Born and raised in Tamil Nadu, a state in Southern India, Idlis and Dosas were always a staple at home. Idli for the totally unfamiliar, is defined by Wikipedia as “savoury rice cakes” that is made from fermented batter and which is had mostly for breakfast. Dosa on the other hand, is a savoury crepe made from the same fermented batter. Both of them are served with a huge range of accompaniments to suit the palate. While both idli and dosa are ideally served for breakfast, if you are from Tamil Nadu – you don’t mind having it at any time of the day! 🙂
How do we make them?
While I will leave the exact recipe for making the perfect idli and dosa to Google, I can say that idli/dosa batter cannot be made in an instant unlike other foods. If we would like to make the idli/dosa batter (totally homemade), tomorrow morning, the process has to be started 24 hrs earlier – if you are in a tropical climate and longer if you are in a colder climate.
This because, the lentils have to soaked and ground in a special appliance called a ‘grinder'(or we can do it in a blender too) The resulting batter has to be fermented at least for 6-10 hrs(preferably overnight) .
Once the batter has beautifully fermented, the idlis and dosas are ready to be relished! 🙂
Accompaniments to the idli-dosa duo:
Now, there are a variety of chutneys that can accompany the popular idli-dosa combo. There is coconut chutney, coriander chutney, mint chutney, tomato chutney, onion chutney( and my kids prefer all the colored variations! :)) and even more to combinations to make this humble food even more tasty!
There is also the very authentic Tamil Nadu ‘sambhar’ (lentil based vegetable stew as per Wikipedia) that can accompany the idli or dosa along with a a variety of chutneys to make the food super yummy! 🙂
How should it be?
Now, depending the quality of the lentils, the temperature and the duration of the fermentation and the proportion of lentils, the idlis and dosas might come differently. Technically, the idlis have to soft (like ‘malligai poo’ 🙂 aka ‘jasmine flowers’ and dosas may or may not be crisp. But the taste is definitely out of this world! 🙂
Can we get them order them from outside?
Oh…yes, we can and while other states might boast of pani puri stalls and chaat houses everywhere , it is the humble ‘idli’ that will adorn the streets of Tamil Nadu. Numerous idli shops will definitely pepper houses in Tamil Nadu and home cooks will even sell freshly made ‘idli-dosa’ batter for nominal prices.
A mother’s best friend! 🙂
Did you know – most of us mothers in/from Tamil Nadu will be at a loss if we do not have the idli-dosa batter at home in the refrigerator at any point of time? 🙂 The idli-dosa batter is definitely a mother’s best friend! When most mother’s are always at their wits end for “lunch box” and “breakfast” ideas, having the batter always saves the day. We can whip dosas and idlis in a jiffy and save the day! 🙂
Now the great question – is it Idli or Dosa that satisfies your palate?
While each of them have their own taste and texture(obviously because one is round and soft and the other is crispy and flat), I have seen most having a preference for one or the other – but not both.
While the daughter in the house loves the soft variations and can gulp them as it is without any accompaniments 🙂 the son, can hardly get the idli down his throat without the frequent ‘eowws’ 🙂 His idea of the Tamil Nadu’s favorite food has to be the crispy counterpart lathered with a generous dollop of ghee that gives it an immensely wonderful aroma!
So, what is your favorite and how do you like to eat it? 🙂
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Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.
She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