Idiyappam is a South Indian and Sri Lankan dish made from rice flour and water, which is then combined, pressed through a sieve, and steamed to make rice noodles. It is popular in states of South India, especially Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
Since it became popular in these states it was inevitable that it would spread to Sri Lanka. It has even spread as far as Malaysia and Singapore, countries that both have a high population of Indian people. It is most often served as the main course of breakfast or dinner.
While popularly known as idiyappam or string hoppers in English, this dish has many names depending on the region it is made and the language spoken. Despite these differences, the recipe itself remains largely the same across all cultures. It consists of four simple ingredients: rice flour, water, oil and salt.
When made in the traditional way, the rice flour is produced by washing raw rice and fan-drying it, where it is then taken to a mill and crushed to a fine powder. However, with today’s modern convenience, buying quality rice flour from a store works fine. There are even some options for finely-ground idiyappam flour which can be used to make an “instant” version of the dish.
Idiyappam is simple and flexible, lending to its many uses in cuisines across South India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. Enjoyed as a breakfast dish, it is often served with coconut milk, grated coconut, and sometimes brown sugar. However, when served for dinner, it takes a more savory twist, being served alongside coconut chutney, rasam, kurma or any kind of curry.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Idiyappam, while enjoyed across the world now, is believed to have originated in the Tamil region around the 1st century AD. In the Tamil language, ‘idi’ means beat and ‘appam’ means pancake, referring to the disc-like shape that the noodles are woven into before being steamed.
Due to its simplicity, the dish has taken on new roles as it traveled from the Indian subcontinent. In the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia and Singapore, variations of idiyappam are often sold as street food, served and sold from market stalls or taken back to be cooked at home. The dish can be served either hot or cold.
- Rice or idiyappam flour - 2 cups
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Water - 3 cups (more or less, as needed)
- Oil - 1 tsp
- Add rice flour to a pan and heat on low. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes. Do not brown the flour.
- Once steam begins rising from the flour, take the rice flour off heat.
- For the dough, add roasted rice flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- On the stovetop, combine water and oil in a saucepan. Bring oil and water to a boil.
- Gradually add boiled water into the rice flour mixture. The boiled water should only have small bubbles– do not let it get to a rolling boil.
- As you incorporate the water into the dough, stir with a spoon.
Once all ingredients have been combined and the heat is tolerable, begin to knead. Knead until dough is smooth and soft. Note: the dough needs to be hot while you knead.
If the dough is too dry, add small amounts of water. If dough is too sticky, add small amounts of flour.
- Before you begin to form your noodles, prepare your steamer on the stove by bringing water to a boil and placing it in a steaming basket. Place oiled banana leaves or steaming sheets into the steamer.
- Grease your idiyappam mold and press your dough through the device.
- Place the formed noodles atop the banana leaves or steaming paper. Steam for 7-10 minutes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 328Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1203mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 2gSugar: 6gProtein: 7g