“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Homo sapiens Iddlianensis

The judge hrrrumphed. In deep thought, he dug deeper into his nostrils and extracted certain glutinous material which was subjected to close examination for its colour, consistency, density, fragrance and then was rolled into a minuscule sphere and stuck it to the side of his desk, presumably for further investigation. Thereupon he hrrrumphed once again, positioned his pince nez over his beaky nose and deliberately lifted a sheet of paper and pretended to read it. After an ominous pause, the judge spoke: ‘ Mr Balachandran, you have been found guilty of gluttony. By the powers vested upon me by the laws of this country, I hereby pronounce my judgment: You are condemned to survive through the rest of your life by eating only one – I repeat, one – kind of food. However, you may chose a delicacy of your wish; but remember, only ONE KIND!!

I didn’t have to think twice; how about you? what would be your choice? Chicken 65? Gulab Jamun? Parathas? Payasam? Mine is crystal clear and unwavering – IDDLI!!!

Consider the Iddli. Forget its nativity – Wiki says it is South India /Karnataka– search the net for more info. Iddli or Iddali or Idly – the safest, tastiest, blandest, most unpretentious delicacy in the whole world!

A batter made of the finest white rice and lentils steam cooked. Look at it. The demure dome of brilliant white looking so perfectly content and settled; smell it – fragrance that recalls memories of boyhood when iddli batter was spread over white cotton cloth laid on the pans inside the steaming vessel, iddlis of innumerable places – the tiny shacks in villages, those little hotels in Tamil Nadu where when you go to eat tiffin in the night, they drop piping hot iddlis with chutney, sambar, and podi. The oh-so delicious Vengaya chutney, kara chutney, Pudina Chutney and so on.

On the occasions when P is away and I have to feed myself, I buy ready-made Iddli- mavu or Iddli batter. I make exotic chutneys to go with it. The chutneys are usually so good that I end up lapping it up and the very last remnants in the bowl is swiped up by a piece of Iddli. I can make 24 iddlis from one packet. Spread over the day 8 x3 = 24. No kidding, I eat iddlis in the morning, iddlis for lunch and for supper. In the evening I sometimes warm them up in the microwave or if time and interest prevails, I make Iddli uppma. Pouring boiled water over the iddlies, I squash and squeeze the Iddlis until they are one big mashed lump. In the frying pan, instead of coconut oil, I throw in a tbsp of ghee. Over the spluttering mustard seeds, I add chopped onions, ginger, garlic, red chilli and curry leaves. Sometimes I add cubes of tomatoes, finely chopped carrots, peas… oh well, the list and combinations are endless, depending on the contents of the refrigirator and my mood.

K has left for Bangalore; Between P and I, we are not too  fussy about food; we manage. Yesterday evening, there were leftover Iddlis. P said she’ll make dosas for herself, she isn’t keen as I am about Iddlis. Soaking the iddlis in the pale green coriander leaf chutney, fishing out the broken, toasted pieces of red chilli and squeezing or popping them to let the brown coconut oil and filaments of the chilli mix with the chutney and watching the mustard seeds, each with little halo of oil around it float and picking  them one by one with my forefinger and biting them and savouring the whole process of idyllic Iddlis, I speak kindly to P. ‘Parvati, look at this Iddli. Chaste white in colour, soft and pliable, dignified, delicate, hygienic, highly digestible, nutritious ( all that protein and carbs), accomodative (you can add anything to it), adaptable ( goes with anything) – why, Iddli is angelic, it is the symbol of all things pure and good in this world, Iddli is what humanity should aspire to be…”

P discards the idea of making Dosas. Instead she spreads mixed fruit jam onto slices of whole wheat bread and between bites mutters- ' I will never eat another Iddli happily in my life...'
Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 07-06-2011


  1. Such a hilarious post Balachandran..

    None would have written such a note on Idli so far..

    The Idli batter spread over the cotton cloth..what a splendid memory there.Every time I prepare the batter,the nostalgic smell of those Idli mornings disturbs me..But to balance that I have the horrible memories of hostel Idlis.Honestly,I don't know the recipe yet.Stone hard Idlis.Definitely by calling those white stones as idli,we are pretty insulting the very origin of such a delight.My Monday fasting owes much to those Idlis and pink watery chutney' they served.I felt better visiting Sreekanteswaram..he he..

    But,if you write in this way,I may even eat Pizza..

    Cheers to Parvathy,who made me burst out at this time of night..

  2. Yummy portrayal!
    Ever tried IDDALY made on 'murukkin ila' instead of white cotton cloth? It's heavenly!
    Why not doing a research on IDDALY? I am pretty sure you will be bestowed a PhD!

  3. I once did a tag where i had mentioned Iddli as my most favorite food.Very fond memories i have associated with it.As a kid Sunday breakfast was always iddli,sambar and chutney(either coconut or peanut).You are right iddli is Angelic.

