Daily Archives: September 16, 2011

Idli – Steamed Rice Cakes

Idli is a breakfast food of south india. Very light and fluffy, easy to digest and very healthy – no oil involved and no frying – hurrah – it is steamed! It is the same fermented batter we saw for dosai – the combination of parboiled rice and dehusked black gram. It goes generally like this – idlis for breakfast, rice and curries for lunch and dosais for dinner. Idlis and dosais can be interchanged between breakfasts and dinners. Idlis are had with different kinds of chutneys (https://dosaikal.com/category/chutneys/) and sambars.

When one has a stomach upset, fever or the simplest ailment of all – laziness – if the batter is already made and stored in fridge – not to worry at all – quick and easy – soft and fluffy – idlis can take care of most of the simple health problems.

Idlis are usually never steamed beforehand and stored in hotcases. People get ready to go to the dining table – the women of the house start steaming idlis. It takes about 8 to 10 minutes to be ready. They go piping hot from the steaming mould to the breakfast or dinner plates or banana leaves. Immediately greased with ghee or gingelly oil as per preference and without delay soaked in sambar with a roll of the day’s chutney – are transferred straight into the tummy after some teeth work!

How much impatient a person might be, he would always be patient to wait for the steaming hot idlis. When thatha/grandfather is called to the breakfast table, he takes his plate, serves himself chutney and starts tapping the table like a tabla player, patiently waiting for not less than 5 minutes till idlis are ready to arrive on his plate.

When there are four or five members on the breakfast table or traditionally on the floor, each gets two idlis initially. By the time these are done, there might be a waiting time for quick eaters – till the next set arrives from the steamer. There is no problem waiting – what is most important is the piping hot soft texture of Idlis!

Truly, the lifetime of Idlis is too short. If we calculate from the time they are steamed to the time they go to the plate and within seconds they enter one’s food system – poor idlis… they live for a very little time – but deliver so well in such a short life span!

modern idli cooker


traditional idli kopparai


Idli/Steamed Rice Cakes


Idli Batter – as needed (https://dosaikal.com/tag/idli/dosa-batter/)

Method of Preparation

  1. Idli is made from a mould. The modern idli cooker generally has a stand with 4 layers or more – each plate makes 4 idlis
  2. The traditional idli maker is called Idli Kopparai – the idlis are comparatively bigger in size – the idli kopparai I have makes 13 idlis at a time – quite big ones
  3. Boil water in the steamer vessel 
  4. Grease the idli moulds with very little oil – this helps idlis to come out easily
  5. Mix the batter well and pour into mould till 3/4th to give space to rise well
  6. Steam in medium heat for 10 minutes
  7. To check whether idlis are done, prick either with a toothpick or knife – it should come out clean

 idli in mould


bowl with water and ladle



 To remove Idlis from mould

  1. Take a small bowl with water
  2. Easiest article to take idlis out is the plastic ladle of mixer grinder
  3. After the idlis are done, take the moulds out of the steamer and wait for 2 minutes
  4. Taking the idlis immediately out of the moulds might disfigure the idlis
  5. Dip the ladle in water and remove idlis
  6. Serve idlis with the day’s chutney (https://dosaikal.com/category/chutneys/), sambar or gun powder chutney.

steamed idlis

Basic Idli/Dosa Batter

Idlis and Dosais/Dosas are the most common and popular breakfast snacks of south india and especially tamilnadu. The soft and fluffy quality of Idlis or the crispy crunchy texture of Dosais – all depends on the perfect consistency of the batter. Par boiled rice and dehusked black lentils soaked, ground and left to ferment for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight – sounds like a tedious process! But having done this, there is no problem every breakfast or dinner time or even when we come back after a tired day’s work – the batter is handy for a quick breakfast or dinner or even inbetween hunger pranks!

The ground batter is used as Idli for the first day. The second day, when the batter becomes more sour is fit for making dosais. But I make dosais out of the first day batter too. The fenugreek seeds in the batter brings out the colour of the dosais.

parboiled rice


 dehusked black gram



 Basic Idli/Dosai/Dosa Batter

Ingredients (makes approximately 50 idlis or 40 dosais)

  • Parboiled Rice – 4 cups
  • Dehusked Black Gram (Urad Dhal) – 1 cup
  • Fenugreek Seeds – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 11/2 tsp

Method of Preparation of Batter

  1. Wash Urad Dhal and Rice separately until clean
  2. Soak the Black Gram (Urad Dal) and Parboiled Rice in water separately for minimum 6 hours or overnight
  3. Add the fenugreek seeds to the Urad Dhal before soaking
  4. First, grind the soaked Dhal and fenugreek seeds
  5. Use the soaked water for grinding to make a foamy batter – use only required water to make the batter foamy
  6. When it comes out foamy and soft, remove it in a big vessel
  7. Next, using the same soaked water, grind the rice until smooth
  8. Here too, use only required quantity of water for grinding
  9. Add salt to the big vessel and mix ground dhal and rice well with hand
  10. Cover and leave this batter for a minimum 12 hours so that it ferments well
  11. During colder temperatures, the batter can be kept in an oven at warm position overnight
  12. Generally if the batter is ground in the evening hours, it is fermented and ready to make dosais or idlis next morning during summers
  13. After each time of using the batter, it should be stored in the refrigerator

Stone wet grinder with batter


 well fermented foamy batter


Things to remember while preparing batter

  1. The quality of ground dhal makes all the difference – it should be foamy, silky and very soft
  2. Quality check – Dip your hand in water and immediately give a soft touch to the batter. If the batter doesn’t stick to your hand, it is ready and is right time to remove from grinder or blender
  3. Rice should be ground smooth without any granules
  4. Always mix salt to the ground dhal and rice with your hands. Body temperature helps in proper fermentation
  5. Make idlis or dosais only after batter is well fermented – it should rise well.

Storage of Dosai/Dosa Batter

  1. Once the batter is done and fermented, it should be stored in the refrigerator
  2. Each time idli or dosai is made, take the needed quantity in a separate vessel and keep the rest back in the fridge again
  3. Do not mix water to the whole batter to make the consistency better. Each time you take out the required quantity of batter, adjust water accordingly
  4. While making batter in more quantities, after it is fermented and ready, mix it well from the bottom of the vessel, transfer it to two separate bowls
  5. The bowl with the top part of the batter should be used later
  6. The bowl with the bottom part of the batter should be used first as it may contain more of the rice paste settled at the bottom and it may make the batter thicken and sour faster
  7. Once the first bowl is over, even after a couple of days, the second bowl is fresh enough to make fresh idlis like the first day batter
  8. This is how my mother and grandmother uses the batter made from huge wet grinders.