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Saturday, 2 April 2016

Divine Delight!

I am not a believer in celebrating the various ‘International Day of...’ kind of things. I believe the so called Women’s days, Mother’s days etc are an exercise in futility and go not an inch beyond symbolism or mere lip service. I mean these are people whom we should be celebrating every day and not on days as decided by smart marketing companies out to sell merchandise. I however have decided to make an exception. 30th of March has been added to my calendar as the ‘Must be celebrated day’ list, to be celebrated on a scale that rivals Diwali, New Year, Eid or any such festival which crowd the Indian festival calendar. And why not? After all it is no ordinary a day. It is World Idly Day no less!

Idly! Divine Delight! With Chutney for company.

For the uninitiated Idly is the greatest of creation after the universe. As the food bloggers would lyrically describe “The finest of boiled rice from the farms of Thanjavur, irrigated by the holy Cauvery, mixed with the balanced amount of black lentil, soaked and then ground into batter in the kal ural, fermented overnight and then steam cooked to outshine the brightest and splendorous Pournami Moon!” Simpler folks like me call it Cakes made out of Rice and Lentil batter, steam cooked! But then why should we stop anyone from going orgasmic about this divine delicacy!

My love affair with Idly surprisingly started when I was well into my 2nd innings. Coming from a Tamil family where the kitchen did not permit chaats as a regular part of the menu, it was Dosai, the crisper, oilier, paper thin and much overrated cousin of Idly which had me bewitched. Suffices to say Dosai was my chaats and junk food rolled into one. It took me a bout of indigestion once I shifted to Bangalore for my dalliance with Idly to begin. “Give him only Idly!” Thus spake the sagely neighbourhood MBBS. Over the next few days, starved as I was to the levels of being suspected of a case of malnutrition, my tryst with Idly, twice a day was the closest a hungry stomach could come to heaven. And it was the start of a romantic journey which will last till my journey to the cremation ground. (Bengalis reading this may replace Idly with Paaruti and Horlicks which is the staple medication prescribed whenever one visited the Doctor with any ailment in Kolkata. Only the prescription and not the delight. Welcome!)

Dosai! Idly's overrated cousin!

Idly as many of you know is served with  sambar and a variety of chutneys. Don’t let anyone fool you. These side dishes are mere substitutes. If at all there was something which was destined to join Idly in a holy and wholesome wedlock, it is Podi. Podi also often referred to as Idly Podi, Molaga Podi and blasphemously as Dosai Molaga Podi, in combo with Idly is what perfection is.  English Medium Types call it Gunpowder. Made for each other. Blending as perfectly as Lord Shiva and Parvati do as in Ardhanarishwaran. The Podi mixed in gingilly oil, applied like a face pack all over the Idly, allowed 30 odd minutes of togetherness so as to enable the spice of the chilly and the strength of the oil to penetrate the very heart of the Idly and then a gentle bite, measured by habit to bisect the Idly right down the middle! Slurrrrrrpppp!

Idly and Podi. Made for each other!

You would have met many a Foodie who would have recommended “The best Idly in the world” restaurants. Foodie doesn’t describe me however I would fail in my devotion to Idly should I not share some of my best stories here. Once on a business trip, horribly late, we drove into Trichy in the wee hours. Famished. With all the restaurants closed, needless to add. As a last resort we drove towards the Trichy Railway station. And what do we see but the ubiquitous kaiyyendhi bhavan that dot the landscape of Tamilnadu. Serving hot steaming Idly. We would not have traded them even for Nectar!

Then there was that instance when while on a road trip, we decided that we will halt for the night at Madurai. A must visit to the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai supposedly being the reason. We halted. We visited the Temple. Then we attained nirvana. Not at the temple as you would have assumed but at the Murugan Idly Kadai whose popularity rivals Meenakshi Amman’s if I am not exaggerating! The one problem with Murugan Idly was that one had to plan expensive and often time consuming pilgrimage if one wanted their blessed Idlys. Till one day they decided that the well might as well walk to the thirsty and opened their branches in Chennai too. Unfortunately they did it around the time I shifted from Chennai to Coimbatore!

Speaking of Coimbatore, don’t let anyone derail you by describing it as the ‘Manchester of South India’ or ‘Gateway to Ooty’ or the ‘Pumpset Capital of India’ or ‘The Land of the MysurPa’. Coimbatore is of course all that but importantly more than just that. When next in the city don’t you dare leave without laying your hand on and treating your taste buds to a cosmic ride with Onion Podi Idly at Anandhas. Especially at their outlet in Brookefield Mall.

The best Idly in the world however is the one which has been christened ‘Khushboo Idly’ by the people who go on to make the family tree of Yours Truly. To stop any wrong notions the name might suggest to your hungry minds, ‘Khushboo Idly’ so named not only due to the fragrance or aroma that the said emanates. But also for combining with its aroma, the right amount of plumpness. Not to forget a softness which makes the Idly melt in your mouth like magic! For those who came in late, this unique nomenclature is a tribute to one of the leading stars of the Tamil Filmdom bearing the same name, Khushboo! As is Khusbhoo, so is Khushboo Idly. Voluptuously plump and as the name suggest aromatic. The family circles however would like to clearly state that none of us have ever had the opportunity to meet Khushboo and hence cannot confirm about her being ‘soft’ like our Idly. However we are convinced enough to believe that someone who is so breathtakingly rotund, fair and lovely and with a name meaning fragrance must be soft too! Add to it we have seen her melt many a heart on the silver screen. As the slogan in the family goes, “It ain’t Idly if it ain’t Khushboo Idly!”    

Khushboo Idly!

PS: Thanks @sporty_baba for introducing World Idly Day to me!

Chaats : Savouries

Sambar :

Podi/Molaga Podi : Chilly Powder
Ardhanarishwaran : Ardha –Half, Nari – Women, Eshwaran – Male Deity
Kaiyyendi Bhavan : Roadside eatery
Kadai : Shop/Store

MysurPa :

Kal Ural: Grinding Stone

Paaruti :

Purnami : Full Moon


  1. Warm hugs from this Idli loving friend.
    Thanks for informing that there is World Idli day.
    You have beautifully narrated your Idli love story,
    and I felt myself that romantic feeling , when I am
    Thinking of such moments happened in my life.
    Once my son, cursed a hotel, when they said
    their Idli stock is over for the day.
    When I am in overseas, my love for a tasteful
    Idli,Chutni, sambar grows manifold.
    Love your story, and I will read it to my mother also.

  2. A very engaging read. My favourite idlis are guntur idlis at Chutneys in Hyderabad. Kalyan

  3. 30th of this month is also a polling day out here. It would be the 6th phase of elections. A good idea to go to exercise ones franchise only after swallowing a couple of idlys.

  4. 30th of this month is also a polling day out here. It would be the 6th phase of elections. A good idea to go to exercise ones franchise only after swallowing a couple of idlys.