Kanchipuram Idli | Kovil IdliSavoury rice cakes
Kanchipuram idli is a specially offered prasadam from the famous Varadharaja Perumal Swamy temple in Kanchipuram. Devotees withstand the hardships of long queues to savour this prasad.
About this Recipe
Idli or idly are a type of savoury rice cake, which has its origins in the Indian subcontinent and is a breakfast food in South India and among the Tamil diaspora in different parts of the world. The cakes are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) or urad dal and rice. The fermentation process breaks down the starches so that they are more readily metabolized by the body.
Kanchipuram idli also known as ‘Kovil Idli’ (temple idli) is a special recipe which gets its name from the town of Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu State of Southern India. This is a specially offered prasadam from the famous Varadharaja Perumal Swamy temple in Kanchipuram. To savor it, devotees withstand the hardships of long queues to buy this prasad.
Kanchipuram Idli has been made in the kitchens of the Varadharaja Perumal Swamy temple from time immemorial. Its beginnings are uncertain. However, local legend has it that it has been made from as early as the times of the Pallava dynasty who ruled large parts of South India from 275 CE to 897 CE with Kanchipuram as their capital. This makes the Kanchipuram Idli recipe anywhere from 1200 to 1800 years old!
Traditionally, these idlis are made over wood fire and are cylindrical in shape. The Kanchipuram idlis made at the temple are over a foot long.
Kanchipuram idli is different from any other variety of idli in that several ingredients are added to the basic black lentil and rice batter. The speciality of this recipe is the tangible difference in the look, colour and shape.
The cylindrical shape is because the idli is steamed in a specially made container from mantharai leaves or plantain/banana leaves, which add their own distinct flavor to the idlis.
The idlis will keep for up to two days in room temperature, and up to a week in the refrigerator. Due to their nature of staying fresh for multiple days, and as the leaf made cylinder of idli makes it easy to carry, these idlis make for an excellent ‘kattu sadam’ or food during travel. Besides as prasadam, the Kanchipuram idli is also served as breakfast with a choice of chutney and sambar.
SPH has mentioned in a series of satsangs that it is one of his favorite foods, as the ingredients added to it are very good for health.
“It is about absolutely being addicted to the right things which
instigates, inspires healthy existence.
What kind of meal you will decide to celebrate…..
In my life is kanchipuram idli with pepper, no salt;
all organic ingredients with curry powder or little tamarind rice!”
– SPH JGM Nithyananda Paramasivam
- Preparation time: 12 hours (Soaking time: 4 hrs. Fermentation time: 8 hrs.)
- Cooking time: 20 minutes
- Total time: 12 hours and 20 minutes
- Servings : 5-6 persons
- Course: Main Course in breakfast
- Cuisine: Tamil Nadu cuisine
- Raw Rice – 425 gms (2.3 cups)
- Urad dal – 375 gms (1.8 cups)
- Fenugreek – 15 gms (3.5 teaspoons)
- Black Pepper – 15 gms (3.5 teaspoons)
- Cumin seeds – 15 gms (3.5 teaspoons)
- Dry ginger powder – 15 gms (3.5 teaspoons)
- Asafoetida – 3 gms
- Curry leaves – a handful
- Sesame oil – 125 ml
- First, wash the rice and urad dal well separately.
- Then soak the rice and fenugreek together and urad dal separately for more than 4 hours in sufficient water.
- After four hours, drain the urad dal water and grind the urad dal to a butter consistency and keep it aside.
- Then grind the rice, like a white rava (semolina)/coarse consistency and keep that aside as well.
- Now add the urad dal batter and salt in the rice batter, mix all of this very well and leave it aside to ferment for at least 8 hours.
- Coarsely powder the pepper and cumin seeds separately and keep it aside.
- Now after 8 hours of fermenting, idli batter is ready and we have to season the batter.
- Add sesame oil in a pan. Once it is hot, put the pepper powder, cumin powder, dry ginger powder, asafoetida powder and curry leaves into the oil and fry a little.
- Add this seasoning to the idli batter and mix well.
- Next, the batter has to be poured into a container like a steel tumbler to cook the idlis, to obtain the cylindrical shape.(Traditionally, bamboo baskets are used as a mould. If these are not available, steel/brass tumblers can be used as containers for the moulds. To avoid leakage of the batter, plantain/banana & mandara leaf are used to line the bottom and inside of the tumbler/container. Use 3 mantharai leaves around the sides as well. The mantharai leaves are the traditional leaves used for this recipe and are very good for health.)
- Place the idli vessel on the stove and pour water into it. Boil the water until it comes to a steam. The idlis have to be cooked in this steam. Note: If you don’t have an idli vessel, you can use any steamer you use at home
- Now pour the batter in the moulds and place them carefully upright in the idli vessel – as many moulds as can fit into the idli vessel.
- Place a plantain leaf on the top of the moulds to cover it and then close the lid of the idli vessel.
- Allow the idlis to cook for 20 minutes. Note – cooking times may vary as per the steamer you are using.
- Use a small knife or a thin stick/toothpick to check whether the idlis are cooked.
Poke the stick into one idli, if the stick comes out clean, the idlis are done.
- Then, remove the idlis from the idli vessel carefully, and place it on a plate to cool.
- Kanchipuram idlis are now ready to be served. Remove the leaf covering the idlis before serving!
Step by step instructions
First wash the rice and urad dal well, separately.
Then soak the rice and fenugreek together and urad dal separately for at least 4 hours.
After four hours, drain the urad dal water and grind the urad dal to a butter consistency and keep it aside.
Then grind the rice, to a white rava (semolina)/coarse consistency and keep it aside.
Now, add the urad dal batter and salt in the rice batter, mix all of this very well and leave it to ferment for at least 8 hours.
Coarsely powder the pepper and cumin seeds separately and keep it aside. Add sesame oil in a pan. Once oil is heated, add the pepper powder, cumin powder, dry ginger powder, asafoetida powder and curry leaves into the oil and fry a little.
Add this seasoning to the idli batter and mix well.
Next, this seasoned batter needs to be poured into a container like a tumbler/steel glass as below, for cooking the idlis.
Line the tumbler/steel glass with a couple of layers of banana leaf and mantharai leaf as shown here.
Place the idli vessel on the stove and pour water into it. Once the water is hot, allow it to steam. The idlis will be cooked in this steam. Note – if you don’t have an idli vessel, use any steamer you regular use in your kitchen.
Now pour the batter in the moulds and place all of them in the idly vessel.
Cover all the moulds with plantain leaves on the top and close the vessel with the lid.
Allow it to cook for 20 minutes.
Note – cooking times may vary as per the steamer you use. Use a small knife, thin stick/toothpick to check whether the idlis are cooked. Poke the stick into one idli. If the stick comes out clean, the idlis are done.
Remove the idlis from the idli vessel and place it on a plate carefully and allow it to cool.
The idlis are ready to be served. Remove the mantharai leaf layer.