|Place of origin||India|
|Region or state||Karnataka|
|Course||Breakfast, snack rarely dinner|
|Serving temperature||Hot with sambar and chutney|
|Main ingredient(s)||black lentils (de-husked), rice|
|Variations||Button Idli, Tatte Idli, Sanna, Sambar Idli, Rava Idli|
Idli also romanized idly or iddly, plural idlis, is a traditional breakfast in south Indian households. Idli is savory cake of south Indian origin popular throughout India. The cakes are usually two to three inches in diameter and are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. The fermentation process breaks down the starches so that they are more readily metabolized by the body.
Most often eaten at breakfast or as a snack, idlis are usually served in pairs with chutney, sambar, or other accompaniments. Mixtures of crushed dry spices such as milagai podi are the preferred condiment for idlis eaten on the go. A variant of Idli known as sanna (Konkani: सान्नां sānnāṃ) is very popular amongst the Goans and other Konkani people. Another variant known as "Enduri Pitha" is very popular in Odisha. For preparation of "Enduri Pitha", mixture of black gram paste and ground once-boiled rice is wrapped in turmeric leaf and steam cooked.
Idli (and the process of steaming) was known in India by as early as 700 CE. The process of steaming was influenced from Indonesia subsequently between 800-1200 CE, giving rise to the modern day Idli. Earliest mention of idli occurs in the Kannada writing called Vaddaradhane by Shivakotiacharya in 920 AD, and it seems to have started as a dish made only of fermented black lentil. Chavundaraya II, the author of the earliest available Kannada encyclopaedia, Lokopakara (c. 1025), describes the preparation of idli by soaking urad dal (black gram) in butter milk, ground to a fine paste and mixed with the clear water of curd, and spices. The Kannada king and scholar Someshwara III, reigning in the area now called Karnataka, included an idli recipe in his encyclopedia, 'Manasollasa', written in Sanskrit ca. 1130 A.D. There is no known record of rice being added until some time in the 17th century. It may have been found that the rice helped speed the fermentation process. Although the ingredients used in preparing idli have changed, the preparation process and the name have still remained the same.. The word "Idly" is said to be of Kannada or Tamil origin. The words ittu(ಇಟ್ಟು)/idu(ಇಡು) and aavi(ಆವಿ) in Kannada means cooked by 'keep'ing in 'steam' and in Tamil the words ittu(இட்டு) and ali(அளி) means the food which is cooked/baked and served.
To make idli, place four parts uncooked rice to one part split black lentil (minapa pappu, urad dal) in a pan and soak separately for at least four hours. Optionally, to improve taste, add half a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds to the lentils at the time of soaking. Grind the lentils (with the fenugreek seeds) to a fine paste attaining the consistency of whipped cream. Grind the rice to a coarse paste separately in a heavy stone grinding vessel (rolu-rokali, oralu kallu). Mix both the lentil and rice paste thoroughly. Leave the paste to ferment overnight, until it has expanded to about 2½ times its original volume. In the morning, put the idli batter into the ghee-greased molds of an idli tray or "tree" for steaming. Note that a traditional method in Tamil Nadu avoids greasing and uses pure white cloth which is placed on moulds and batter is poured over it after the idlis are cooked the trays along with cloth are inverted upside down in a plate & water is sprinkled on the cloth, then the cloth is pulled &idlis come out without sticking to the cloth. So that idlis are prepared without a single drop of oil / ghee. Those cloths are washed daily and kept separately in kitchens. The perforated molds allow the idlis to be cooked evenly. The tree holds the trays above the level of boiling water in a pot, and the pot is covered until the idlis are done (about 10–25 minutes, depending on size). The idli is somewhat similar to the attu, dosa, a fried preparation of the same batter.
In the olden days, when the idli mold cooking plates were not popular or widely available, the thick idli batter was poured on a cloth tightly tied on the mouth of a concave deep cooking pan or tava half filled with water. A heavy lid was placed on the pan and the pot kept on the boil until the batter was cooked into idli. This was often a large idli depending on the circumference of the pan. It was then cut into bite-size pieces and eaten.
Idlis are usually served in pairs with Coconut chutney (thengai chutney/ kobbari chutney) or Kaara Chutney (Onion chutney), Sambar and Idli milagai podi(karam podi) with ghee. Kobbari pachadi and Karampodi are first used to eat in combination of idlis in Andhra Pradesh, specifically in Kostha Andhra Districts.
Allam Pachadi (which is made of Ginger and available in both the sweet and spicy varieties), also goes very well with Idlies and Dosas.
