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Idli is not an authentic South Indian Cuisine, might have migrated from Indonesia!

The Sanskrit Manasollasa of 1130 AD has ‘iddarika’, but it is representative of being made from urad dhal flour only

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Idli. Image source: scdn.archanaskitchen.com
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  • In Tamil Maccapuranam, the ‘ itali’ made only a late appearance, in 17th century AD.
  • History credits that Arab traders often used to visit the southern coast for trade, even before the advent of Islam in the country
  • The Sanskrit Manasollasa of 1130 AD has ‘iddarika’, but it is again representative of being made from urad dhal flour only

In a shattering revelation to everyone who has believed Idli to be an authentic South Indian cuisine, the truth could be that the soft, fluffy rounds of rice might have migrated to India from Indonesia or have been brought along by Arab settlers.

According to K.T. Acharya’s (a prominent food historian) theory, idli’s are a relatively new introduction to Indian cuisine, quoted The Hindu.

He points out that the word idli might have been derived from ‘iddalige’, as mentioned in a 920 AD Kannada work, but the suggestions are that this was made from an urad dhal batter only, which was neither steamed for fluffiness, nor fermented.

The Sanskrit Manasollasa of 1130 AD has ‘iddarika’, but it is again representative of being made from urad dhal flour only.  A century later, in Karnataka, idli is described as being ‘light, like coins of high value.’

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In Tamil Maccapuranam, the ‘ itali’ made only a late appearance, in 17th century AD.

All these references point to these three facts:

  • Rice wasn’t used with urad dhal
  • There was no fermentation of the mixture initially
  • The batter wasn’t steamed for fluffiness

According to The Hindu, Acharya claims that it was only after 1250 AD that idli was made the way it is prepared today. He further points out that this absence of the present way of preparing idli could then possibly mean that idli is a migrated food item and most probably from Indonesia.

variety of idlis on display at Planet Fun in Vijayawada.Image source: www.thehindu.com
Variety of idlis on display at Planet Fun in Vijayawada.Image source: www.thehindu.com

The food is known to be an Indonesian dish because various Hindu kings from the country would often travel to India in search of a suitable bride. They often brought their cooks along, who in turn brought with them a technique that changed the nature of this breakfast delight forever.

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Indonesia also has a long tradition of fermented products, like tempeh (fermented soy cakes), kecap (the recipe we get ketchup from) or something called kedli, which Acharya explains, is like an idli.

However, other references available at the Al-Azhar University Library in Cairo suggest that Arab traders in the southern belt brought in the idli after they married and settled down in those parts.

History credits that Arab traders often used to visit the southern coast for trade, even before the advent of Islam in the country. The first mosque outside the Arab peninsula was built by Arab settlers who initially came as traders.

The Arab settlers were very particular about their diets. A majority of them migrated here when Mohammed was still alive when they were relatively new to Islam from Paganism.

They insisted on halaal food, and Indian food was quite strange to their taste. To avoid all such dilemma about what is halaal or haraam in food, they started making rice balls. Post making the rice balls, they would slightly flatten them and compliment it with bland coconut paste.

Later, it was improved upon, and from the 8th century onwards, the idli in its contemporary avatar came into being.

-prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_

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  • Akanksha Sharma

    There are so many cuisines that we think are Indian born but they are not. For example, samosa came from middle east and Indians added their spices and techniques to it. Above article is a great article . Great Information.

Next Story

Poor Nutritional Knowledge Fuels Malnutrition Among Indonesian Girls

Two in five adolescent girls are thin due to undernutrition

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Poor Nutritional Knowledge Fuels Malnutrition Among Indonesian Girls
Poor Nutritional Knowledge Fuels Malnutrition Among Indonesian Girls, Pixabay

From fears that eating chicken wings makes it hard to find a husband to beliefs that pineapple jeopardizes fertility, a host of food taboos are fueling malnutrition among Indonesian girls, experts said as they launched an adolescent health drive.

Nutritionists said girls ate very little protein, vegetables or fruit, preferring to fill up with rice and processed snacks which were often sweet or fried.

“Indonesian girls are being left behind when it comes to nutrition,” said Kecia Bertermann of Girl Effect, a non-profit that uses mobile technology to empower girls.

“They don’t understand why their health is important, nor how nutrition is connected to doing well at school, at work or for their futures.”

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says Indonesia has some of the world’s most troubling nutrition statistics.

Two in five adolescent girls are thin due to undernutrition, which is a particular concern given many girls begin childbearing in their teens.

Two in every five girl is malnutritioned
Two in every five girl is malnutritioned, Pixabay

Experts said the food taboos were part of a wider system of cultural and social habits leading to poor adolescent nutrition, which could impact girls’ education and opportunities.

One myth is that cucumber stimulates excessive vaginal discharge, another that eating pineapple can prevent girls from conceiving later on or cause miscarriages in pregnant women.

Others believe spicy food can cause appendicitis and make breast milk spicy, oily foods can cause sore throats and peanuts can cause acne, while chicken feet – like chicken wings – can cause girls to struggle finding a husband.

Research by Girl Effect found urban girls ate little or no breakfast, snacked on “empty foods” throughout the day and thought feeling full was the same as being well nourished.

Snacks tended to be carbohydrate-heavy, leaving girls short of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Girl Effect is teaming up with global organization Nutrition International to improve girls’ eating habits via its Springster mobile app, a platform providing interactive content for girls on health and social issues.

If successful, the initiative could be expanded to the Philippines and Nigeria.

nougat
nougat, Pixabay

Experts said Indonesia was a country with “a double burden of malnutrition” with some people stunted and others overweight but also lacking micronutrients.

Marion Roche, a specialist in adolescent health at Nutrition International, said the poor nutritional knowledge among girls was particularly striking given infant nutrition had improved in Indonesia.

Also read: Jacqueline turns nutritionist for her MMA team

“Adolescent girls don’t know what healthy looks like, as health is understood as the absence of illness,” she said. “We need to give them the knowledge to make healthy choices.” (VOA)