The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including gluten-free and vegan dishes.


June 26, 2021

The Story of Idlis - Types of Idlis

We hope you enjoyed our previous post on the Story of Idlis. The concept of idli has inspired many culinary enthusiasts to innovate variations of idli making with slight deviations to the basic concept. 

Multi Millet Idli, Ragi Idli, Rava Idli, Masala Idli

The variations range in sizes, such as Tatte or plate size idli to Button or bite-size idli popularly called Rasa Idli (soaked in Rasam and eaten). 

What other types of idlis are there, you ask? Please scroll down to find out...


Conventional Idli by Kaushik

Conventional Idli is made up of soaked and ground Urad dal (black gram dal) and Rice in a 1:2 ratio. Then this dough mixture is fermented for 6 to 8 hours to make the fluffy cakes on an Idli plate.

Besides the conventional idli, there are idlis that are native to a certain part of India. Each variation of Idli has an interesting anecdote behind its creation. Let's take a look below:

1) Kanchipuram Idli by Kaushik

The identity of Kanchipuram idli has long been linked to the Varadharaja Perumal temple in Tamil Nadu where it is served as prasad. This flavorful Idli might even date back to the Pallava era (6th to 9th Century AD).

The batter is poured into a neatly wrapped Mandharai leaf and then placed in a basket inside a tall brass cooker to make these idlis. The idlis are steamed for almost three hours. Both the cooking process and the ingredients set this Idli apart. While the batter is quite similar to conventional idli, it is the seasoning ingredients (which include dried ginger, peppercorns, cumin, and asafoetida) that define the flavors.


2) Ravva Idli

Rava Idlis are made with Ravva (Sooji / Semolina) and vegetables; seasoned with mustard, Chana dal, curry leaves, and hing/asafoetida. The major difference between Ravva idli and the other types is that the batter is mixed with sour curds (or yogurt) and allowed to soak for 15 to 30 minutes to make the Idlis. Fermentation is not needed.

3) Mallige Idli by Savitha


Mallige Idli is a Conventional Idli recipe but poha (flattened rice) is also added with urad dal to soak and grind. Adding poha makes these Idlis very soft, fluffy, and white in color, hence the name Mallige (white as Jasmine in Kannada). Also called Kushboo Idli after the name of the popular Tamil actress.


4) Chiyali Idli is made with Yellow Mung dal. Dal is soaked and ground and made it into Idlis. Once it cools, it is cut into pieces. In a pan season with mustard, black gram dal, hing /asafetida, and then add chopped onions and tamarind pulp. Cook for few minutes and then add Mung Idli pieces and toss to coat well. Garnish with cilantro.


5) Palak Idli is like Ravva Idli; it requires no soaking or grinding. The batter consists of Semolina, sour yogurt tempered with seasoning, and some spinach/ Palak paste added to boost nutrition.

6) Masala Idli

If you are left with extra Idlis, they can be repurposed into Masala Idlis the next day sprucing up with some spices, onion, tomato, and Pav-bhaji masala. Since Idlis are porous, they soak up the flavors.


7) Podi Idli: In Podi Idli, a mixture of idli podi (Milagai podi or Idli Karam or Chutney Powder) and sesame oil or ghee is mixed and then smeared on the idlis. Podi Idli is very tasty and usually packed for travel journeys. Podi Idli can be made with either mini idlis or regular-sized Idlis.

Over the years, people explored idli beyond the conventional style (making with rice) and experimented with other grains to form: Raagi Idli with coarse Raagi (Finger Millets)Oats Idli with Quick or Old Fashioned Oats, and Jowar Idli with coarse Jowar flour (Sorghum Millet) - pictures below. 

8) Raagi Idli with coarse Raagi (Finger Millets)

Who knew there were this many types of idlis? We certainly did not. I'm sure there are some that we are not even aware of. 

What an amazing culinary journey of this versatile breakfast item that we find to be simply nutritious and easily digestible and can soak up flavors of the condiment or the accompaniment it is served with.

If you are dying to try these varieties, but do not want to go through the hassle of soaking, grinding, and fermenting the batter, you can buy instant idli mix. Instant mixes of some of these idli varieties are available in Indian groceries for hassle-free making. 

One last tidbit before you go: Did you know that the Defence Food Research Laboratory of India has developed a special recipe for Space Idlis so that Indian Astronauts can enjoy their favorite food while away from home/Earth? The Space Idlis are dried using Infrared Radiation that will increase its shelf life to more than a year. That's so out of this world! 


We hoped you enjoyed this historical journey of Idli from South Asia (Indonesia) to South India and its lift-off into Space! Hats off to Idli! 

Are there any types of idlis we missed, please share in your comments? We would love to hear from you. 




June 2, 2021

The Story of Idlis

Growing up every South Indian child remembers eating idli in many different ways. Idli is considered healthy, nutritious, and easy on the tummy (digestion); hence, it’s a friend to both mom and child alike. 

Plain idlis with tomato chutney

Traditionally, idli is made of soaked lentils and rice ground and fermented, and ladles of the dough steamed on Idli plates the next day. Many varieties of idlis are made with lentils and different grains in the 4 to 5 southern states of India; namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. It became so popular that these days you can eat them all over India as well as abroad.

One of my fondest memories of eating idlis (aka steamed spongy white dumplings by westerners) is with sugar and a ton of ghee (clarified butter) drizzled on it for extra flavor. That sounds good right about now! 

After all these years of making Idli, I was intrigued by a news article on Idli in a science magazine that India has developed a recipe for Idli to be enjoyed by their crew in Space. Idli undergoes a technological makeover as a space food; cool for a traditional mundane food!!

Reading this article made me think about how Idli came into existence? What was its history? I immediately sought help from Google. According to food historian K.T. Achaya, Idli probably arrived in India from present-day Indonesia around 800-1200 CE. The region we now call Indonesia was once ruled by Hindu kings of the Shailendra, Isyana, and SaƱjaya dynasties, and cooks accompanying the royals on their visits to India probably brought the recipe along with them. Acharya points out that Indonesian cuisine has a long tradition of consuming fermented and steamed foods, and the Kedli appears to be the closest relative of the Idli. Also supporting the Indonesian origin theory is the close ties between India and Southeast Asia in ancient times, although, with time, the Kedli seems to have disappeared from Indonesian kitchens.


However, there’s another twist in the Idli tale. Using references at the Al-Azhar University Library in Cairo, food historian Lizzie Collingham traces the Idli to Arab traders who settled on the South Indian coast in medieval times. According to the Encyclopedia of Food History, edited by Collingham and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (Oxford University Press), the Arab settlers insisted on consuming only halal (food and drink permissible by Islamic law) food. They found rice balls as a safe option. These rice balls were slightly flattened and eaten with bland coconut gravy.


However, as Acharya pointed out, the process of mixing Urad dal and Rice grains, and fermenting the mixture seemed to be a later innovation even though there weren’t any references to this process being invented at any particular time. 

Regardless of its origin, Idli has become a popular South Indian breakfast item, which is commonly eaten with sambhar and coconut chutney. We enjoy eating idlis with tomato chutney as well as chutney powder (aka gunpowder). 

We hope you enjoyed reading about the Story of Idlis. Don't forget to check back on this series about Idlis in the next couple of weeks. Our second post in the series is all about types of idlis