>> Jul 30, 2014
When it comes to the question of which is better, a dosa or an idli, it would seem that the jury is out. Advocates of the dosa would argue that the idli is stodgy and slightly dull - unlike the adaptable and delicious dosa. But then again, fans of the idli would be quick to point out that dosas can be far too oily to be enjoyable. So who's right? To settle this, we'll have to take a closer look at both.
Living in the south of India, dosa and idli are your two main choices when it comes to eating breakfast. Both are made out of rice and urad dal and these two ingredients are soaked and ground separately before being combined together. They are then left overnight to ferment. The hot climate of one of the southern states such as Tamil Nadu lends itself perfectly to the act of fermentation. The tropical, balmy climate makes fermentation easy - and as a result makes the food more digestible and cuts down on cooking time too.
When the batter is ready it can then be poured into the greased, stacked moulds of an idli tray, ready for steaming. Or fermented a little bit more and made into a pancake (aka a dosa). Both are eaten with sambar - and both sound fairly similar.
Perhaps it is the versatility of the dosa that sets it apart. Dosas are many things rolled into one - quite literally. Add tomatoes, onions and green chillies and you've got an utthappam. Fill it with a spicy mix of potatoes and onions and it is suddenly transformed into a masala dosa.
But before you make up your mind, the idli has a number of incarnations too. Rava idli is made using semolina rice and can incorporate yogurt, chilli, ginger and cashew nuts. And then there's mallige idli - a lighter, fluffier version which is popular in Bangalore. The possibilities are seemingly endless - for both.
In fact, such is the popularity of these two southern Indian staples that they are even available from vending machines. These machines, about the size of a microwave oven are able to serve you up your delicacy of choice - in around 60 seconds flat. Not bad, when you consider how long the fermentation process can take.
So, after all that, the jury is probably still out. We're going to stay well and truly on the fence with this one and say that both are as good as the other.
But next time you are in London and fancy doing your own taste test, you should head to one of the capital's popular Indian brasseries. Serving a range of street food, snacks and sweets you don't have to limit yourself to just a dosa and idli. Go with friends and sample as much of the menu as you can and create your own battle of the Indian snacks.