambar. Some of the Kanchipuram idli recipes I looked at had hing or asafetida and Valli’s recipe did not call for it. So I followed her recipe and off course I had 101 questions about which rice to use to how to steam the ildi. I normally don’t make idli at home as it has to be planned ahead of time and when I finally plan for it, something or the other happens and never make them on the day I planned for. So, I stopped making idli and I am not a big fan of idli anyway, although I do not mind eating it.
I served these ildies with Chettinad Tomato Chutney, Coconut Chutney and Onion Sāmbhar. The tomato chutney I made is different than what I usually make. My chutneys usually have sesame seeds powder and/or peanut powder. This recipe doesn’t have any powders. I did not add sugar as I felt the onion gave it enough sweetness and doesn’t need any more sweetener.
Pre-Planning: At least a day for soaking the rice & lentils, and for fermenting the batter
Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes
Yields: 20 depending on the size
- ¾ cup Urad Dal ~ Black Gram
- 1 cup Idli Rice / Parboiled Rice
- ½ cup Raw Rice (sona masoori or any rice you use to cook white rice)
- 1 tsp. Fenugreek Seeds ~ Methi Seeds
- ½ tsp. Baking Soda ~ Cooking Soda (opt.)
- ½ tbsp. (1 ½ tsp.) Salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 – 2 teaspoon Oil
- 1 tsp. Black Pepper Corns
- 1” piece Ginger chopped or 1 – 1 ½ tsp. chopped Ginger
- 4-5 Curry Leaves
- 2 tsp. Chana Dal
- 2 tsp. Urad Dal
- 10 Cashew Nuts broken into two - three pieces
- 1 – 2 tbsp. Cilantro ~ Kotmir ~ Coriander Leaves chopped
- 1 tbsp. Melted Ghee or Butter (opt.)
- Wash and soak rice and fenugreek seeds in a bowl and in a separate bowl wash and soak dal. Soak for at least 5-6 hours. Grind the rice to a paste using up to 1 cup of water. The batter should not be too thin and also rice need not be a fine paste but it should not be very coarse either. Transfer to a bowl. Grind dal separately with about ½ - ¾ cup of water or as needed. Dal has to be ground to a fine paste. Mix this to the rice batter and mix well. Leave it to ferment in a warm place for 10 hours or overnight.
- At least 1 hour before making the ildi, add salt and baking soda. Do not leave it for more than 1 hour after adding soda.
- In a pan heat oil roast all the ingredients listed under seasoning, except cilantro and butter. Once the cashews and dals are lightly roasted, add cilantro and turn off the heat.
- Let it cool a bit and add it to the batter. Also add the melted butter if using. Lightly mix the batter. Do not mix vigorously or for too long. We do not want to deflate the batter.
- In a pressure cooker or a sauce pot in which the idli would be steamed, add one cup of water and bring it to a boil.
- While the water is boiling, grease the tumblers or container(s) in which idli would be steamed. Can use oil or can spray some cooking oil. Spray it properly to grease well or using fingers spread it all around the container.
- Fill the batter ¾ length. If using one round container, fill it 1 ½ - 2” deep. Place it on the steamer plate and steam for 15 – 20 minutes on medium-low flame. If steaming in a pressure cooker, no need to use the weight. I steamed for 18 – 20 minutes. A test can be done to check if the idli is done. Id a knife inserted comes out clean, ildi are steamed.
- Leave it for 5 minutes before unmolding. If used a big round container, cut the idli into wedges or triangles and serve hot with chutney(s), sambar and podi.
- If it is planned to make the idli for breakfast, soak the rice and lentils previous morning, grind the in the evening and ferment it overnight. If living in a colder region, it would take longer to ferment. It took me almost 24 hours to ferment, despite putting it in warm place.
Source: Taste Dairy
Total Time: 25 minutes
Preparation: 15 minutes (includes time to cool the cooked tomato mixture)
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- 3 tbsp. Oil
- 1 medium sized Onion or ¾ cup chopped Onion
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves
- 1 tbsp. Chana Dal
- 2 medium sized Tomatoes or 1 cup chopped Tomatoes (I used vine ripe tomatoes but any variety would work)
- 2 - 4 Green Chilies (I used 4 and adjust chilies to taste)
- 1 tsp. Salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp. Tamarind Paste (I used store bought paste)
- 1 – 2 tbsp. Oil (I used 2 because of I wanted floating oil in the pictures, otherwise I would have used 1 tbsp.)
- 1 – Dry Red Chilies
- ½ tsp. Mustard Seeds
- 3-5 Curry Leaves
- Pinch of asafetida
- ½ tsp. Sugar (I did not use)
- Heat 3 tbsp. oil in pan and fry onions, garlic and chana dal till onions are brown. This would take about 3-5 minutes
- Add tomatoes, green chilies, salt and fry until tomatoes are soft, mushy and most of the juices evaporate. This should take 4-5 minutes.
- Keep side and let the mixture cool.
- Grind it to a fine paste along with tamarind paste. Add some water if necessary. Add sugar if using, taste and, adjust salt and tamarind to taste.
- Heat oil in a pan for the tempering. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafetida, dry chilies and when seeds pop, remove from heat. Pour it on top of the chutney.
- Serve with idli and dosa or appam.
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Anders Svenson says
Wow! What an amazing tomato chutney recipe. Thanks for sharing with us. This is one of my favorite recipe. It also looks so delicious and tasty! I will try it in free time.
Suma Gandlur says
Loved these idlis when I made them for BM. You have captured them beautifully.
Vaishali Sabnani says
Wondering where my comment disappeared..this is a post i loved..the clicks are so amazing..absolutely stunning,,absolutely gorgeous!
Chef Mireille says
a different kind of idly - and your presentation is flawless
these kanchipuran idlis look stunningly pretty. they're languishing in my to-try list till date. you've inspired me to go and try them
Idlis looks so good Usha! I have been wanting to make these ever since that discussion but never get around to making it. Everything in that pic looks tempting...
Manjula Bharath says
wow wow usha very cute kanchipuram idli there 🙂 looks very delicious and perfect chutney to accompany 🙂 awesome presentation !!
Priya Srinivasan says
Love those cute cups for the condiments!!! Bet idlies are the best breakfast, serving you with all the required carbs n protein in the same platter!!! 🙂 Add some coconut chutney, got your good fat too served!! 🙂 We love these cup idlies and the tempered spices gives a unique taste!!! 🙂
Wow what a delicious platter. I have been wanting to try these idlis but have been putting it off for too long now. Its to be made immediately.
Authentic recipe,the idly has turned out very well,looks so fluffy and soft,loved the array of accompaniments.Very well presented.
love the side dishes.. so perfect.. So tasty and spongy idli
Kanchipuram idli turned out perfect -- fluffy and delicious.
Love that spicy Chettinad tomato chutney -- I'll have to make it some time soon.
Excellent presentation for the humble Idlis, Usha.
what a perfect combo... and the idli is so well made and the pictures are AWESOME!!!
What a lovely platter! The pictures are beautiful. The idli and chutney looks appetizing.
Truely marvelous- great job
Your clicks are just breathtaking. those spiced kanchipuram idli is just asking me to have some.. Wonderful platter there.
Usha your pictures are stunning!..everything looks amazing..love the combination and all your props..such a classic one..
very well presented and i fell in love with kanchipuram idli since childhood, it is for me a complete meal
Usha .i wanna eat this right now....