03 June 2008

Idli and Chutney Time

Green mango and coconut chutney, the idli-pies, sambar idli, fried turmeric rice, curried veggies.

I've finally been able to scratch my idli itch.

Since leaving South India, I've been dreaming of idli. It's been sort of an abnormal yearning.

I remember motorbiking out of Sadhana Forest to the roadside restaurants to get my fix. I remember scheduling my trips to the cities extra-early to eat them at the "hotels" by the bus stops (they call them hotels even though they are restaurants). They are cheap (10 rupees for two or three pieces), they are always tasty, and they give you energy to work or carry your backpack. I also like that it gives you a bit of protein.

Idli is a kind of rice cake. It tastes slightly sour because the rice flour is left to ferment overnight with lentils and fenugreek. The batter is then poured into idli moulds and steamed. It is like un-sweet Filipino puto that has gone slightly bad. The tangyness is special.

I cheated and used a box of idli mix (purchased at Assad along UN Avenue). I made sure it had no preservatives like a good box of anything should. Because I have no specialized moulds, I poured the batter into oiled steel bowls and left them on top of almost-cooked rice, as well as on a steamer inside a pot of curry. They came out looking like giant idli, so I cut them like pizza pies.

The chutney I learned how to make from a family in Vellamathara, a small town in Allepey, Kerala. They actually use it as a siding for palapum, a fermented rice flour pancake. I tossed unripe green mango into the blender with grated coconut, onion, and some chilis, then added salt to taste. It was quite tasty, although not sour enough, as our mangoes were starting to turn yellow.

We also had some sambar idli on the side, made with kangkong leaves.

A piece of idli with chutney and sambar.

Next time I will try to make this from scratch. Stay tuned!

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