Yep, there’s a thing called ‘World Idli Day’ and has been celebrated on March 30, since three years. So on this special delicious day, we will talk about the origin of these delicious, everyone’s-favourite Indian steamed rice cakes. Let me tell you, it is an Indian dish, but it has foreign origins. Interesting, innit?
Considered to be one of the most popular and beloved dishes in India is certainly Idli – the soft, white, steamy and healthy rice cakes representing South India. Most Indians relish this dish for breakfast, especially when served with steaming hot sambhar (curried soup) and coconut chutney. But here’s a shocker – what if I say that the South Indian dish everyone loves didn’t originate in India? What if I say, the beloved idli was actually brought to south India, by Arab settlers and rulers? Eyebrows raised? But well, it is what it is – idli roots back to the Arabian Peninsula and history will be the proof.
A famous Food Historian K.T. Acharya has mentioned in his book that Idli came to India around 800-1200 CE from the present day Indonesia. So the recipe was brought to India when the southern regions were ruled by the Hindu kinds belonging to the Shailendra, Isyana and Sanjaya dynasties. Looking into these recipes, the recipe of Idli, it is very similar to Kedli which is cooked in Indonesian household. Then, Idli was known as Iddalage, as mentioned in a 920 CE Kannada language work, Vaddaradhane. Then, similar recipes have been found during Kind Someshvara III in 1130 CE and it was called Iddarika. And with time, the name and recipe evolved and the ingredients used currently are very different – but we love what it is like currently.
Today, idli has a zillion variations – like it can be made from ragi, various millets, oats, parboiled rice replacing regular white rice for idlis. And then there are these fancy stuffed idli, Manchurian Idli, Schezwan Idli, Chilli Idli, Mini Idli etc too. So the idea of celebrating ‘World Idli Day’ is the brainchild of Eniyavan, a popular idli-only caterer from Chennai and has made a staggering 1,328 varieties of idlis to institute and commemorate this day. There was even a giant 44-kilogram idli that was cut by a top bureaucrat to seal the deal and declare March 30 as World Idli Day forevermore. So that’s pretty much about the origin of the delicious World Idli Day and the beloved idli too. For us, we think it should be idli day, every day – but for today, go eat some idlis like there’s no tomorrow.