Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Idli ( Steamed Rice-Lentil Cake)

Idlis are ubiquitous in South Indian homes, restaurants, cafes. There are even roadside vendors selling steaming hot idlis for pittance.  Idlis can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

There are several ways of making idlis. The Tamilians ( people from Tamilnadu) make it soft, light and fluffy. Their batter is ground lentil and rice with/without methi seeds and beaten rice/ poha in it. Then there are the idlis that Manglorean Catholics make called sannas which are idlis with bread like texture, puffiness & lightness. This batter is made with parboiled rice and toddy is used for fermentation. Then there are idlis in between with different textures.

My mother likes soft idlis , but I never liked the idlis she made. The idlis taste like a lump of steamed batter of urad dal for me. It is one of the very few things that she makes that I don't like :(

I like my idlis soft but not mushy. I like them to crumble nicely with some texture. Not a lump of steamed batter! The way I make my idlis is  easy with less work( grinding).

Here is my version of idli that my household absolutely loves!

Servings: 4


Urad dal: 1/2 cup
Idli rava ( rice rava): 1 cup
Water: 1 to 1 1/2 cups to grind urad dal
Salt to taste ( approximately 3/4 tsp)


Soak Urad dal for 5-6 hours.

Wash idli rava/ rice rava thoroughly and keep aside.

Blend urad dal in a blender adding water little at a time until it rises to 3 times the volume you started with. Make sure you give the motor of the blender some rest in between. The consistency of the ground urad dal should be fluffy  and light ,not runny.
Pour the blended urad dal in a big bowl/ container.

Now mix the washed idli rava with the  urad dal , cover and let it sit overnight to ferment. If living in cold region, you can keep it in the cold oven/ microwave overnight.

Next  morning add  salt to the batter and mix well.

Ensure that the batter has fermented well. You can know this when the batter has risen a little in the container. Inadequte fermentation leads to poor quality idlis.

If the batter is too thick, add a little water. The consistency of the batter should be slightly thick ( thicker than dosa batter).

Grease the idli mold with ghee/ butter, fill it with batter until 2/3 full and steam in the idli steamer / pressure cooker ( without using the weight) for 10 minutes on medium- high flame.Turn off the heat and let it cool down in the steamer for another 10 minutes before taking them out of the mold.

Serve hot with sambar/ chutney or both.

Cooking made easy:

The urad dal to rice ratio is 1:2 for raw rice rava and 1:2.5 for parboiled rice rava. This is the ratio that had worked for me .

The urad dal when ground in a stone grinder is fluffier and lighter. The fluffier the urad dal, the lighter the idli.

You know the idli is done( well cooked) by testing it with a toothpick. Insert a toothpick into the center of the idli. If it comes out clean, the idli is cooked well.

Once you remove the idlis, place them in a airtight container/ hot box as idlis left uncovered tend to develop a dry hard crust  on the top.

I generally make double the amount of batter than stated above as I make idli Upma or fried idlis the next day for breakfast or evening snack.

Tip for healthy living:

Idlis are inexpensive but a complete food with a perfect combination of carbohydrate and protein complementing each other. When served with chutney and sambar, it is a balanced meal providing you with all the essential dietary nutrients while being low in calories;unless of course one tops it with a dollop of butter or ghee(clarified butter).

Food for thought:

Speech is silver, but silence is Golden. ( unknown).