Kanchipuram idli or kovil (temple) idli is synonymous with the Kanchi Varadharajar temple. These idlis are offered to the deity Athivaradhar and distributed as prasad to the devotees.
Traditionally, the idlis are made in big bamboo cylinders called kudalai which are lined with mantharai leaves (camel’s foot tree). These leaves give the idlis a unique flavor.
Apart from that, it is flavored with pepper, cumin, and dry ginger. The spices that are added after fermentation give a whole new flavor dimension to the idlis.
It seems that the temple idlis stays good without spoiling for 2 days. The temple taste can never be replicated, though we can definitely make good ones at home.
Nowadays lots of variations have come about to this idli and you can even find them on restaurant menus all over Tamilnadu.
Most recipes I came across use parboiled rice too along with raw rice. But since the authentic idli does not use parboiled rice, I started with just raw rice, adapting from a recipe that I came across in a magazine.
It was good but still, there was scope for improvement which led to a series of trials 😀 . Every time I made some changes like altering the rice to urad ratio and replacing raw with parboiled rice etc..
After umpteen trials, I came up with this recipe which will be a keeper for me. In this recipe, I have reduced the urad dal and omitted the tempering part.
Also, I ground the urad dal first and then added the rice to it and ground it all together. The idlis came out so soft and fluffy that it has become a family favorite now.
If you do not have a wet grinder, you can grind in the mixer too. Preferably grind the rice and dal separately and mix them together. You can also soak it all together and grind but grinding separately gives fluffier idlis.
Dosa can also be made with the leftover batter.
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Since I could not source the mantharai leaves, I used banana leaves to steam the idlis in small tumblers. I bought these tumblers specifically for this purpose. If you do not have them you can use small cups too or even steam in the regular idli plates.
I came across mantharai leaves on amazon, but haven’t bought them so far. You can look it up if you are interested.
Do try it my way and I bet your search for the best Kanchipuram idli will end here 🙂 . I served it with Kongunadu chicken curry..sheer bliss!
You can serve it with any chutney or even plain kuruma which goes well with it, though the most common accompaniment is idli podi or gun powder.
This is another variety of idli that you can add to your regular menu. O’er to the recipe…
Kanchipuram idli / kovil idli
- 1 cup raw rice (pacharisi)
- 1 cup ponni boiled rice (saapaatu arisi)
- ⅔ cup urad dal
- a pinch of fenugreek seeds/methi
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ⅛ tsp ginger powder(sukku)
- ⅛ tsp hing (asafoetida)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- a few curry leaves
- salt as needed
- water as needed
- banana leaves for steaming
- Take the measured quantities of the rice and dal. Wash and soak both the rice together and the urad dal and methi together.
- In a wet grinder first, grind the urad dal to a fluffy batter. When it is almost done add the rice and grind them all together to a mildly coarse batter.
- Transfer to a sufficiently big-sized vessel, add salt and let it ferment overnight or for 6-8 hours in a warm place.
- The next day crush the pepper and cumin in a motor and pestle and chop the curry leaves finely.
- Add this to the batter with the sesame oil, hing and ginger powder. Add more salt if needed.
- Heat up the steamer. Grease the tumblers with oil and line them with banana leaves. Pour batter up to ⅔rd of the tumblers and steam for 10-12 minutes.
- Check doneness by inserting a tooth pic. Let it cool for some time before demolding.
- Serve with any chutney, veg, or non-veg curries of your choice.
- The fermentation time will depend on the climatic conditions at a given place. If the batter becomes too sour you can add a bit of sugar or jaggery to balance it.
- Tempering is up to personal preference. We liked it better without tempering.
- Also, some people add soaked channa dal to the batter. I like to keep it simple. You can add if you like.
- Some recipes use curd or yogurt too. Again up to you. I do not use curd.
- Quite a bit of oil or ghee is added to the batter. I have kept it as minimum as possible and I always prefer sesame oil over ghee. You can use either ghee or oil.
- To steam, I just placed the tumblers into my big-sized frying pan filled with sufficient water and covered with a lid.
- For 2 people you can half the quantity, which will give around 12-15 idlis depending on the size of your mold.
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