Krishna Prasad in Outlook.
Choosing people who bore the pants off you can be a safe exercise in these anarchic times; it’s picking a dish you want to run away from that can result in the knives coming out. As far as your correspondent is concerned, it’s a no-contest: the rice idli. Whether you eat a three-rupees-a-piece off a plantain leaf on the roadside or a 500-rupees-a-plate at a five-star, the anodyne blob remains the most overrated South Indian item adorning our tables: colourless, odourless, tasteless—and utterly characterless.
Unlike its peers, the idli is nothing on its own. It is inedible without the chutney or gunpowder, just about manageable with the sambar, and only a dollop of ghee and a piece of vada give it some respectability. But, shining in the reflected glory of its accoutrements, the reputation of the sad little thing has assumed mythical proportions, because it is fair and good-looking, has carbs and proteins—and has bite-me written all over it. What Carnatic music is to the devout, the idli has become to dieters: an orb of blind, unquestioning reverence.
From Bidadi to Kanchipuram, enough worthy souls have tried to salvage the poor thing. They have seasoned it, they have stuffed it, they have changed its size, but all in vain. At the Bangalore Club, a neurologist once painfully explained why we tend to fall asleep 20 minutes after we eat idlis. Apparently, it releases some chemicals, which even caffeine fails to negate. In other words, a sleep-inducing bore.
How about the rava idli? Now, there’s a hero, an idli that’s rescued an idli.