There is something special about fluffy, warm idlis, and a bowl of piping hot Sambar. It is one of the staples of South Indian cuisine. But what if we tell you that the origin of Idli is not South India? In fact, it is not even India! Shocking right? Well, our beloved Idli has many stories behind its origin, and it’s all fascinating!

The soft, and fluffy Idlis are one of the most beloved breakfast foods. A big bite of idli dipped in warm sambar, and chilled coconut chutney can give you a taste of heaven. This south Indian delicacy is everybody’s favourite, and has been a popular street food. But, did you know the origin of Idli was not India? It has travelled a long way, and you should read on to know how!

All the way from Indonesia


There are multiple claims regarding the origin of Idli, and there is a lot of confusion too. According to the Food historian K T Achaya, idlis may have arrived in India from Indonesia back in 800-1200 CE, from the regions ruled by the Hindu kings. Idlis even resembles Indonesia’s Kedli a lot, he says. Another food historian Lizzie Collingham suggests that the Arab traders introduced the Idlis when they settled in the Southern belt of the country.

The Arabs

In the ‘Encyclopaedia of Food History, edited by Collingham, and Gordon Ramsay, and in the book named ‘Seed To Civilisation – The Story of Food’ by Heiser Charles B, it is suggested that the Arabs who settled would only consume the halaal food, found rice balls safe, and decided to stick to them. These rice balls were slightly flat and the Arabs would have them with coconut gravy.


Acharya further pointed that the fermentation of the batter & the mixing of urad dal with rice grains was invented later. He also said that the Iddalage, a form of Idli is also mentioned in a Kannada language work by Shivakotiacharya. Chavundaraya II, the author of the earliest Kannada encyclopedia has also mentioned the recipe of Idli in it. The scholar and the Western Chalukya king Someshwara III had also written about Idli in his encyclopedia as iḍḍarikā.

There is another interesting claim behind Idli getting its name. After Ghazni Mohammed attacked the Somnath temple in the 10th century AD, the Saurashtrian merchants shifted to the south. After settling in there, they came up with the name Idli and introduced it.


But, be it any of the reasons above, we are glad that we came across this healthy, nutritious, and delicious recipe. Idlis are a great source of carbohydrates and proteins. Its fermentation process enhances the vitamin B content of the food, while the fiber present in idlis makes it easy to digest. There are various types of Idlis including the huge ‘Thatte Idli’, the bite-size regular idlis, the Goan-styled Sanna, Mudde Idlis, and more.
After reading this article if you are also drooling, and craving some warm, and fluffy Idli, then why not make a few at home. Follow these quick Idli recipes, and plan for an idlitic snack!

Also Read: Dive deep into the history of vada pav and know about its origin in the city

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