Ever since I introduced a set of idli molds in my Yangon kitchen last November, rice idlis and homemade slow-cooked sambhar have become an important weekend ritual. By important, only these two dishes can be served at Sunday lunch.
Our ritual is something like this: on Saturday evening S and I head to our friendly and familiar neighbourhood market. (Despite being very “Burmese”, Indian ingredients are not so difficult to find here.) We know the couple who stocks curry leaves in their stall and the trio of sisters who have drumstick (really!). We buy the ingredients for sambhar: curry leaves, a few ladyfingers, a carrot, some french beans, a couple tomatoes, a quartered pumpkin and S’s favourite, a drumstick. While watching TV that night, or just before we go off to bed, we divide the prep activities and chop the vegetables. I wake up a bit early on Sunday and soak the toor dal for couple of hours. After a light breakfast and quick shower, I begin preparing the sambhar, first pressure cooking the dal, then cooking it with the vegetables and spices. Finally, I add the tadka.
The idlis, though, are mostly S’s job. While I step out for couple hours for a Spanish lesson to the outskirts of Yangon, S prepares the batter, double boiler pot and molds. He often makes a few extra idlis for next day’s breakfast as well.
This week we had a few more idlis leftover than usual. Three, to be precise. Not wanting to throw them away, I vaguely remembered eating mini masala idlis at a South Indian buffet in Mumbai several years ago. The mini idlis had been cooked with spices and were bright red, quite spicy and delicious.
With this vivid food memory playing on my mind, I thought I’d create my own version of masala idlis. Using standard Indian breakfasts like poha and upma as inspiration, I began to play with some simple ideas and conjured up a dish.
I prepared the ingredients Sunday night, knowing I would feel super lazy next morning. And so I did. Luckily, this breakfast dish took just a few minutes to cook and I was relishing it soon enough.
Generously spiced, delightfully colourful, crumbly and crunchy at the same time, I’m happy to say that the leftover idli experiment was a success. I’ve dubbed this dish Totally Rad Leftover Idlis.
In this recipe, sweet onions and sour-ish tomatoes provide an easy base for the dish, while capsicum (green bell peppers) add the crunch that I like, a perfect contrast with the soft idlis. The secret spice blend (okay, it’s not really a secret, see recipe below) will wake up your taste buds (as they did mine). I was very tempted to top the dish off with grated cheese, but I’m glad I didn’t. It would have messed up the uniquely Indian flavours of my Totally Rad Leftover Idlis. Instead I had it with a glass of orange juice.
Of course, I don’t think this is an authentic way of eating idlis, but like a good homemaker (how I hate that word!), I don’t like throwing away perfectly edible home-cooked food. And this recipe turned out to be a quick, fuss-free way of using up idlis in the fridge.
I tweeted a photo to S, who was away for work. I’m sure he’s going to want Totally Rad Leftover Idlis for breakfast next Monday.
PS- I’ve used stevia in this recipe because sugar is banned in my home (yep, we’re crazy health nuts). Feel free to add a bit of regular sugar instead.
Recipe: Totally Rad Leftover Idlis
Prep time: 7 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida (aka hing)
1 dry red chilli (whole)
3/4 teaspoon urad dal
3-4 curry leaves
1 small green chilli chopped
1small onion chopped
1small tomato chopped
1 small or half a large green capsicum chopped
A pinch of stevia/ sugar (optional, only if tomato is too tart)
1 teaspoon sambhar powder
Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
4 leftover idlis- chopped or broken with hand into bite-sized pieces
Small handful coriander leaves to garnish
Serves 1-2 people
Heat oil in a small frying pan or wok.
Add mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, add asafoetida, curry leaves, urad dal and dry whole red chilli.
Fry for couple of minutes, then add green chillies and onions, and cook till the onions begin to soften (we don’t need to brown them). This should take around five minutes.
Add tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes lose their tartness. If they seem too sour (from aroma and taste), add a pinch of stevia (or sugar).
Add the sambhar powder and red chilli powder (I skipped the latter because the green chillies in Myanmar are VERY HOT), along with salt.
Add capsicum and mix well. If you’d like to leave the capsicum crunchy, stir for just a couple of minutes. For softer texture, cook a bit longer.
Add the chopped idlis and mix till coated with the spices.
Switch off the flame, serve in a bowl or plate, and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.