‘Kanchipuram Idli’ gets its name from a town in Tamil Nadu, India called ‘Kanjeevaram’ or ‘Kanchipuram’. It is in Kanchipuram, in the renowned Sri Varadarajaperumal Temple, that this dish is served traditionally to the deity. In Iyengar parlance, the temple kitchens are termed as ‘Madapalli’ , and it is here that this ‘Kovil idli’ (temple idli) is made by devoted Iyengar cooks, following an age old recipe. The idlis are steamed in ‘mandharai ilai’ , which imparts an unbeatable taste and aroma to these idlis. This is how they are traditionally cooked in the temple even to this day.
P.S: An interesting and totally random fact about this leaf: Wiki tells me this is colloquially termed as the ‘beedi leaf tree’, called so because the leaves are used in the manufacture of a thin Indian cigarette called the ‘beedi’ 😀 ).
In the traditional method, raw rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds are soaked and ground to a smooth batter. The batter is then allowed to ferment well overnight or more. This fermented idly batter is tempered with curry leaves, dry ginger powder, asafoetida, pepper and cumin (in ghee, of course!) , and seasoned with salt. They are then steamed to make idlis in either leaves, plates, or steel tumblers and cups.
Us ordinary mortals can make this really flavourful idly with leftover idli/dosa batter as well, when one is pressed for time 🙂 Usually at my place, we make idli first with the fresh batter, dosa next, kuzhi paniyaram later, and Kanchipuram idly with the last remaining batter 🙂 This is because the batter needs to be slightly sour to achieve the right taste of the idly. The specialty of this dish is that the idlis remain unspoilt for upto a week. In fact, while on long train journeys that last two or three days, my family always pack Kanchipuram Idly to eat 🙂 Read on for the recipe!
- Leftover idly batter – 4 cups
- Pepper – 2 tsp
- Jeera – 4 tsp
- Curry leaves – 7 to 8
- Hing – a generous pinch
- Dry ginger powder – 3/4 tsp
- Ghee – 1 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Oil to grease the cups/tumblers or plates.
- Heat ghee in a small tempering pan.
- Add curry leaves and wait till they become crisp
- Coarsely powder pepper and jeera together, and add to the ghee. Add hing and dry ginger powder as well. Mix well for 2-3 seconds. Switch off the stove.
- Take 2-3 day old idly batter (needs to be slightly sour).
- Add this hot tempering to the batter.
- Mix well until evenly incorporated.
- Put a drop of oil inside the tumbler (or whatever you are using).
- Spread it all over with your fingers. The tumbler needs to be evenly coated with the oil so that the idlis don’t stick.
- Repeat for how many ever utensils you are using for steaming the idlis.
- Add the batter to the tumblers.
- Add batter only until the container is 3/4th full, because the idlis will rise while cooking.
- Heat water in a pressure pan/cooker.
- Arrange the tumblers side by side.
- Close the lid and steam (without whistle) for 15 minutes.
- Switch off the stove. Let it sit for 5 minutes before you unmold the idlis.
TIPS & TWEAKS
- Slowly unmold the idlis with the help of a knife or a back of a spoon, only after they cool down, or you will end up breaking them.
- You can break down the hot idlis, pour 2 tsp of ghee over it , sprinkle some idly milagai podi, and mix well and eat. This is Kanchipuram idly Upma 🙂
- My leftover idly batter already had salt, so I did not add it again. You need to add salt to taste, if your batter doesn’t have it.