What is Idli?
Idli is a steamed salted cake made from a fermented batter. This batter is made from rice and Urad dal (black gram) lentil. Idli has a distinct taste and somewhat sour (think of the taste similar to sourdough bread). It is a traditional South Indian breakfast that is made in every household. Idli is not only famous in India but also internationally.
Idli is naturally vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, making it one of the healthiest breakfast options.
To prepare the Idli recipe, we need to prepare the batter first.
Idli Batter Recipe:
There are two ways to prepare Idli Batter
1. The first method uses Idli Rava. This Idli Rava is not wheat Rava (Semolina); instead, it is made up of a particular type of boiled rice and is used to prepare Idli. This method is popular in South Indian states, where Idli Rava is readily available. Making Idli utilising this method is very quick as there is no need to grind rice.
2. The second method is the standard method in which Idli rice or boiled rice is in use. Traditionally in India, rice named- Doppi rice is used to prepare the batter. Doppi rice is a special kind of fat, short-grained, parboiled rice. However, I have also successfully used most types of parboiled rice, including Sona Mussoorie, Ponni or Parmal Rice.
Idli Batter with Rice:
The traditional idli batter is with idli rice and urad dal.
Idli rice (Doppi rice) is parboiled rice specifically in use to make Idli or dosa batter. Most other types of parboiled rice, including Sona Mussoorie, Ponni or Parmal Rice, also give a similar result. I prefer using Parmal rice when I can not get Doppi rice in the store.
Urad dal or black gram is the lentil used to prepare traditional Idli Batter. The age of Urad dal plays a vital role in the quality of Idli batter. Urad dal from the current year’s harvest is best to prepare soft Idli. You can quickly identify the age of Urad dal from its colour. The younger dehusked urad dals are white, and with age, they turn into pale yellow shades. The whiter, the better. You can also check the age of Urad dal if you are buying it from the superstore. If you cant get the current year’s harvest, you can use fenugreek seed for better fermentation.
New dal results in good fermentation without the use of fenugreek seed. It gives you super soft idly, provided you also take care of 2 other factors.
1. Temperature to ferment batter is very important.
It is prefered to keep the batter in a warm place. If you live in cold countries, use a preheated oven for fermenting it. Or turn on the light in the Oven and put it inside. In India, I keep it inside Almirah during winter to ferment.
2. While adding salt, I always use Non-iodized Salt.
Iodized Salt reduces the fermentation process. If you can not get Non-iodized salt, you can increase the time of fermentation.
Finally, the consistency of the batter is crucial.
If you make it runny or thin, it will not rise and will result in flat idly. A too-thick batter will reduce the fermentation process since organisms need enough moisture for a healthy cultivation. Also, the thick batter will make the Idli hard and rubbery. So for soft Idli, the batter must be dense and of pouring consistency.
How to Prepare Soft Idli
1. Soak the lentils for 6 hours after washing them. Soak fenugreek seeds with lentils if using. Separately, wash and soak the rice or Rava. If you’re using Rava, squeeze it well, then rinse to eliminate any unwanted particles. If you’re using Poha, soak it for 30 minutes before you start mixing.
Making the batter
2. After 6 hours, drain the lentils and place them in a blender with salt. If you live in a warm climate, stop adding salt and wait until fermentation is complete before making idli. Blend in 3/4 cup cold water until smooth. Using cold water keeps the blender or grinder from overheating. If the batter becomes too hot, the idli will harden.
3. If needed, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water and blend until a foamy, thick, smooth solution forms. Don’t overdo it with the driving.
4. Place this batter in a large pot or bowl.
5. If you’re using rice, see Method 2 for detailed step-by-step photos. There is also a brief description here. Blend the rice with the water in a blender until it is coarsely ground. Pour it into the batter and thoroughly combine. Step 6 should be followed.
If using idli Rava, press the Rava between your palms and squeeze out the excess water. Place it on a plate. Remove any excess water by re-squeezing.
6. Then, add it to the batter. You can also blend it well if you do not like the slightly thick texture of Rava. Then add the urad solution.
Fermenting Idli Batter
7. Using your hands, thoroughly combine all of the ingredients. Set it aside in a warm place to ferment for 6 to 12 hours, depending on the climate. This can take up to 18 to 20 hours at times. For fermentation, do not use airtight jars or containers.
If you live in a cold country, you can put it on the oven light bulb. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 180°F/60°C for 10 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before adding the batter.
Alternatively, if you have an instant pot or microwave (with a yoghurt function), set it to the curd setting (low) for 8 to 12 hours or until the batter has doubled. You must experiment to determine the exact fermentation time.
