"Idlis are the most boring things in the world," Edward Anderson, history lecturer in Northumbria University in Newcastle tweeted on Oct 6, without knowing how hygienic and tasty it is when steaming hot and made with well-fermented batter, paired with coconut chutney, sambar and the famous 'mulaga podi' (spicy powder, called gunpowder by the ignorant). He had to eat a humble pie, when the very next day, he tweeted, " having...enraged the entirety of South India and its omnipresent diaspora, it was right to order idlis for lunch" with a photograph of him holding a bitten idli and a plate of chutney and sambar
Idli can be eaten for breakfast, dinner or in its mini avatar, at cocktails. Food writer Vir Sanghvi calls it the best known South Indian dish in India and perhaps, the world. I am sure, Kamala Harris, the US VP-nominee and Indira Nooyi in the US are fond of it. There are 185 varieties of idli as shown by Tarla Dalal in her book, to name a few: plain idli; rava idli (as a wag says: idli that is dressed for a fancy dress); coin idli or cocktail idli; thatte idli, a version from Karnataka (almost the size of a dosa but much fatter); paneer-vegetable idli and so on.
Have you ever wondered how idli, a daily staple came to be in its current avatar? There's a lot of history---cultural, political, economic--behind its creation.
Modifying a Twitterati's words, "Idli has an interesting origin. As alcohol was taboo from wasted Dosa batter some cooks thought fermented rice batter could give them a high, like the Japanese 'sake, which is a fermented rice-based wine'. The experiment failed. To salvage it, one of them made steamed dumplings from it." There are other quotes such as, "Idli is nothing but the batter, post a steam bath"
Anand Mahindra recently tweeted about an 80-year-old lady near Coimbatore, who still sold idli at Rs one. He doesn't know that in our childhood, idli was sold for 3/4 anna or 5 nP everywhere. One old-widowed lady in my home town, Trichy, used to sell it for 1/4 anna with a tasty chutney and no sambhar. In Salem, BJP workers serve cheap idli named 'Modi Idli' to the poor, as a rival to, the ruling AIADMK's amma idli, after their late leader Jayalalithaa.
If someone says their 'hard work' of idly making wasn't appreciated, they usually mean their idlis turned out very hard!