Remember the scene from the movie English Vinglish when Sridevi brings Idlis for Rama Murthy and his incredible expression when he sees a lunch box full of fresh Idlis…that’s exactly how much I’ve been craving for homemade idlis. Sometimes, not being able to make my own breakfast due to work pressure and sometimes unable to resist the comfort and convenience of ordering food, I somehow lost the good habit of making things from scratch, particularly Idli and Dosa. With ready-to-eat culture invading my otherwise disciplined way of cooking, Muesli, Cornflakes and Bread made life easier with an occasional Poha or Upma during the weekends.
The ubiquitous Idli, in fact, is not as easy to make as it seems to be, though it has simple ingredients. There is no perfect recipe since it the final taste mostly depends on the climate; the temperature needs to be ambient for right fermentation. The Idli in Madurai is different from the Idli in Munnar and the same with Chennai or Coimbatore. I always felt the humidity makes a lot of difference in the taste and texture to get the right fluffiness and a wee bit of sourness - just enough to tickle the tastebuds. And, you start drooling at the sight of a plateful that can taste heavenly with light drizzle of ghee and just a simple coconut or peanut chutney. Sambar and accompanying powders, for me, are secondary.
I am not a fan of Idlis made with rava. I've always found them dry and brittle, leaving a strong taste of something un-idly-like. So, raw rice is my choice and this time I tried Idly rice. I decided to make it using proper ingredients, proper timing for soaking, grinding etc, taking few tips from my mother. And I was hell-bent not to give in to other options like readymade stuff, not even go to the good restaurants, to satisfy my craving for ideal Idlis.
And it worked! Mission Idli was successful! My determination to follow the process, be patient, adjust my other pressing deadlines (which is always there) and just enjoy the natural soaking-grinding-waiting involved in making this wondrously healthy and appetising dish. I was overjoyed to see the Idlis puff up with right kind of sponginess. The taste and aroma both matched the good old Idlis I was used to, at home.
For a moment I wondered, why do we give in so easily to convenience in the name of calling our age-old processes cumbersome, time-consuming and compromise on quality and taste. I am happy to rediscover the joy of making things from scratch and would love to do so as long and as often as possible. My resolve for simple and soulful or arduous but authentic cooking continues...