An Idli is rather like the Cinderella of south Indian cuisine. Compare her to other stalwart favorites like crispy, flamboyant dosas that spill over your plate, and golden, melt-in-the-mouth vadas, and the Idli comes across as rather humble, even plain. Worse, try eating her by herself and she is, to boot, bland. After all, there’s nothing more to a generic Idli than udad dal, rice, and salt.
But there’s something about an Idli. Sprinkle on some fairy dust and lo and behold, she transforms into the belle of the ball. That porous and fluffy texture is the perfect vehicle to showcase the spicy-sweet-sourness of vegetable sambar and the creaminess of coconut chutney: the accompaniments an Idli is traditionally served with. What’s more, unlike those dosas and vadas, an Idli is fat-free, making her the perfect food for just about anyone.
In our home, Idli is a perennial favorite. Both Desi (my resident Tamilian) and Jay love Idlis, and so does my fluffy sweetheart Opie who waits patiently for those under-the-table handouts. But this time, I had an added incentive to make Idlis– I had these gorgeous idli makers, or Idlitos, from Gitadini, the innovative folks who gave us the Rotito rolling board and Yin Yang spice box.