Tag Archives: south indian breakfast

World Palate Recipes: Fluffy Idli (Rice and Lentil Steamed Cake)


When you say South Indian breakfast, the first thing that comes to mind is soft, white fluffy idli (and assorted chutneys that go with it). Idli is a characteristic Tamil dish, perhaps one of the oldest fermented foods in India. The batter, made from soaked raw parboiled rice and urad dal, is then left overnight, placed on the kitchen counter to ferment. Traditional kitchen tops are  usually made with grey Cuddapah stone, but in recent times  granite is widely used. South India enjoys a relatively warm climate year long, making it conducive for the batter to ferment and rise to almost double, overnight. Natural bacteria and microorganisms (probiotics) do the trick and no yeast is involved! The ‘good bacteria’ in fermenting was a way of preserving food, long before the days of refrigeration. Fermentation can produce distinctive, strong slightly sour flavours…similar to sourdough breads or Japanese Sake.

What are the benefits of fermented rice? You are what you eat, say Yoga and Ayurveda.  Ever heard of the intelligent, witty, highly educated, culturally rooted South Indian, whose memory recall for reciting complex Sanskrit stotras is remarkable? Then its the Tam Brahm!(Tamil Brahman). Idli, dosa and appam are breakfast delicacies made from fermented food. ( Of course, other cultures have produced many a scholar too).

Cultural Notes: The home of a South Indian is distinctly traditional, religious oriented, disciplined in daily routine. Women of the household, urban or rural, are early risers. The stainless steel coffee filter is the first gadget on the kitchen top to be filled with fresh ground coffee. Then water is set to boil and pour into it, letting the deep brown decoction percolate. Time for morning stotras, music to be melodiously filtering the entire house. Next is drawing muggu at the doorstep with rice powder, and invoking goodness and clean Spirits to enter the household. This is done by sprinkling water (or mopping) at the doorstep /threshhold and placing exact number of pearly white dots for the muggu pattern. With swift and dextrous hand movements between those dots, a beautiful pattern emerges. Intricate dot counting becomes Art!

Kapi ready irke” she tells the house as she pours steaming hot frothy, brown brew into stainless steel tumblers ( yes, there is a reason for the metal tumblers of particular size, to keep the coffee warm and taste retaining too. Definetely better than Star Buck mugs!).

Its time for other gadjets to appear on the counter. Set up the idli stand and prepare the tangy sambar.





Muggu / Kolam pattern drawn with rice flour. 

I too have assembled my equipments. A Pressure cooker, idli stand, blender/mixer or a traditional stone grinder, small hand shaped spoon to remove steamed idli, banana leaves for serving, stainless utensils and katori (cups), stainless scooping spoon, stainless steel coffee filter.

Indian kitchen gadjets


2 cups parboiled raw rice (not Basmati) or Ready packed idli rice flakes

1 cup urad dal

2 tsp. avval /pohe /beaten rice (optional)

few seeds of soaked methi/ fenugreek

water and salt as required


Wash the rice ( or pakaged idli rice flakes) and urad dal few times, seperately till water runs clear. Grind them seperately to a semi fine batter along with (optional) beaten rice. Now mix both the batters, add soaked methi seeds and salt and water as required. The mixture should be semi thick, pouring consistency. Place in large bowl or utensil and cover with a plate. The batter should rise when left overnight (or 5-8 hrs.) in a warm place.

Next day early morning, check batter, give a good stir.

Now put 2 – 3 cups of water in the pressure cooker or steam cooker. Prepare idli stand by washing and lightly oiling, so the idlis can be scraped off easily. (traditionally each sieve is filled with batter and covered with a muslin cloth, that helps retain the steam, as well as easy to tip off idli, once ready). I do not do this at my home.

Place stand in cooker  WITHOUT the pressure whistle. Steam for 10 -15 mins, check if done by inserting a sharp knife or fork into the fluffy idli. Keep them to settle in the cooker for another 3-5 mins. Remove lid, take out stand and use the spoon to scrape out the fluffy, soft idli , place in warm box or serving bowl. The softness will depend much on the preparation of batter consistency and the fermentation due micro organisms, developed in warm place.

Practice makes perfect, so do experiment if you are a novice.

Now, as in a traditional South Indian home, light a lamp at the altar, light some incense stick /agarbatti and listen to some melodious chants. Serve fluffy steaming idlis along with Sambar (Tangy vegetable stew) and some coconut chutney.

           ‘Anna he poorna Brahman’ Enjoy your breakfast.

Wait here for the sambar and chutney recipes, please.

Do leave your comments in the box, it helps us all to interact and learn from each other.







Street food, Hyderabad


Street food is popular all over the world. Have you wondered why? It’s convenient, fresh, caters to local authentic taste, competitively priced, at times nostalgic, and makes for an affordable social place.

In Hyderabad, street food is pedaled on bicycles, push-carts and at kiosks. It is no longer limited to the bustling ‘old city’ lanes. (For Bangle bazaar, Charminar, see here). Find your nearest street corner, watch the locals eat roadside meals.

Floor design: Kolam,

Floor design: Kolam,

Two common sights greet the passer by each morning in Hyderabad (and most of South India). First is the artistic, rice powder kolam drawings on the floor of house entrances. The other is the breakfast vendor.  Hot idli, dosa and chutney served at almost every street corner!

At one street in Begumpet area, this vendor parks his bicycle, as early as 5:30 am. Steel buckets filled with sambar (curry) hang from the handle bar. On either side of the cycle, two other containers with chutney and idli (soft rice flour mounds) make the balance. For recipe of Palli (peanut chutney) see here. With a beaming smile, he serves his first customer with soft, white idlis on disposable paper plates. Tangy, spicy sambar is ladled on top. Having sold all the food by 10:00 am he packs up.

Street vendor selling breakfast items

Street vendor selling breakfast items










Bucket filled with Sambar / curry

Bucket filled with Sambar / curry

Nagamma has been serving breakfast on her pushcart for 8 years. She wakes up at 3:00 am preparing the batter and chutneys. The couple drive their van and by 6:00 am, she lights up the makeshift gas burner on her bandi or pushcart. Oodles of batter are dropped into the hot oil, the aroma of sada vada and medu vada (little balls of rice and lentil batter) fills the cool morning air. Her regular customers are street workers, hostel students and nearby office staff.

Thanks Nagamma! Hesitatingly, I tasted freshly made crisp, flat dosa  some vada served with coconut chutney. Yumm…

Street vendor making crisp dosa

Street vendor making crisp dosa

Bonda and Vada

Bonda and Vada

From 5 pm onwards its snack time in India. Freshly made, spicy fried Mirpakaya bhajji or stuffed chilli pakora are a Hyderabadi special. Be brave and tingle your taste buds!

Street food: Masala bonda and bhajji

Street food: Masala bonda and bhajji

Street food is known to travel far and beyond its regional and cultural borders. The Bombay style pani puri and chaat items, are gaining popularity with a younger crowd. Mostly hostel students, professionals in the bustling IT sector find these kiosks a affordable and relaxing place. You need a strong stomach to digest those spices and water, though.

Street food :Pani puri stall

Street food :Pani puri stall

Summer can be very hot and dry in Hyderabad. Vendors brave the heat and pollution on the roads. They push their carts from main road to side streets or stand nearby a tree. Popular drinks include lemon drinks, water served in earthen pots or matka, tender coconuts or freshly squeezed mosambi, sweet lime juice.

Have you eaten street food in Hyderabad?

What is the street food in your country? What cuisine does it say? Do share your comments.

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