From Thatte To Udupi: Five Types Of Idli From Different Regions In India
Image Credit: Vritti Bansal (Thatte idli)

World Idli Day falls on March 30 every year. Besides a day dedicated to one of India’s most popular breakfast food items, idli has been in the news for other reasons too. In 2020, British academic Edward Anderson tweeted saying “Idli are the most boring things in the world," in a reply to Zomato’s tweet asking “what’s that one dish you could never understand why people like soo much”. Anderson’s tweet sparked controversy, with people from South India and the diaspora calling him out and saying he was a “clueless white boy”. While Anderson remained unapologetic for his opinion, there’s no dearth of idli lovers across the world. Here are five types of idli from different regions in India: 

Thatte idli 

In Kannada, ‘thatte’ means ‘plate’ and thatte idli has been named so because it is wide and flat, resembling a plate. Thatte idli is also fermented in plates. The batter used for making thatte idli contains tapioca pearls, which gives it a spongy texture. Usually served with a spicy coconut chutney and fresh, hand-churned butter, this type of idli has been associated with a Bengaluru suburb called Bidadi and also Tumakuru, a city 70 kms away from Bengaluru. 

Rava idli

Bengaluru’s iconic restaurant chain Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) has been credited with the invention of rava idli. During the Indian Emergency at the time of World War-II, rice was scarce and so the cooks at MTR used semolina to make idlis instead. Rava idli uses roasted semolina, mixed with sour curds and garnished with a tempering of curry leaves and mustard seeds. After it is steamed, the idli is topped with cashew nuts and served with sambar and coconut chutney or saagu, a potato and vegetable curry. 

Kanchipuram idli 

Kanchipuram idli can be traced back to the 6th-9th centuries, during the reign of the Pallava Dynasty. It is offered as naivedyam to Lord Vishnu at the Varadharaja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, where each idli is as tall as 1-1.5 feet. These large idlis take around three hours to make. Kanchipuram idli is made by wrapping the batter in Mandharai leaves and then cooking it. The coarse batter used for this type of idli uses ginger, pepper and cumin. 

Ramasseri idli 

Ramasseri idli may be considered a fusion of idli and dosa. Originally, labourers and farm workers consumed the idli, which had a week-long shelf life. Only four families in Ramassery, a town near Palakkad in Kerala, make Ramasseri idli currently. It uses locally-sourced rice, and its batter is cooked over an earthen pot covered with muslin. The batter idli uses raw rice, ponni rice and urad dal, which results in a meltingly soft idli. These idlis may be served with Kerala-style sambar or chicken curry. 

Udupi idli

Made with a batter that’s grainier than those used for other types of idli, udupi idli is the most common type of idli, popularised by Udupi restaurants across India. It is believed to have originated in the city of Udupi in Karnataka. The batter used for Udupi idlis uses both rice and urad dal. Udupi idlis are served with hot sambar and coconut chutney, and are a staple breakfast food and snack. When the rice is replaced with semolina, these become rava idlis.