Idlis are rice flour batter-based steamed cake preparations. This batter is poured into and steamed in idli molds. The mushy idlis are typically served with coconut chutney and sambar. Idlis, one of the most popular breakfast items on the Indian menu, have been around for a long time. But how much do we know about idlis other than rice or rava? It appears that we have not explored sufficiently. Let us take you through the stories of a special idli that has been enticing devotees for years.
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Tamil Nadu is known for its delicious cuisine. Within Tamil Nadu, you will find regional cuisines making the rounds. Chettinad cuisine is a prime example. On one end, you will find one of the country’s spicier dishes, while on the other, a soft and humble idli is served to the Lord and devotees alike. Yes, Kanchipuram idlis or Kanjivaram kovil idlis are that popular in the region. They are not your average idlis. Their history is thought to have begun with the Pallavas between the sixth and ninth centuries A.D.
Most people associate Kanjivaram with its most famous export: beautiful silk saris with rich colors and gold motifs. Kanjeevaram saris are an essential part of every Indian woman’s wardrobe, and this bustling town deep within Tamil Nadu is known as the birthplace of these 6-yard wonders.
The town of Kanchipuram is a lovely mingling pot of cultures, crafts, and food, woven by a community of master weavers who migrated from Saurashtra! The aroma of sizzling hot Kanchipuram kovil idlis compelled tourists and food enthusiasts to make frequent pilgrimages to the temple town possibly even before the kanjeevaram silk sarees.
Due to the grand temple architecture and the location’s religious associations, Kanchipuram is a busy city that is also popular with tourists. There are about a thousand temples in Kanchipuram. The sarees made of the kanjeevaram silk that are woven in Kanchipuram are another reason why tourists swarm the city. However, not everyone mentions this temple town because of the well-known Kanchipuram idlis.
Like any other tourist-oriented temple town, Kanchipuram is teeming with restaurants, the majority of which serve Tamilian food. A small stall serving piping hot idlis and podi, as well as the must-try Kanchipuram idlis, can be found in this multi-cuisine restaurant. Locally, they are known as Koil idlis.
They will be in for a surprise if they have never seen or heard of Koil or Kanchipuram idlis. Your questions about why the idlis are so special will be answered after just one bite. These idlis differ from regular idlis in terms of flavor, appearance, and texture.
At the Varadharaj Perumal Temple in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu, the idlis are offered as prasadam. In addition to thronging the temple and waiting in long lines to see the holy Lord in the underground temple tank, worshippers come to feast on the mouthwatering Kanchipuram idlis. These are the place’s main attractions and are known as Koil idlis in the area. You must try the local treat of foot-long idlis, which are prepared at the temple every day for visitors.
The Varadaraja Perumal Temple serves the foot-long Kanchipuram kovil idli, a popular south Indian steamed rice cake, as prasadam. Legend has it that since the Pallavas, who intermittently ruled the area beginning in 275 CE, these idlis have been offered as naivedyam to the deity. However, its provenance and journey to somewhat cult status among idlis are unclear. Kanchipuram idlis are also referred to as “kovil idlis” (Tamil for “temple”) because they are a component of the offerings made at the Vararaja Perumal temple.
Kanchipuram idlis are distinct from regular idlis because they are traditionally steamed in a brass vessel over a wood fire. Fenugreek seeds, dried ginger, cumin seeds, black pepper, curry leaves, asafoetida, and ghee are added to the batter of black urad dal, curd, and coarsely ground rice to make this one denser. The batter is steamed in a foot-long, cylindrical cane basket known as a kudalai after being allowed to ferment for the entire night. A few mantharai (sal) leaves are placed inside the mold before the batter is added.
The batter is kept from dripping by the mantharai leaves. Additionally, they give the idli a mild yet distinct fragrance that, as it cooks, combines with the ghee and spices to improve the flavor of the dish. After being filled with batter, the kudalai is steamed for about three to four hours. The laborious preparation calls for extreme caution and accuracy. This process yields a cylindrical cake that is then divided into rounds and served with podi.
Restaurants in this city of a thousand temples have started to serve the Kanchipuram idli as its popularity has grown over time. But as of now, the best ones are only available in the temple kitchen (madappalli) of Kanchipuram’s Varadaraja Perumal Temple.
Kanchipuram Idli Recipe
Fenugreek seeds: 1/4 teaspoon
Parboiled rice: 125 gm
Raw rice: 125 gm
Whole white urad dal: 125 gm
Poha (aval): 125 gm
Salt to taste
Ghee: 2 teaspoons
Curry leaves: 2 sprigs (finely chopped)
Asafoetida: Half teaspoon
Sukku (Dry ginger): 1 teaspoon
Cumin seeds: 1 1/2 teaspoon
Black pepper: 1 1/2 teaspoon
- Wash and soak the raw rice, parboiled rice, urad dal, and fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Drain the water and grind the mixture to a slightly coarse paste. Add up to a cup of water for grinding and grind the batter in batches in the mixer. Do not add too much water while grinding.
- Put the poha in a cup of water and let it soak for ten minutes. Add it to the batter after grinding it into a smooth paste.
- Curry leaves and the crushed cumin pepper mixture are added to a pan of heated ghee. Cut off the flame once the curry leaves are crisp. Asafoetida and dry ginger powder should be added. Mix thoroughly before adding to the batter.
- The batter needs salt, so add it and combine everything thoroughly. For 8 to 10 hours, seal the pan with a lid and place it somewhere without a draught.
- Idlis are steamed for 20 minutes. Serve with sambar, idli powder, or chutney.
We believe that you can prepare some idlis at home now that you are aware of all these idlis’ history and significance. Here is an in-depth recipe you can try.