New Delhi: Some would say it’s much ado about the idli, that humble staple of south India and therefore the centre of a furious debate on social media after a British academic disparaged it as “boring”. et al. that this is often a cultural, “civilisational” issue and therefore the brouhaha is entirely keep with its status within the annals of India’s diverse cuisine.
Either which way, the steamed rice and lentil ‘cake’ — a pan India favourite, a must-figure in most breakfast buffets, and therefore the choice of the discerning dieter also because the foodie for its health quotient — is suddenly much talked about and far discussed.
Paired mostly with coconut chutney, sambhar and a few spicy gunpowder soaked in ghee, the idli moved from the accounts of thousands of Twitter users to national and also some international media outlets with several food writers and journalists dishing up articles that explored its origins and reflected the social media debate.
It all began with British historian Edward Anderson responding to an issue from food aggregator with this innocuous statement on Twitter, ““Idlis are the foremost boring things within the world.”
And the floodgates opened.
Author and Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor termed the professor “truly challenged” and Twitter users, some indignant, some passionate and a few tongue firmly in cheek, flooded the microblogging site with variations of why they just like the wild rice cakes and also why they do not .
Tharoor’s son Ishaan Tharoor, a US-based columnist, said, “I think I even have encountered the foremost offensive combat Twitter.”
“Yes, my son, there are some who are truly challenged during this world. Civilisation is tough to acquire: the taste & refinement to understand idlis, enjoy cricket, or watch ottamthullal isn’t given to each mortal. Take pity on this pauper , for he may never know what Life are often ,” tweeted the Congress MP.
Anderson, whose Twitter bio states that he’s employed on the “politics and history of India & Britain, migration & diasporas”, did also say his wife is from Kerala. He may have found the idli boring but loves “basically all south Indian food”.
But idli fans were up in arms nonetheless. The idli has found an area within the Indian plate “and palate” because it’s light on the stomach, inexpensive and attractive too, said many food lovers, historians and critics alike.
Terming Tharoor’s tweet a “valid response” to Anderson, food historian Pushpesh Pant said the “beautiful and perfectly balanced food” isn’t just healthy but “cost effective” too because the batter are often used over several days for various dishes.
“I think idli may be a beautiful and perfectly balanced food. it’s lentils, it’s rice and it gives you a really interesting mixture of vegetable proteins. it’s a steamed food, it doesn’t take an excessive amount of oil to form , also it’s easy to digest.”
“The batter you prepare to form idli on the primary day are often wont to make idli which is that the softest, second day you create dosas which are slightly less fluffy, third day you employ it for uttapam, so this cycle continues,” Pant told PTI.
While the fundamentals of creating a steamed rice cake remain an equivalent — rice flour, urad dal (black gram) and a fermenting agent — several versions of the idli are available in India’s south.
If in some parts of Karnataka the flat saucer-shaped ‘thatte idli’ is preferred, in others ‘muday idli’ steamed after being wrapped in pine or coconut leaves has foodies salivating.
Apart from the foremost commonly available plain idli and sambar from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the coastal state of Goa has the ‘sanna’, a savoury steamed rice cake shaped sort of a puck . The unlikely combination of idli with chicken or mutton curry are often found in Andhra Pradesh .
Although he’s not an idli fan, food critic Rahul Verma believes the taste comes from what it’s eaten with.
“Idli doesn’t have a taste of its own, it depends on what goes with it. Idli either with chutney or sambar, or chicken, mutton or pork curries make all the difference,” Verma said.
On his food journeys, Verma has enjoyed gunpowder idlis from Tamil Nadu , mini idlis with fried chicken from Andhra Pradesh and therefore the softest ones from Karnataka. But he can’t forget the idlis, faraway from its hometown in south, he had at a stop in Karnal, Haryana.
“I broke two spoons trying to eat those idlis. I can only request everyone to form only what they’re capable of,” Verma said.
“Famous food historian KT Achaya had written some path breaking books on the origin of various food in India. consistent with him, idli came to India from Indonesia. The cooks employed by the Indonesian Hindu kings may have made the primary idli. And it came to India during the 9th to 12th centuries, but people here wouldn’t believe that origin,” Verma added.
For Neelima Vaid, an MA student and “home foodie” from Delhi, the simplest idlis are those made by her mother.
“She adds dry fruits thereto , sometimes roasted ones, and it adds a completely different taste and texture to idli. i do know people say idli is all about what goes along side it, but homemade idlis full of dry fruits — you do not need anything thereupon ,” Vaid said.
Food critic Pritha Sen said almost every Indian state features a steamed dish similar in concept but idli became the simplest known because its patrons took it everywhere the planet .
“The easiest that involves mind is Gujarat with their dhoklas and stuff, in Bengal we’ve something called ‘bhapa pithe’.” she said. ” …but unfortunately the urban elites have quite forgotten this… the Udupis have gone out and spread it across the planet . the remainder of India has somehow not been ready to do this ,” she rued.
Before the talk heated in India, it had found a connect within the US election.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris, during her maiden address to the Indian-American community in August, recalled how her Indian origin mother always wanted to instill in her a “love of excellent idli”.
“Growing up, my mother would take my sister Maya and me back to what was then called Madras because she wanted us to know where she had come from and where we had ancestry. And in fact , she always wanted to instill in us, a love of excellent idli,” Harris said.