Contemporary idlis and variations 
South Indians have brought the popular idli wherever they have settled throughout the world. Cooks have had to solve problems of hard-to-get ingredients, and climates that do not encourage overnight fermentation.
Newer "quick" recipes for the idli can be rice- or wheat-based (rava idli). Parboiled rice can reduce the soaking time considerably. Store-bought ground rice is available, or Cream of Rice may be used. Similarly, semolina or Cream of Wheat may be used for rava idli. Yogurt may be added to provide the sour flavor for unfermented batters. Prepackaged mixes allow for almost instant idlis; however, the additional health benefits of fermentation process will be lacking. Idli Burger is another variation that can be made easily.
Besides the microwave steamer, electric idli steamers are available, with automatic steam release and shut-off for perfect cooking. Both types are non-stick, so a fat-free idli is possible. Table-mounted electric wet grinders may take the place of floor-bound attu kal. With these appliances, even the classic idlis can be made more easily.
The plain rice/black lentil idli continues to be the popular version, but it may also incorporate a variety of extra ingredients, savory or sweet. Mustard seeds, fresh chile peppers, black pepper, cumin, coriander seed and its fresh leaf form (cilantro), fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, fresh ginger root, sesame seeds, nuts, garlic, scallions, coconut, and the unrefined sugar jaggery are all possibilities. Filled idlis contain small amounts of chutneys, sambars, or sauces placed inside before steaming. Idlis are sometimes steamed in a wrapping of leaves such as banana leaves or jackfruit leaves.
A variety of nontraditional idlis exist these days, namely, standard idli, mini idlis soaked in sambar, rava idli, Kancheepuram idli, stuffed idli with a filling of potato, beans, carrot and masala, ragi idli, pudi idli with the sprinkling of chutney pudi that covers the bite-sized pieces of idlis, malli idli shallow-fried with coriander and curry leaves, and curd idli dipped in masala curds.
South Indian temple town Madurai in Tamil Nadu is famous for its overnight idli shops where one can have hot and soft idlis even at 2 AM. These idlies are served with sambar and also with more than three varieties of chutney like coconut chutney, cilantro chutney, onion chutney and mint. The softness of these idlis lie in the selection of rice and black gram (black lentil).
Other temple towns in Tamil Nadu like Kancheepuram and Tanjore are also famous for the tasty idlis. Most of the people in south India take ildi as the breakfast. Idly an easily disgestible food taken with sambar provides a mix of proteins and carbohydrates to the body. Apart from sambar idly is also taken with brinjal/tomato kothsu (a south Indian side dish), puli milagai( a gravy made of tamarind, chilly and onion), vadai curry, etc. Idly with vadai curry combination is most popular in Chennai.
Idly goes very well with Idly powder (Milagai podi (literally Chilli powder in Tamil)). Many varieties of idly powder exist; the most popular ones include the powders made of black lentil/chana dal and Ellu podi (made of sesame seed and dried red chilly).
Apart from many other variations of Idlis in Karnataka, the people of Karnataka can be found continuing the 1100-year-old way of making the idli as mentioned in the works of Shivakotiacharya or Chavundaraya. The finished product is called Uddina idli, with the main ingredient remaining Urad dal (black lentil).
The South Indian staple breakfast item of idli, sambar, and vada served on a banana leaf. Note the stainless steel plates and cups; characteristic of south Indian dining tables.
MTR idli is Mavalli Tiffin Room idli served with pure ghee and sambar. Pure ghee is poured on steaming idli and relished with chutney or sambar.
Sanna(s), a Goan variant of idli
Muday is a Mangalorean variant of Idli.
See also 
|Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Idli|
- Farnworth (2003), p. 11.
- K. T. Achaya (1994), p. 90.
- K. T. Achaya (May 12, 1994). Indian Food: A Historical Companion. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-563448-8.
- Devi, Yamuna (1987). Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Dutton. ISBN 0-525-24564-2.
- Farnworth, Edward R. (2003). Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-1372-1.
- Jaffrey, Madhur (1988). A Taste of India, Atheneum. ISBN 0-689-70726-6.
- Rau, Santha Rama (1969). The Cooking of India, Time-Life Books.
- Tips for Idli Batter
- Murugan Idli Kadai Idli
- Idli Recipe
- Soft and Fluffy Idli
- South Indian Sambar
- Chinese Idli
- Quinoa Idli
- Kambu (Pearl-Millet) Idli
- Mallige Idli
- Ragi (Finger Millet) Idli Recipe