Origin of idli’s, an interesting story – Idli Street

Idli’s – light, easy to prepare and low in calories. They are the regular item on South Indian breakfasts.

But did idli’s actually originate in the Indian sub-continent?


History is a bit fuzzy with exact details.

As far as the information, Sangam literature of the ancient Tamils from the first century AD, mentions the Dosa but not idli.

According to Food historian KT Achaya, the earliest mention of the steamed dish is Tenth century Kannada text “Vaddaradhane” by Shiva koti Acharya- which refers to food called “iddalage”. King Someswara of Bidar in 1120 AD is recorded to have called it by Sanskrit name “iddarika”

This long gap between these two rice based dishes raises a question:-

Did Indians take that long to come up with steaming technology to make idli’s?

According Achaya, the Chinese scholar XUANZANG, who travelled all over India in seventh century mentioned in his journals that Indians had not yet learned that art. His theory is that Indonesian chefs under the Chola Empire might have been the creators of an idli prototype called “kedli”

That dish does not survive in India. But steamed rice cakes from south East Asia like KUE MANGKOK, BURA, and BANHBO suggest that they might have been some links between the two preparations.

This culinary exchange is what Achaya says led to the Indians making the unique idli recipes using rice batter and lentils, leaving them to ferment over night before steaming them as individual dollops.


Now a days, we have innumerable varieties of idli’s being made from ingredients like RAVA, RAGI, VEGETABLES, CHEESE and even CHOCOLATE. And they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

It may have originated in faraway lands, but idli’s now considered a most quintessential Indian dish.


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