Idli or steamed lentil-rice cake needs no introduction to any Indian. This healthy, protein-rich breakfast is a staple in South India. It’s on the top of my list as a family-favourite. This fermented food is made with the split black gram or urad dal and idli rava (or rice rava). Idli rava is basically coarsely ground boiled rice (also called cream of rice) and not the regular rava that is made with semolina (or wheat).
As a child, I have seen my mother grind the dal for idli batter using a stone, which was later replaced by a wet-grinder. The wet-grinder too has a stone which fluffs up the dal beautifully. Since I don’t have access to it, I fluff the batter up with my hands.
Getting the batter right is the most important part of getting super-soft idlis. Do read the notes below and follow this step-by-step recipe to make soft and fluffy idlis.
Points to remember:
- Wash the urad dal before soaking. Don’t wash it after soaking. Use the soaked water for grinding it. Dal contributes more during fermentation than rice and so using the dal-soaked water for grinding will help in fermentation
- The idli batter is thicker in consistency when compared to dosa batter. So while grinding the dal, use less water
- Squeeze out as much water as possible from the idli rava
- The consistency of the batter is very important for the idlis to rise and become fluffy. Watery or runny batter will result in flat idlis
- The temperature and time for fermentation are very important. Make sure you grind the dal at late evening so that you can set it for fermentation overnight
- Place the batter in a warm place for fermentation
- The batter needs to sit in a dark place, away from sunlight for fermentation
- The idli batter stays fresh for 2-3 days when stored in the refrigerator. Make sure you don’t add salt to the entire batter once it is fermented. Scoop out the batter that you will be using immediately and then add salt
Split black gram (urad dal) – 1 cup
Idli rava (cream of rice) – 2 cups
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tsp
- Wash the urad dal in running water. Soak it in sufficient water for 4-5 hours
- Soak idli rava in water for 30-45 minutes
- Once the urad dal is soaked, grind it into a very smooth batter by adding little water
- Transfer into a large bowl. Fluff the batter using your hand to incorporate some air
- Squeeze out the water from idli rave and add it to the urad dal batter
- Mix it well making sure that the dal and idli rava are completely incorporated. Use your hands to mix the batter
- Cover it and set aside overnight (8 to 10 hours) in a warm place to allow the batter to ferment
- The batter will ferment by next morning and air pockets will be visible on it
- Scoop out the batter that you will be using immediately and add salt to it (the remaining batter can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Make sure you add salt just before making the idlis).
- Lightly grease the mould on idli plates
- Spoon in batter about ¾ of the mould
- Steam for 12 minutes
- Serve hot