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SEEMA Cooks: Kanchipuram Idlis

Jun/03/2022 / by Rashmi Gopal Rao

Aromatic and tempered with a medley of spices, Kanchipuram idlis are a delightful twist to conventional idlis.  A traditional preparation that is native to the state of Tamil Nadu, this one is a very popular prasadam, or offering, prepared in the renowned Varadharaja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram.  At this, one of the holiest temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this idli is served as a sacred offering after being steamed in large bamboo baskets lined with mantharai leaves – the leaves of the Bauhinia tree, commonly called kachnar in Hindi, and mountain ebony in English. The idlis prepared in the temple are really large, and after being offered to the Lord, have to be cut up before being distributed to the devotees.

One can never really replicate the heavenly taste of the idli prepared in the temple. This version is commonly prepared in homes and local hotels in and around Kanchipuram. Whole spices adds a unique flavor to the dish, making it different from conventional idlis. While there are several variations of the recipe, here is a tried and tested one.

The Recipe


For the batter

  • ½ cup raw rice
  • ½ cup urad dal
  • ½ cup parboiled rice
  • 2-3 tbsp broken rice
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • Salt to taste

For the seasoning

  • 2 tsp pepper, coarsely crushed
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee


  1. Soak the urad dal and fenugreek seeds for your idlis with the broken rice in a vessel for about 6-8 hours.  Soak the raw and parboiled rice in another vessel for the same time.
  2. Grind urad dal, fenugreek seeds and broken rice to a fine paste, adding water incrementally.  Grind the soaked rice mixture and mix well, adding salt during the process.  Ensure that the batter is not very thin but thick enough to pour into the cups.
  3. Allow the batter to ferment for 6-8 hours.
  4. Heat ghee and add all the items mentioned under seasoning.  Once the oil begins sputtering, pour the seasoning over the batter and mix.
  5. Prepare baskets of manthrai leaves if available.  If you cannot find leaves for steaming, grease tumblers with oil/ghee and pour the batter in them until they are three-fourth full.
  6. Steam the idlis for about 30-40 minutes.
  7. Serve hot with coconut or tomato chutney.


  • You can also use banana leaves for steaming, if they are available.  If you cannot make them into baskets, line the leaves inside the tumbler and pour the batter in it.
  • You can also steam the batter in normal idli plates.
  • Adjust the seasoning according to your taste.
  • You can also use ginger powder if you lack fresh ginger for the seasoning.
  • You can add sour curds to the batter if you do not have enough time to ferment it.

If other idli varieties are on your mind, may we suggest Enjoy The Delicious Taste of Oats Idli?


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