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Idli is a soft & fluffy steamed cake made of fermented rice & lentil batter. These are one of the healthiest protein packed Breakfasts from South Indian cuisine. Idli are easily digestible as the rice & lentils known as DAL are soaked, ground, fermented & then prepared by steaming the batter. These are served with a chutney and or with a tiffin sambar.

Idli is considered to be the healthiest food due to the unique method of preparation which enhances the bio availability of the nutrients in Urad Dal and rice.

Soaking the lentils, blending to batter and fermenting enhances the nutrients and they are still preserved as idli are steam cooked for a short time. This is what makes idly suitable to all including babies to people on diet and even to the aged, who generally have poor digestion.

If you are wondering what is idli made of? Idli is made with Urad Dal (skinned black gram) and rice. Urad Dal is high in protein and calcium. It is absorbed by the body better in the form of idly as it is made from soaked & fermented batter.

How to make Soft Idli

  1. Prepare the following:
    • Add ½ cup dal to a bowl and wash few times until water is clear. Pour fresh water and soak for about 6 hours
    • If using fenugreek seeds, soak ½ tsp teaspoon seeds with dal. or soak 2 tablespoons poha, 30 mins before blending.
    • Add 1 cup idli rice or 1 cup + 2 tablespoon Idly Rava to another large bowl. Rinse a few times until water runs clear. Drain the water and soak it. If using Rava, nicely squeeze the Rava and rinse to get rid of the unwanted stuff.
    Making batter.
  2. After 6 hours, drain off the water from the dal and add it to the blender along with salt. If you live in a hot place, then skip adding salt now and add it after fermentation, just before making idli. Add 3/4 cup cold water & blend it to smooth. Using cold water prevents the blender or grinder from turning hot. If the batter turns up hot, idli may turn hard.
  3. Pour 2 to 4 tbsps more water if needed and blend till you get frothy thick smooth batter. Do not make it very runny.
  4. Transfer this batter to a large pot or bowl.
  5. If using rice refer method 2 with detailed step by step photos below. A short description is here as well. Add rice
    and water to the blender and grind coarsely. Pour it to the batter and mix well. Follow from step 6. If using idly Rava:
    Squeeze off the water by taking Rava in between your palms and with pressure, try to remove excess water. Transfer this to a plate. Squeeze again any excess water.
  6. Next transfer it to the batter. If you are someone who do not like the slight coarse texture of Rava, then you can also blend it well. Then add to the Urad batter.

Fermenting Idli Batter

  1. Mix well with your hands. Keep it aside for fermenting in a warm place for 6 to 12 hours, depending on the climate. It may take up to 18 to 20 hours too sometimes. Do not use air tight jars or containers for fermentation. If you live in a cold country, you can place it in the oven with the light bulb ON. Or preheat the oven to 170 F or 80 C for 10 mins. Wait for 5 mins and then place the batter inside or If you have a instant pot or microwave (with yogurt function), then you can also turn it ON with the yogurt setting (low) for 6 to 12 hours or until the batter doubles. You have to experiment to know the exact fermentation time.
  2. After fermentation the batter has to double and turn light, fluffy and bubbly. This time when I made this I had to ferment for about 18 hours as the climate was windy and cold.
  3. Gently mix the batter, very lightly to make it uniform. Sometimes after steaming, Idlis will rise and collapse due to the aeration in the batter. So it is ideal to give a gentle stir once. This will also bring the batter to a uniform consistency. I prefer to stir gently only 1 to 2 times. It may shrink when we do this.
    Steaming idli
  4. Bring water to boil in a steamer or pressure cooker without weight on a medium high flame. Grease the idly plates. If needed sprinkle little water. The batter should be of thick pouring consistency. Pour it in the molds.
  5. When the water begins to bubble up rapidly, place the idly stand in the steamer. Steam it for 10 minutes. Remember you need to be a bit tricky to adjust the flame. If the flame is very high, the water may bounce to the idly plates. If it is too low, they may not get steamed enough. So the flame should be on a medium high. Off the stove after 10 minutes. Leave it for 2 minutes. Remove the plates from the steamer and allow them to cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Loosen the idli from the plates with the help of a spoon and then remove them to a plate. Add some ghee and serve with coriander coconut chutney or peanut chutney. You can also find a collection of 33 South Indian Style chutney recipes.

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