Idli Siyali


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This dish is one of my earliest food memories. But until recently, I never knew what it was called. While growing up I always referred to it as “orange idli upma” or “gundu idli” (coz’ of the big chunks) or simply ” that idli thing you made when we went to the park”.  Then when I started to cook, this was one of my earlier trials(as you will see below, its quite a simple recipe),  I started calling it “Masala idli”, adding ‘masala’ to a food’s name makes it official, right ? 🙂 Recently, while I was browsing for something else, I stumbled upon this familiar recipe and figured out it is called “Idli Siyali”. After all, this has a name , that too such a sweet name. 🙂

  • This is usually made with left over idlis. Your idlis “must”  be in room temperature if not colder. Fresh idlis will lose form and crumble.

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  • Cut the idlis into big cubes, roughly 1 idli into 4 pieces.

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  • To make the masala, you will need 1 big red onion, 1 medium tomato and few curry leaves. Tomato and onion should be cubed , no fine chopping.
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  • In a pan/wok,heat 2 tbsp of oil (sesame oil, preferred), splutter a tsp of mustard seeds and fry a tsp each of urad dhal and channa dhal to golden brown.

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  • Saute the onions and curry leaves, Onions do not have to brown.

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  • Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle salt to sweat the tomatoes.

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  • Tomatoes do not have to soften too much. Add 1 tsp of turmeric powder, 3 tsp of sambar powder (add more or less as you wish) and some salt. If you do not have sambar powder, use 2 tsp of red chilli powder and 1 tsp of coriander powder. Let the powders mix with oil.

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  • Add about 1/2 cup of water. Water allows the sambar powder to cook fast. But don’t add too much water, as the gravy is going to be reduced to a thick paste anyways. Also add a pinchof vellam/jaggery/brown sugar.

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  • Allow the masala to boil thoroughly and reduce. When you see the oil separating , it is done.

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  • Add the cut idli pieces to the masala and mix it gently without breaking them.

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  • Sprinkle coriander leaves  and remove from heat.

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You can use boiled egg instead of idlis in this recipe to make a quick egg masala.

Another variation, is instead of using tomatoes ,you can also use tamarind juice.

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Idli podi (or molaga podi or chammandhi podi or..)


Call it any name , the taste never fails. I’ve always loved the combination of idli and podi(who doesn’t), this particular recipe is from my mom’s mom. This is more intense, more flavorful and more salivating 🙂 There are a few brands of podi available in stores (in NJ that is, I am sure there are more options in India), but I usually find them to be either very mild or they look very reddish as if the red chillies are raw. This recipe is very simple, so I always make it at home.
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If you just want a basic podi…these are the only ingredients you need.
Urad dhal – 1 cup (you can use urad dhal without the peel too)
Channa dhal – 1 cup
dry red chillies – 2cups (loosely packed)
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These are just embellishments that add more layers of flavor. You don’t have to add these for a simple podi. If you are adding sesame seeds, the shelf life is less.Sesame seeds (black, brown or white) – 1 cup ; Garlic cloves – a few
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Heat a pan and dry toast the lentils (urad dhal and channa dhal). Do not add oil, just toast them dry for a few minutes, until you get the flavor and the urad dhal becomes slightly pinkish.(Make sure to keep stirring to avoid burnt lentils).Image
Set the toasted lentils aside. Heat 1 tsp of oil and toast the chillies until they slightly change in color (again no burning).
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Toast the sesame seeds in a tsp of oil.
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Roast the garlic in a tsp of oil.
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Let everything cool down for atleast 30 minutes. Then dry grind it to a coarse powder.
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Add salt only after grinding. The right texture should be like beach sand, if you add salt while grinding, it will add moisture.
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Hot idlis, podi, sesame oil and a cup of good Madras coffee…..mmmm….what a wonderful life !!
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You can also add podi to spice up the idli upma.
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Make “crispy idli fingers” (cut the idlis into finger shaped pieces and coat them with the podi and oil mix and shallow fry them. You won’t believe how crisp they come out.)Image