Idli, a steamed cake can be considered the heart and soul of any South Indian. Idli is one of the most popular breakfast item, not just in South India but in the rest of the country too. Did you know that idli is THE safest and healthiest breakfast that is? Idli batter is made of rice and urad dal (dehusked black lentils), which is then fermented overnight and steamed in the morning for breakfast. Rice is a rich source of carbs and the urad dal is rich in proteins. Not just that, idlis are steam cooked with zero oil. Together they make idli one of the greatest foods to break the fast. It is considered so safe that idli is one of the few meals that is certified to be given to babies who start solids too. Enough about the goodness of idlis, let me move on to making them great at home.
For someone who has never had/seen idlis, it might be hard to imagine this stuff. Don’t worry – just think of softest, fluffiest, lightest clouds being presented to you in a plate. That’s idli for you. Depending on how good the batter is made, idlis turn out super soft and airy light. But making such batter is no mean task, if you don’t know how. During the initial days of my marriage, my Amma gave me a set of measurements for making good idlis and then, my MIL also gave me a set of measurements – both totally different! No, it is not a joke. Probably every household in South India would have their own recipe for making idli, although the ingredients are the same. Over the years, I started coming up with my own and everytime the idlis turn out just perfect. Like my mom or MIL, I don’t have a lot of time so my recipe uses a quick shortcut, but guarantees softest idlis. The traditionalists might not agree with this method but all I care about is, it works perfectly for me.
The key to get the soft idlis is to use a wet grinder to make the batter. Again, every house in South India would have a wet grinder, just for making the idli-dosa batter. Of course, a mixer-grinder (mixie) can be used to make the batter but the result would not be the same. There is only one reason to it – the urad dal on grinding should double up in volume and that happens only with a wet grinder – which takes a longer time to grinder, thereby keeping the batter cool. In a mixie, the batter gets heated up quite fast and thus, urad dal doesn’t turn out quite airy. One trick that can be used is to not grind the batter all at once but in installments with ice cold water. This is a great workaround if you don’t have a wet grinder.
Fermenting the batter until it is double the initial quantity is yet another key step in getting soft fluffy idlis. I usually leave my batter in a warm place in my kitchen overnight and by morning, it would have doubled up. I then store it in the fridge for upto a week – quite handy for the busy mornings. With coconut chutney and sambar, this simple meal can be heavenly 🙂
To make Idli Recipe | Making Soft Idlis at Home
What I used –
- Idli Rice/Parboiled Rice, 3.5 cups
- Urad Dal, 1 cup
- Thick Poha/Flattened Rice, 1 cup
- Water, as needed
- Salt, as needed
Prep Work –
1. In a large pot, add idli rice and the urad dal. Wash 2-3 times thoroughly until the water is no longer turbid/starchy. Add thick poha and pour water to cover the ingredients. Soak the rice and dal for 6 hours at the least.
2. In a wet grinder, add the soaked rice and dal and grind into a smooth batter. Use the water used to soak the rice and dal. Unless required, don’t add extra water. The batter should be thick. If using a mixie/mixer grinder, grind the batter in batches with ice cold water. It is important to not let the batter heat up by running the mixer continuously.
3. Remove the batter onto a large container and add salt required (I usually add a tsp of fine salt). Using your hand, mix the batter well. Keep it in a warm place for another 8 hours/leave it overnight untouched. The batter should be doubled up in quantity. Beat it down and store it in the fridge until required. The batter should be not too thick and also not too runny.
How I made –
1. Add 2 cups of water in the idli steamer/cooker pot (I use an old school Hindalium Idli steamer) and let it come to a boil on high flame.
2. Take fermented idli batter and if required, add some water. The batter should be thick and pourable but not too runny. Fill the idli mould with the prepared idli batter and set the idli plates on the steamer.
3. Steam the idlis for 10-12 minutes on medium flame. When the idli steamer opened, idlis should have risen up and look cooked. Switch off the heat and let the idlis stay in the steamer for another 5-mins. Remove the idli plates and sprinkle some cold water all over the idlis. Wait for another 5 mins and gently remove the idlis from the mould.
- For best results, good quality idli rice has to be used. If idli rice is not available, any variant of parboiled rice can be used.
- The quality of urad dal is very important to get soft idlis. If the urad dal is not good, it doesn’t yield as much batter and the idlis can be hard.
- The traditional method of making the idli batter is to soak the rice and urad dal separately. First urad dal is ground until airy, frothy and double in volume. Next the rice is ground until smooth. Add salt and mix both these batters using hand. My method is not traditional but saves a lot of time.
- If you don’t have a wet grinder, use the mixie/mixer-grinder but don’t grind all the batter at once, continuously. This heats up the batter and the idlis don’t turn out good. Use ice cold water to sprinkle whenever required and grind batter in installments.
- Adding thick flattened rice gives softness to the idlis and is not to be skipped especially since we are grinding the rice and dal together.
- Mixing the batter with bare hand helps in fermentation. The perfect fermentation also depends on the climate and the temperature. Put the batter in a warm place for atleast 8 hrs.
- While the batter is set up for fermentation, use a large air tight container as the batter rises up and doubles in volume. If the batter in the container is more than half full, be ready to be welcome with overflown batter 🙂
- Traditionally, my mom uses rock salt but I go with fine salt.
- The consistency of the batter is important in getting the idli right. It should be neither too thick nor runny.
- The same batter can be used to make dosa as well, but my dosa batter recipe is slightly different.