8. The solution must be doubled, light, puffed, and fluffy after fermentation. Because of the windy and cold weather, I had to ferment it for about 18 hours when I made it.
9. Gently mix them with hands to make the solution even. Due to aeration in the batter, idli may rise and fall after taking steam. As a result, it is best to give the mixture a light stir once. This will also make the batter even consistent. I prefer to move slowly, only once or twice. When we do this, it has the potential to shrink.
10. Bring the water in a steamer or pressure cooker to a boil over medium-high heat – grease the idli plates. If necessary, add some water. The solution should be consistent. Place it in the molds.
11. When the water begins to boil rapidly, place the idli stand in the steamer. It should be steamed for 10 minutes. Remember that it must be a little difficult to adjust the heat. If the heat is extremely high, the water may bounce into the idli plate. They may not be sufficiently steamed if the temperature is too low. As a result, the heat should be set to medium-high. After 10 minutes, remove from the heat. Allow it to sit for 2 minutes. Allow the plates to cool for 2 to 3 minutes after removing them from the steamer.
12. Using a spoon, remove the idli from the plate and place it on a plate. Serve with coriander coconut chutney or peanut chutney and ghee. A collection of 33 South Indian style chutney recipes is also available.
What to serve with idli?
Idli is typically served with a variety of chutneys and sambars. Here are a few examples of popular chutneys.
We eat idli for breakfast, lunch, and dinner most of the time. Then I make some sambar with mini idli for my kids. Here are some sambar options for you to consider.
Idli sambar or tiffin sambar
Method 2 – Using Rice
To make a batter with 1.5 cups of urad dal and 1 cup rice with 2 tablespoons of Poha.
1. Add the soaked dal, salt, and Poha as needed, then add water until thick and foamy.
2. Grind the rice until it is smooth or coarse to your liking. As needed, add water. The batter should be neither too thick nor too thin.
3. After that, transfer to a pot. Set aside until the mixture has fermented. The time it takes is determined by the weather. I doubled the first recipe and made it. As a result, I had to divide the Idli batter into two bowls.
4. The slurry had fermented, doubled in volume, and had a bubbly texture after 14 hours. Only give it a light stir twice.
5. I then smoothed the plates and placed them in pots. They were steamed for 6 to 4 minutes in a bubbling steamer. Because I only steamed the mini idlis for 6 to 7 minutes, they should have been steamed for 10 minutes. Mini Idli goes well with sambar.
For Soaking Rice
- 2 cup Idli rice (इडली वाला या कोई भी मोटा चावल)
- 1/4 cup flattened rice (पोहा या चिवड़ा)
- 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (मेथी दाना)
- 3 cups of water (पानी)
For Soaking Urad dal
- 1 cup husked Urad dal (धुली उड़द दाल)
- 1.5 cup water (पानी)
For Preparing Batter
- 1/2 cup water (पानी) for grinding urad dal or add as required
- 3/4 cup water (पानी) for grinding rice or add as required
- 1 teaspoon rock salt (सेंधा नमक)
For Cooking Idli
- 2 teaspoon oil (तेल) to apply in idli stand
- 2.5 cups water (पानी) for steaming idli
- Wash urad dal and rice with clean water and soak them in water for 4 hours or overnight.
- If you are adding beaten rice (Poha), then wash it and soak it too.
- Remove excess water from the lentils and rice, use less water, grind the lentils finely, grind the rice a little thicker, and add the beaten rice (Poha) to it while scraping.
- Mix the ground rice and lentils well, add salt as per taste, mix and prepare a thick solution. It should be so thick that if dropped with a spoon, it should not fall easily.
- To ferment the mixture, cover it and keep it in a warm place for 12–14 hours. The fermented mixture is doubled beforehand.
- The mixture is ready to make Idli. Stir the mixture with a spoon, and if it feels too thick, you can add a little water.
- Put two small glasses of water (about 500 ml water) in the pressure cooker and keep it on the gas for heating.
- Apply some oil on the surface of the idli stand. Add an equal amount of mixture to the idli stand mines. Fill all the mines and put the Idli stand in the cooker to cook Idli.
- Close the lid of the cooker, but do not add weight to the top.
- Allow the Idli to cook for 10-12 minutes on high heat.
- After 10-12 minutes, turn off the gas, the Idli is cooked.
- Open the pressure cooker, take out the idli stand, cool. Now take out the idlis with the help of a knife and transfer them to a plate.
- Hot Idlis are ready to be served. Serve and eat hot Idli with hot sambar and coconut chutney.