  4. Balan,


    Thoroughly enjoyed this post. I was wondering how could the picture of tasty idlis go well with your introduction of the judge. :-P

    Idly - versatile, omnipresent and omnipotent. It can adapt and can go well with anything..anything at all!

    You have exalted idly's position further with this superb post

  5. I wonder if it was bowl full of iddlis that came up when they churned the mythical sea,"pallazhi"! Has to be so.
    I was outraged and upset when back in Tamilnad they named iddlis after an widely desired actress. Amour is one thing and the craving for iddlis are a thing apart.

    As for the aspiration of emulating the iddli, it may not be a walk in the park for many as the batter has to be in the right proportion and fermented aptly. Else it can also be a cannon ball.

  6. Loved reading the post .. though Idli is not my favourite but the Sambhar that can go with it is my Favourite and yeah in all the menu my choice would go to that ..
    along with offcoure the chicken 65 and rest tooo :)

    but i loved the way you have described IDLI... so versatile ...


  7. Balan,that was hilarious !!

    It is a deserving tribute to Idli.We the connoisseurs of Idli,hereby authorize you to represent us in all matters related to Idli.

    I have the picture of your judge right in front of me.Picking his nose and sticking it on the table!

    The last time I laughed like this was when Anil wrote the lungi story!

  8. Ingane Ororuthanmaar Irangikkolum, manushyane kothippikkaan

    ithu koode vaayikk:

    പല്ല് തേച്ച് പ്രാതലിനിരുന്നു. ആവിയില് വിടര്ന്ന വെള്ളാമ്പല് ഇഡ്ഡലികള്. രണ്ടിഡ്ഡലി ചട്ട്ണിയില് മുക്കിത്തിന്നു. രണ്ടെണ്ണം പൊടി കൂട്ടിത്തിന്നു. രണ്ടെണ്ണം മുളകരച്ചതു കൂട്ടിത്തിന്നു. രണ്ടെണ്ണം പഞ്ചസാര ചേര്ത്തു തിന്നു. രണ്ട് ഗ്ലാസ് കാപ്പി കുടിച്ചു. ഒരു മണിക്കുള്ള ശാപ്പാടിന് മുമ്പ് രണ്ട് ലാര്ജ് വോഡ്ക്ക തക്കാളി ജൂസില് ചേര്ത്ത് അകത്താക്കി. പഴയരിച്ചോറ്, വെണ്ടക്കാ സാമ്പാറ്, ഇളവനും പച്ചമുളകും ചേര്ത്ത് ഓലന്, വഴുതനങ്ങയും ഉള്ളിയും ചേര്ന്നുള്ള മെഴുക്കുപുരട്ടി, കടുമാങ്ങ, പപ്പടം, മോര്. ഉണ്ടു; അണ്ടം മുട്ടുന്നതുവരെ ഉണ്ടു.
    മൂന്നരയ്ക്ക് ചായ പലഹാരം. അരിയും ഉഴുന്നും മുളകും ഉള്ളിയും ഉപ്പും പരുക്കനായരച്ചു മുരിങ്ങയില ചേര്ത്ത് നിര്മിച്ച അപ്പമായിരുന്നു. മൂന്നെണ്ണം തിന്നു. തളരുവോളം ചായ കുടിച്ചു.
    സായന്തനത്തിന്റെ പുറത്ത് സവാരിക്കിറങ്ങി. ബാറില് കയറി നാലെണ്ണം പൂശി. രണ്ട് നീറ്റായും രണ്ട് ഓണ് ദ റോക്കും. ശേഷം വെളിച്ചെണ്ണയില് തേങ്ങാക്കൊത്തും ചേര്ത്ത് വരട്ടിയെടുത്ത മട്ടനും വയറ് നിറയെ പൊറോട്ടകളും.

    പത്തു മണിക്ക് ഉറങ്ങാന് കിടന്നു. ജീവിതത്തില് കൃതകൃത്യത അനുഭവപ്പെട്ടു. ചെയ്യേണ്ടതെല്ലാം ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്നു. തിന്നേണ്ടതെല്ലാം തിന്നിരിക്കുന്നു. ഇനി മരിക്കാം. ഇതൊരു ചാന്സാണ്.
    മരിക്കാന് കിടന്നു.
    യഥാസമയം മരിച്ചു.
    പുലര്ച്ചെ ശവമെടുത്തു.
    വീട്ടുകാര് കേള്ക്കാത്തത്ര ദൂരത്തായപ്പോള് പയ്യന് ശവമഞ്ചവാഹകരോട് ചോദിച്ചു. അവിടെയും രാവിലെ ഇഡ്ഡലി തന്നെയല്ലേ.

    -വി.കെ.എന്. 'നിലനില്പീയം

  9. hii


    i loved idlis and this post esp this pic is making me hungry!!


  10. wow "idliyana"was really fascinating.We sometimes forget to appreciate the "medicinal plant grown in our own garden"That was a saying in kannada translated.So is the idli which is no less than any elixir.

  11. Thanks for the link to this post!
    Idli is truly the best comfort food, after thayir saadam, that is! :)


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