Welcome to this Idli special. I am sure most of you will agree that 'Idli' ( fermented Indian Rice cakes) is one of the most healthy and preferred breakfast dishes in India. It is also a preferred all day tiffin for many a person going out to eat at "South Indian Restaurants". It is also considered an healthy option, being gut friendly, and is recommended for even people with digestive disorders.
A quick look at how it has always been traditionally made and eaten:
Par boiled rice and husked black gram are ground separately and then mixed well. They are then allowed to naturally ferment preferably overnight. The batter thus fermented is then spooned into the moist cloth placed on the perforated Idli plates . They are steamed till done. Soft and spongy idlis are dunked in sambar or chutney and enjoyed by all.
The spicy Milagai podi twist:
Not every time is Idli eaten with Sambar and Chutney. Many a times, Idlis with Milagai podi and sesame oil is the staple in any South Indian home accompanied by Curd or Butter Milk. The Idli Chutney powder or the milagai podi made by roasting dals, seeds, dry Red Chillies and then powdered to a coarse consistency is compulsory accompaniment to the Idlis. You can check out two recipes of the Milagai Podi in my blog. Idli Milagai Podi Recipe 1 , Idli Milagai podi recipe 2.
Idli is versatile:
Though Idli is associated with breakfast, I make it for dinner also. Having a home made batter in refrigerator is so handy. You can make so many different dishes with Idli like the Idli Manchurian, Idli Pops/Cocktail idli, Idli muffins etc.,
If you are travelling to Tamilnadu, do not miss Idli- Vadai- Sambar- Chutney combination for breakfast. I also served the Idli Vadai combination with Rava Kesari. Yummy !
The Art and Science of making that soft and snow-white Idli:
Generally, many of us prepare one batter that works for Idli and Dosa and I have earlier shared that recipe with you. Click here to get that recipe. But, if you want really soft idlis with the authentic taste, then you can go for this Idli recipe that is made with parboiled rice/idli rice.
As far as grinding the Idli batter, it is no Rocket science. But, if you want soft and snow white Idlis then, you have to take little care and follow some steps and tips. I am trying to cover some major points in this recipe post. Having said that, every day is a learning for me and I will be updating new tips and tricks that I experiment and try out while grinding batter or some tips that I get from my friends and family.
Special thanks :
Mrs. Prema Pattabiraman
Mrs. Prabha Ramarathinam
Idli Recipe | Traditional Idli Recipe :
Preparation time :12-14 hours
Cooking time : 10 minutes
Serves : 10
1 cup = 250 ml Cup
Special Vessel/Equipment : Stone grinder or mixer, Idli plates, Idli Steamer or Pressure cooker ( do not use the whistle), thin and clean kitchen towel
4 cups par boiled rice / Idli rice
3/4 cup husked black gram/urad dal ( I used the split urad dal)
water ( adjust)
salt ( to taste, I use rock salt)
To grind the idli batter:
1. Wash the rice and soak in water ( approximately 6-7 glasses) for 3-4 hours.
2. Wash the urad dal and soak in a separate vessel ( approximately 2 -3 glasses of water) for 2-3 hours.
Chef Tips : Many add 4:1 proportion of idli rice : urad dal. But this will completely depend upon the quality of urad dal that is available in your country/area/city. For me, 3/4 cup works like a charm. You can decide the exact quantity of dal after you try for a couple of times.
3. Drain the excess water in another bowl and grind the urad dal in a stone grinder
( preferable) for 40-45 minutes or until the time the batter turns white , fluffy and light.
Chef Tips : Add water little by little from the drained water . Add more water if required.
To check whether the batter is done, you can drop a small drop of batter on a cup of water. It will float and will not mix with the water.
4. Once you have checked , remove/collect the ground urad batter from the grinder.
5. Drain the excess water from the soaked rice and add it to the grinder and grind the rice to a smooth consistency. This will take approximately 30-40 minutes.
Chef Tips :
a. Run the grinder and add rice little at a time so that it spreads and starts grinding uniformly.
b. Add the drained water first, little a time.If you add all the water in one go, the rice will not grind uniformly . It will also take more time to grind.
c. If the stome grinder starts making noise, it indicates that you need to add more water.
d. You can use a long spatula to remove the residue of rice sticking to the sides of the grinder while grinding.
e. Do not put your hand inside to check whether it is done when the grinder is switched on.
f. Instead, you can use a spatula to remove a small portion of the batter.
g. Do not add too much water as the Idli batter consistency should be thick and in pouring consistency.
h. Do not leave the grinder unattended for a long time.
6. Once the rice is ground, remove and add the rice batter to the urad dal batter, add salt and mix well using your hands ( traditional method) or spatula.
7. Beat the batter to make it more airy and allow the batter to rest/ ferment in a warm place
( covered) for at least 6 -8 hours.
8. During winter months you can keep the batter ( covered) on top of your refrigerator or heat up the oven for 5-7 minutes, switch off and place some newspapers inside the oven , place the idli batter inside and keep the door of the oven lightly open .This helps the batter in fermenting.
Chef Tips :
1. Use a deep vessel to ferment the batter as it will rise up and almost double in volume .
2. The amount the batter rises up will depend upon the temperature in which the batter ferments and the quality of urad dal.
3. If you are grinding the dal in mixer, then you have to manually beat the batter to make it more airy.
4. You can add 1/4 teaspoon of methi seeds to the urad batter while soaking, especially if you are grinding the batter in a mixie/mixer.
How to cook the idli :
Important Notes : You will find the batter fermented well. Do not stir the batter too much. Just gently stir once and spoon the batter into the plates. Freshly fermented batter gives the best texture to idlis rather than the refrigerated batter. When you are using the refrigerated batter, keep the batter outside to thaw for at least 30 minutes.
Traditional method :
1. Heat an idli steamer with water.
2. Place a moist and clean cloth on top of the perforated idli plates.
3. Spoon batter into the depression of the idli plates.
4. Steam the idlis on medium heat for 7-10 minutes only.
5. To check whether they are done, insert a wet fork/spoon/thin stem of curry leaf plant into the centre of the idlis and if it comes out clean, then they are cooked.
6. Remove the idli plate from the steamer and invert it into a clean plate/work table .
7. Sprinkle cold water behind the cloth and gently remove the idlis.
Modern method :
1. Grease the idli plates ( without perforation) with sesame oil.
2. Spoon the batter into the depression of the plates.
3. Steam cook till done ( steps same as traditional method to check whether done).
4. Switch off and remove the plates from the steamer.
5. Wait for it to cool for at least 5-7 minutes or if you are in a hurry, then show the back of the idli plate in running water ( without getting the idlis wet) and then using a spoon , run it on the side of the idli plate to remove them.
Your steaming hot, white, fluffy, spongy, super soft idlis are ready to be served with chutney, Kara chutney, Hotel sambar and milagai podi.
I think I have covered most of the important pointers that are essential to make soft idlis. Do try and let me know your feedback.
Happy Cooking !