Idli with Coconut Dhal & Spicy Tomato Chutney

ATW with Manu - Idli

Idli with Coconut Dhal & Spicy Tomato Chutney

In episode 3 of “Around the World with Manu” I visited the home of a beautiful family who offered to teach me how to make idli — one of the most famous breakfast dishes in Mumbai.

The steamed idli buns, made from fermented rice batter, are served with a coconut green chilli dhal and a spicy tomato sauce for a filling start to the day. You can find idli batter mix at most Indian grocery stores.

Serves 4 – 6


  • 250 g instant Idli mix
  • 250 ml water

For the coconut dhal

  • ½ a fresh coconut
  • 2 long green chilies, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, skin on
  • 1 small handful of fresh curry leaves, plus 10 – 12 extra leaves
  • 1/3 cup yellow lentils
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds

For the spicy tomato chutney

  • 2 – 3 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 10 – 12 curry leaves
  • 4 dried red chilies
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small handful parsley leaves
  • 2 truss tomatoes, roughly chopped


If you don’t have an idli steamer you can spoon a bit of batter into the holes of an oiled muffin tin and steam the idli in a large, covered, roasting pan.


  1. For coconut dhal, release coconut flesh from the shell then shave and soak in water for 2 – 3 hours to soften. Drain shaved coconut, reserving water, and place coconut in a high-speed blender. Add the green chilli, garlic, small handful of curry leaves, lentils and salt to the coconut and blend until smooth, adding a bit of the reserved coconut soaking water to make a thin dhal.
  2. Heat ghee in a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and extra curry leaves and cook for a minute or two until the seeds begin to pop. Remove pan from heat, allow to cool then stir mixture through the coconut dhal, adding more water to thin further if desired.
  3. For the red tomato chutney, heat ghee or coconut oil in a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients (curry leaves through tomatoes) and cook for 5 – 7 minutes, until onions are translucent and tomatoes have started to break down. Allow to cool slightly then transfer to a high-speed blender and puree to a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. For idli, prepare mixture according to packet instructions. Spoon into greased moulds of an idli steamer and steam for 8 – 10 minutes.
  5. Serve idli with a generous dollop of coconut dhal and a little bit of the fiery tomato chutney. Extra coconut dhal and chutney can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

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