Chilly days call for chili idlis. There’s no doubt about it.
I guess you could call an idli an Indian rice cake. By itself, it has a soft, chewy texture, but it is quite bland. No wonder it’s usually paired with an assortment of chutneys, sambars (soups), and vegetable side dishes.When I was younger, I preferred to have mine with ketchup…and maybe sometimes chutney :P. Idlis were never a true favorite of mine, as I preferred other, richer Indian carbohydrates—dosas, chappatis, pooris—and my Westernized taste buds seemed to fit ketchup as the only fitting condiment to pair with these bread goods. But as I grew older and into the foodie I am now today, I’ve come across interesting ways to turn a traditional classic into something…well, more fun. I first had chili idlis at a mainly South Indian restaurant a couple months back. I say mainly because chili idlis are far from being a South Indian delicacy. Rather, they’re an Indo-Chinese fusion creation.
The kind I had at the restaurant was surprisingly delectable, since the restaurant itself was not exactly what comes to mind when you think of fine dining. We were literally the only people eating dinner there that day, and the boss was yelling away on his phone in a corner office by the front door. The employees—cooks, wait staff, and all—were standing in another corner watching us curiously munch away at our food. It was awkward and completely unprofessional to say the least, but the chili idlis tasted good enough for me to distance myself from the awkwardness.
I couldn’t take a picture because the situation wasn’t right (obviously), but my chili idlis were photo-worthy. They were cut into quarters, fried, infused with spices, and garnished with greens. The dish was so fabulous that I wouldn’t mind being dragged into that restaurant again if it was necessary ;).
I did remember about this dish a few weeks ago when we were going through chilling temperatures, and I was trying to brainstorm some good ideas for warm winter meals. This is what I ended up going with to get the result you see in the first pic ;)!
Note: this version is not fried
- 6 small idlis cut up into cubes (day old refrigerated preferably)
- 2 cloves of chopped garlic
- 1 small onion
- ½ bell bepper
- 2 tbsp tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp Serrano pepper
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp corn starch
- curry leaves
- chili powder
- cilantro for garnish
- On cookie sheet lay out the idli pieces (idlis cut in quarters)—coated in oil or sprayed with cooking spray.
- Broil or bake until pieces are crisp and browned.
- In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil.
- Add brown cumin seeds and garlic to brown.
- Add curry leaves to toast.
- Add chunky pieces of onion and bell peppers, and sautée until tender.
- Add all condiments, cook a bit and add the quartered idlis, and toss.
- Dissolve cornstarch in water, and add to pan and stir until all the pieces are coated and the liquid is taken up.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Do you like fusion cuisine?
What are your favorite cuisines to mix together?