Southern Indians have brought the popular idli wherever they have settled throughout the world. Cooks have had to solve problems of hard-to-get ingredients, and climates that do not encourage overnight fermentation. One cook noted that idli batter, foaming within a few hours in India, might take several days to rise in Britain. The traditional heavy stones used to wet-grind the rice and dal are not easily transported. Access to Indian ingredients before the advent of Internet mail order could be virtually impossible in many places. Chlorinated water and iodized salt interfere with fermentation.
Newer "quick" recipes for the idli can be rice- or wheat-based (rava idli). Parboiled rice, such as Uncle Ben's can reduce the soaking time considerably. Store-bought ground rice is available, or Cream of Rice may be used. Similarly, semolina or Cream of Wheat may be used for rava idli. Yoghurt may be added to provide the sour flavor for unfermented batters. Prepackaged mixes allow for almost instant idlis, for the truly desperate. However, the additional health benefits of fermentation process will be lacking. Idli Burger is another variation that can be made easily.
Besides the microwave steamer, electric idli steamers are available, with automatic steam release and shut-off for perfect cooking. Both types are non-stick, so a fat-free idli is possible. Table-mounted electric Wet grinders may take the place of floor-bound attu kal. With these appliances, even the classic idlis can be made more easily.
The plain rice/black lentil idli continues to be the popular version, but it may also incorporate a variety of extra ingredients, savory or sweet. Mustard seeds, fresh chile peppers, black pepper, cumin, coriander seed and its fresh leaf form (cilantro), fenugreek seeds, curry leaves , fresh ginger root, sesame seeds, nuts, garlic, scallions, coconut, and the unrefined sugar jaggery are all possibilities. Filled idlis contain small amounts of chutneys, sambars, or sauces placed inside before steaming. Idlis are sometimes steamed in a wrapping of leaves such as banana leaves or jackfruit leaves.
A variety of idlis are experimented these days, namely, standard idli, mini idlis soaked in sambar, rava idli, Kancheepuram idli, stuffed idli with a filling of potato, beans, carrot and masala, ragi idli, pudi idli with the sprinkling of chutney pudi that covers the bite-sized pieces of idlis, malli idli shallow-fried with coriander and curry leaves, and curd idli dipped in masala curds.
Ramasseri Idli : Ramasseri, an offbeat village in Palakkad is known all over Kerala for the idlies it make - the delicious Ramasseri Idli. Spongy and soft Ramasseri Idli is slightly different in shape from the conventional idlies. It is a little flat and round. Ramasseri Idli is eaten with Podi mixed in coconut oil. The beginning was from a Muthaliyar family living near Mannath Bhagavathi Temple in Ramasseri near Elappullly.The recipe of Ramasseri idli dates back to about one century,which again is a trade secret. The Muthaliyar family was migrated to Palakkad from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. The new generation in the profession says that the secret of the recipe and taste were handed down to them from grand old women of the community. Now the idli business is confined to four families in Ramasseri. Selection of rice is very important in making Ramasseri idli. Usually the verities used are Kazhama, Thavalakannan, Ponni etc. The taste starts from the boiling of paddy itself. Drying and dehusking are also important. It is done in a particular way. The combination of rice and black gram is also equally important. For 10 kg of rice, one kg of black gram is used. Idli is made only after four hours of fermentation. Boiling of the idli is done on a cloth covered on the mud pot using firewood. This provides special taste to the preparation.
Leftover Idli can be torn into crumbs and used for preparing dishes such as Idli fry and Idli Upma.