warning – this post has a lot of pics and text… so take your time to read the post and enjoy the pics
after a lot of requests, i am finally writing a detailed post on how to make soft and fluffy idlis at home…. i don’t know what took me so long to write a post on idli…. it is something i make home regularly. idlis…. one food that i grew up having…. idli was a regular breakfast at our home. come sunday, and there would be idlis & dosas for breakfast as well as lunch.
i would see the way my mom would soak the rice, dal and then grind it and then leave it to ferment. this was a regular saturday ritual in my house and i knew that on sunday we would get steaming hot idlis with chutney for breakfast. for lunch it would be dosa with sambar and a veggie.
i never knew that when i would start making idlis, i would run into problem the very first time i make these. i had seen countless times idli preparation in my home. i was least expecting, that the idlis i made for the first time for my mom-in-law would become an embarrassment for me. i was working hard to make the idlis soft
the idlis were not soft and fluffy at all. i had done everything so perfectly and yet the idlis became a little hard. i know the aroma of the batter when they are being ground and mixed… i know the slightly sour aroma of the fermented batter.
when i had seen this batter, i knew that the batter had not fermented well in the cold winters of delhi. still i made idlis from the batter… and all of us had not so soft idlis…. much to my agony and embarassment….. but now i am good in making idlis. the hubby just loves the idlis i make at home.
having a food science background i also know how fermentation is important to get the best results in certain food products like wines, cheese, yogurt, breads etc. idlis and dosas also fall in the fermented food category.
what contributes to fermentation in the optimum temperature conducive for that specific food to get fermented and to give desired results. in the case of idli batter, the temperature is very important. generally the warmer indian temperatures are the best for making idlis. the ideal temperature is between 30- 32 º C.
the wild air borne yeast causes the fermentation process and it is drawn from air by the urad dal & fenugreek seeds. at home we would never add fenugreek seeds. idlis were just made with rice and urad dal. still they would be soft and fluffy.
when i make idlis, i do add fenugreek seeds, as i add split urad dal and not whole urad dal. the wild yeast on the whole urad dal aids in the fermentation process. a point to note is that it is not only yeast, but some anaerobic bacteria also that also help in the fermentation process.
so remember temperature and wild yeast are your best friends while making idli. this is also the case with breads…. temperature and baker’s yeast are my best friends when i make breads. luckily i have not had a single disaster when making breads at home.
now we come to the type of rice that is used for idli. from my personal experience i have used basmati rice, sona masoori rice, kolam rice for making idlis and never had any problem. i also make idlis using half-half of basmati rice and parboiled rice. they have also come out well.
when i was working for a project one & a half year ago, we had a cook who would make very soft idlis. i asked her once how her idlis were so soft. she told me that she adds some poha/flattened rice or cooked rice to the idlis… just a handful and these would make the idlis soft.
my mother would never add poha or cooked rice to the idlis and her idlis also used to be soft. but my mom would put damp muslin cloth on the idli mould and then steam the idlis. as a result the softness of the idlis would be more pronounced.
the recipe posted here is what i follow now after listening to our cook’s advice. for this recipe i have used basmati rice and goan red parboiled rice…. i do not get idli rice here. so i make idlis with the goan red parboiled rice along with regular rice.
this is my standard recipe for making both idlis and dosa now….i have also added methi seeds along with urad dal and some poha. the proportion of rice and urad dal is always a matter of controversy. so i suggest experiment with different types of rice and come to your own standard measurements which will give you perfect idlis.
the day the batter was fermented i made idlis. i served the idlis with mom’s recipe of kerala sambar and coconut chutney. the next day i made masala dosa with the same idli batter. the dosas became crisp and got a nice golden color due to the addition of poha. don’t believe me. take a look at the pic below.
this is a step by step pictorial for making soft idlis at home:
1: pick and rinse the urad dal & rice. soak the urad dal with fenugreek seeds in a separate bowl or pan. soak the rice with the poha separately. soak for atleast 4-5 hours.
2: drain the urad dal, but don’t throw away the water. reserve the water.
3: in a wet grinder, add the urad dal.
4: add 1 or 2 tbsp of the reserved water and grind the urad dal. keep on adding a few tbsps of water in between grinding. the batter should be light and fluffy when completely ground.
5: pour the urad dal batter in a deep pan or bowl.
6: drain the rice & poha. this pic is before i drained the rice and poha.
7: add them in the wet grinder.
8: use the urad dal strained water to grind the rice and poha too. keep on adding a few tbsp while grinding. the rice should be completely ground. when you feel the batter with your finger tips, the batter should not feel grainy. it should be smooth and paste like. don’ t add too much water in the beginning. keep on adding little water in between. remember that batter should not be thick or thin. i hope all the pics give you an idea about the consistency of the batter.
9: now add the rice batter to the urad dal batter and mix well.
10: add salt and mix it with the rest of the batter.
11: mix the batter well. cover the bowl or container with a lid and keep the batter in a warm place. it should be left undisturbed for 8- 9 hours. don’t use an air-tight lid.
12: next morning you will see this. the batter will rise and double up and might even throw away the lid as it happened with this idli batter. you can see the fermented batter bursting from the edges. my calculations of the batter versus the pan went wrong
13: time for making idlis now take your idli steamer or pressure cooker. add some water and keep it on the stove with the fire on. grease the idli mould with oil. gently and lightly swirl the batter. don’t over do. now with a spoon pour portions of the batter in the greased idli moulds.
14: keep the idli mould in the steamer or pressure cooker. if using a pressure cooker, then cover the pressure cooker with its lid. remove the vent weight/whistle from the lid. steam the idlis for approx 10-12 minutes.
15: check for doneness by inserting a tooth pick. if it does not come out clean, then keep again for a few more minutes. when done remove the idli mould from the cooker. remove the idlis. they come out easily. don’t overcook as then they become dry.
the printable version of soft idli recipe is below:
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 cup parboiled rice
- ½ cup urad dal, skinned whole or spilt/skinned or whole black lentils
- ¼ cup poha/flattened rice
- ¼ tsp methi seeds/fenugreek seeds
- water as required
- oil to apply to the idli moulds
- pick and wash both the rice and urad dal.
- soak the rice and poha in water for 4-5 hours.
- soak the urad dal with methi seeds separately for 4-5 hours.
- drain the soaked urad dal. reserve the water.
- grind the urad dal, methi seed with some of the reserved water till you get a smooth and fluffy batter.
- grind the rice to make a smooth batter.
- mix both the batters together in a large bowl or pan. add salt and mix well.
- cover and let the batter ferment for 8-9 hours.
- after the fermentation process is over, the batter will become double in size and rise.
- gently mix the batter.
- grease the idli moulds.
- pour the batter in the moulds steam the idlis in a pressure cooker or steamer.
- if using pressure cooker remove the vent weight.whistle.
- steam for 10-12 mins or until the idlis are done.
- remaining batter can be stored in the refrigerator.
- serve the steaming hot idlis with coconut chutney and sambar.