Origin of idli
A dish made lovingly in household kitchens… sold as street food as well as eaten in premium restaurants alike, Idli is a typical South Indian savory cake very popular across the globe. Very few dishes are as popular and timeless as idli. This Indian dish has come to be known for not just its taste but also the health benefits that comes with it. Idlis are a great source of carbohydrates and proteins. The fermentation process involved in making them increases the bioavailability of proteins and enhances the vitamin B content of the food. As it is steamed, fat content is low and make Idlis easily digestible and easy on the stomach.
But… what’s surprising is that this highly celebrated Indian dish was not originated in India. Shocking isn’t it?
The Chinese scholar xuanzang, who travelled all over India in 7th century has mentioned in his journals that Indians had not yet learned to make them.
There are two speculations on the origin of idli. One being, the theory that the Indonesian chefs under the Hindu Chola Empire might have been the creators of an idli prototype called “kedli”. These kings would often travel to India between the 8th and the 12th centuries in search of brides, and the cooks accompanying them introduced the concept of the idli to India. This culinary exchange might have led to the Indians making the unique idli recipe.
And what’s the other speculation? Well… references available at the Al-Azhar University Library in Cairo also suggest that Arab traders in the southern belt brought in idli when they married and settled down in those parts. As the Arab settlers were strict in their dietary preferences, to avoid any confusions on halaal or haraam in food, they made rice balls as it was easy to make and safe. Later it was improved upon, and from the 8th century onwards, the idli in its modern form came into existence in India.
Some historians believe that the word, idli, was derived from Iddalige, mentioned in “Vaddaradhane”, a Kannada text in 920AD.
There are many who also claim that it was derived from the word, Iddarika, a term mentioned in a 12 th century Sanskrit text. No matter where it came from and the process of making it is one that was perfected only in Karnataka a Southern part of India.
But despite the speculations over its origins, idli is today one of the most popular preparations, and one can’t deny the deliciousness of this dish whether it is served with sambar, a delicious tangy tamarind broth made with many vegetables and spices, chutneys or just as it is.
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