Kanchivaram Idli (Steamed Rice Dumplings)

As the name suggests, Kanchivaram (or Kanchipuram) idlis are from the temple city of Kanchipuram in Thamizh Nadu. These idlis are a prasadam (offering, prasad) to Lord Varadaraja Perumal (Vishnu) in the temple located in the city. They are delicious and taste different from the regular idli. The infusion of spices in the rather bland regular idli makes this unique and really mouth-watering. Yet, the spices are mild and even people with very low spice tolerance can easily handle this dish. The proportions of rice and lentils used are a little different from the regular idli batter. I make this idli quite often and have always enjoyed it thoroughly.

2 cups rice (I use brown rice, but you can also use red rice)
1 cup whole black lentils (sabut urad dal, ulutham parupu)
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dhana, venthiyam)
1 tsp dry ginger powder (sonth, chukku)
1 tsp black pepper corns (kali mirch, kuru milagu)
1 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
10-12 cashew nuts, broken into 2-3 pieces each
Salt to taste
For The Seasoning
1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 tbsp Bengal gram (chana dal, kadalai parupu)
1 sprig curry leaves
Clean and soak the rice and black lentils for at least 4 hours (overnight, if possible)
Add fenugreek seeds to the black lentils when soaking
Drain the water and grind the rice and lentils (separately), adding water
Ideally in a wet grinder (use a blender if you do not have a wet grinder)

Wet Grinder

The lentil batter should be really smooth, but the rice batter should be slightly coarse
Pour the batters into a large bowl (there should be enough space for the batter to ferment)
Add salt and set aside in a warm place, overnight
The next day, the batter would have fermented and become fluffy
Add ginger powder to the batter and mix well
Grind the cumin and pepper corns and set aside
Heat a wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add Bengal gram and continue to roast
When the Bengal gram turns golden brown, add curry leaves and the cumin-pepper powder
Continue to roast for another 10 seconds
Add this to the batter
Add cashew pieces and mix well
Pour a ladle each of the batter into the idli steaming plates
Set aside

Idli Steaming Plates

Pour about a cup of water into a pressure cooker
Place the idli steaming plates in the pressure cooker
Close the lid, but do not add the weight into the nozzle of the cooker
Steam for about 10 minutes
Remove the lid and scoop out the idlis with a wet spoon
Repeat for the remaining batter
Serve hot with sambar and/or chutney of your choice

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