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Idiayppam is a food item common in Sri Lankan cuisine, and popular in many areas in southern India, including Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is served as a series of noodle-like clusters that are pressed from a ball of dough and steamed. The dough noodles are thin and usually twirled into balls or swirls when they are formed for cooking. These white, noodly clusters are often served on a large platter alongside an array of flavorful side dishes like spiced lentils and curried meats. Idiyappam noodles are also sometimes called string hoppers.
Idiayappam clusters are generally hand formed and hand pressed, starting with dough from scratch. The dough used to form idiyappam is made of salt water, ghee and wheat or rice flour. Formed, balled dough is pressed into thin bunches of noodles using a tool called an idiyappam presser. The pressed noodle bunches are then steamed, often in banana leaves, and served with a spicy side dish.
Ghee is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. Also known as clarified butter, ghee is butter that has been treated to remove milk solids. It is usually made from cow's milk, and has a translucent, yellowish appearance. Some types of ghee are sacred and are used in religious rituals. In Sri Lanka, idiyappam is made without ghee.
Since it is prepared without much spice, if any, idiyappam has a fairly neutral flavor, making it a good match for many Indian side dishes. This means idiyappam is often used as a base to serve as a canvas for other flavorful side dishes, much in the way that rice might be eaten with spicy side dishes. It is also eaten plain or with a pinch of finely grated coconut.
Though many Indians are vegetarians, it is easy to find non-vegetarian food in some parts of the country. The southern part of India has many non-Hindu residents, increasing the possibility of finding non-vegetarian food in this southern region of India as opposed to other regions. A wide variety of side-dish curries are popular in this area, including vegetarian, seafood, and meat dishes. Southern India also boasts a plethora of coconuts, making coconut in its many forms a common ingredient in the food in this area.