Idlis are often associated with Tamil cuisine even though Udupi, the symbolic home of idli is in Karnataka.
Karnataka has many unusual idlis and dosas (called Poley). One of them is Hittu, a fluffy idli batter that's poured into molds made from jackfruit leaves.
Jackfruit is very popular in India and while its fruit has many culinary uses its leave are used to prepare a special idli in Konkani and Kannada homes. Jackfruit leaves are called Khotto or Hittu in Konkani and Khotte Kadubu in Kannada.
In a sense this idli is a food shared by many communities. While it is associated with Karnataka, Marathi speaking families also prepare this delicacy. Turmeric and banana leaves are also used to prepare idlis like Taushe and Kadamb made from cucumber, Patholi, a thin steamed dosa and Erayde a sweet dish made for Nagapanchami.
In Orissa Haldi Patra Enduri is a variety of Idli made using turmeric leaves to celebrate the first born. In Mangalore a similar idli made with jackfruit leaves is called Gunda.
Hittu idlis are made in cups fashioned out jackfruit leaves pinned together using pins made from coconut shells, toothpicks and broomstick pins.
These idlis are served for various courses, breakfast, lunch and as a snack. They can be served with chutney and sambhar, with melted butter and ghee, warm coconut oil, rasam and with a ground spice mix or podi. Turmeric leaves have a strong aroma that is infused into the idli as it steams. Jackfruit leaves are far milder so the idlis can be additionally flavored with various spices.
Day old Hittu idlis are diced and tossed with whole tempered spices, crispy pan fried and sprinkled with powdered spices, while fresh idlis are turned into dessert by soaking them in a sweetened coconut milk.
Makes 12-13 Idlis
3/4 cup split black lentil (urad dal)
1.5 cups of rice semolina (Bombay rava, sooji, idli rava, rice rava)
Salt to taste
36 jackfruit leaves and 15-16 broomstick pins or small toothpicks
Soak urad dal for 40 minutes. Rinse and drain completely.
Grind them using as little water as possible into a smooth paste.
Transfer the ground batter into a larger mixing bowl- the batter will rise overnight so make sure you use a bowl that can accommodate 4-5 inches of fermentation. Stir in the semolina and mix well.
Add 1 cup of water and stir again.
Cover the bowl with a loose lid, set it in a dry but cool part of the kitchen and let it rise overnight on a cool day and 7-8 hours on a hot day.
Use 4 leaves for each jackfruit cup. Lay them together to form a square, layering one end over the other to form the base of the cup. Pin the base together using 2-3 pins. Then turn the other ends inwards and gather them together to forma . cup. Tie each leaf to the other using a small pin. Grease the cups lightly with ghee or unflavored vegetable oil.
Prepare your idli steamer.
Stir the batter again. Add a little more water if required. Your batter should be the consistency of a fluffy cake batter.
Place the jackfruit molds in the steamer and fill with batter leaving about 1/4 inch off the rim of the cups.
Cover the steamer, close and steam them for 20-30 minutes on a medium flame until the tops look set. Remove one and check for doneness.
Serve these idlis hot. You can peel the leaves off 2-3 minutes after they've been removed from the steamer and sprinkle with podi, ghee or serve them in their cups with a side of coconut chutney and rasam or sambhar.