Kudalai Idli or Spiced Moong dal Idli, an authentic lesser known/made recipe from the temple town of Kanchipuram. Moong dal or Paasi paruppu is used in place of rice to make these Idlis and are spiced with pepper, cumin, ginger, green chilies et al.
I was quite surprised when I read this recipe in Meenakshmi Ammaal’s cook book “Samaithu Paar”. I read and re-read it, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Kanchipuram Kudalai Idli with Moong dal instead of rice !! Never heard of that one before. But, then when a master like Meenakshi Ammaal speaks, I just decided to shut my logical reasoning and listen to her. Turned out to be a good decision after all.
This is a very authentic, traditional, lesser known recipe for making moong dal Idlies. Why is it called Kudalai Idli? Kudalai refers to to long tube like cups made with bamboo and usually lined with banana or dried lotus leaves. Tradionally, in Kanchipuram, the Idli batter is steamed in these leafy cups, and therefore the name.
Here is the recipe for making these Moong dal Idlies –
Soak 1 cup each of moong dal and urad dal together in water. A note here on the water used for soaking. Usually, people tend to soak the rice/lentils in tap water. Make sure to always soak the lentils in soft water. Soak for 2 hours. You will notice that after 2 hours the lentils have nicely plumped up and almost doubled. Wash the lentils a couple of times by changing the water each time. The next step would be to grind. I prefer to grind the lentils in a grinder. Grind the batter until smooth by adding water little by little. The batter consistency needs to be of your normal Idli batter consistency. Not too runny nor too thick. The urad dal will tend to fluff up and becomes a buttery consistency. If you see a couple of moong dals sticking out, that is ok. Infact that is desirable. Meenakshi Ammaal in her book says, grind the batter “Goda Goda” – denoting the smooth sound the grinder makes. Now add upto a tablespoon of rock salt and mix it thoroughly into the batter. Transfer the batter to a big vessel. We will be fermenting the batter. You will need a big vessel as the batter will fluff up. Close the vessel and rest the batter for 8 hours in a quiet draft-free corner on the kitchen top. If you live in a warm place (like Chennai, where I live), the batter may need only 6 hours, whereas cooler places may need upto 10 hours for fermenting. If you run a finger or spoon over the surface of the batter, a well fermented batter will look like the third pic. You will see the air bubble texture.Now, technically your Moong Dal Idli batter is ready to use. If you are not a big fan of spicing up your idlies, proceed to making idlies after this stage.
Next, is preparing the spice mix, that we will work into the batter to make Kanchipuram Style Idlies –
Heat a pan or Kadai and add 2 tablespoons of ghee. Don’t skimp, just add it ! Now, add 1 tablespoon of Bengal gram dal or Kadalai paruppu, 1 tablespoon of broken cashewnuts and roast until golden brown. Switch off the pan. Add, 4 chopped green chillies, 1 teaspoon each of dry ginger powder, coarsely ground peppercorn powder and whole cumin seeds. Add generous amounts of curry leaves. Optionally add chopped coconut pieces as well. Saute for a few seconds in retained heat. Add this spice mixture along with the ghee it was fried in to the batter and mix well.
Next, we will steam the Idlis. For this it will be great if you are able to find “Dhonnai” or cups made with banana leaves or dried lotus leaves. I used these “paaku mara” dhonnai as a substitute. If you can’t source any of these, don’t worry, just grease your normal Idli plates, or small sized tumblers and use them for steaming. It is very important to grease them generously with ghee or sesame oil.Now, pour the batter into the cups. Fill only upto 3/4 level. Steam the cups for 15 minutes in medium heat. These idlies may take a few minutes more than normal idlies to cook completely. To check if it is done, just insert a tooth pick or small knife. If it comes out clean, then the idlis are done. Remove the Idlis from the steamer and let them set for 5 minutes before you can remove them from the cups. You can even chose to serve them in the cups just like I did.
Unlike traditional rice idlis, these ones taste better when they cool to room temperature making them an ideal travel food. Also, tastes best with milagai podi . Sambar/Chutney is usually not preferred.