Idli (Rice Rava)

Idli (Rice Rava)

Idli or idly are a type of savoury rice cake, popular as breakfast foods in India. The cakes are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice/rava.

The texture of the idli is what makes it sublime. Idli’s are soft, pillowy, fluffy steamed rice cakes. Idli is one of the topmost comfort food for lots of Indians. This recipe is a simple recipe using only four ingredients namely- urad dal, idli rava, poha and salt. Although the ingredients are simple, Idli requires lots of techniques to get them soft and pillowy.

Idli and dosa is a breakfast I have grown up with. On every weekend, my mum would soak the rice and lentils, to prepare idli and dosas. My all-time favourite has to be soft spongy idli. I can eat plates of these soft white cotton balls! Give me a big plate of Idli with sambhar and chutney and I am in heaven! In South India and lots of cafes, idli is only served with coconut chutney or podi powder however I like all the trimmings with my idli!  It is still a favourite in my family, and I make it atleast once every two weeks. 

This recipe is handed down in my family and works every time! Just make sure you follow the steps carefully and use the right proportion of ingredients.

Ingredients

1 cup urad dal (whole dehusked)
2 cups rice rava
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup poha

Directions

Step-1

Wash the urad dal in water and soak it for 5-6 hours.

Step-2

Wash the rice rava couple of times and soak it in 1 cup water for 15-20 minutes.

Soak the poha in ¼ cup water.

Step-3

Grind the soaked urad dal and poha separately into smooth fine paste.

Step-4

Mix the ground dal, poha, and the soaked rava. The batter should be thick pouring consistency. The consistency that resembles a thick pancake batter. When the ladle from the batter is lifted and the idli batter falls from the ladle, it should form a slight ribbon which slowly becomes flat on the surface. If it is too thick or the ribbon takes longer time to dissolve, add a little water to the batter.

Set the bowl in a warm place for 8-10 hours to ferment. The batter should increase in volume to almost double after fermenting.

Step-5

Add the salt and whisk the batter for 5 minutes.

Put some water in an Idli vessel and put it on medium heat.  Oil the Idli plate and gently fill the rounds with the batter. Put it inside the Idli vessel and let it steam for 6-7 minutes.

Serve hot with your favourite chutney and sambar.

Tips & Variations

  1. Fermentation is a key factor in getting soft, light and fluffy idli. For proper fermentation of idli batter a warm temperature is important. In cold climates, fermentation might take longer.
  2. For fermentation keep the idli batter bowl in a warm place – e.g., near a heater or in a warm place in your kitchen.
  3. You can also preheat the oven at a low temperature (80 to 90 degrees Celsius) for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then switch off the oven and keep the batter bowl inside – I use this method when it becomes very cold outside.
  4. Do remember that even if you do not see the batter doubled or tripled, you should see tiny bubbles in the batter. You should also get the typical faint sour fermented aroma from the idli batter.
  5. Urad dal should be ground into a smooth fine paste.
  6. Adding salt- Salt inhibits fermentation and interferes with good bacteria to a certain extent. Add salt to the batter before fermenting in summers and add it after fermenting in winters.
  7. The one thing that is important while grinding batter in a food processor is to make sure that the jar does not get heated up. So, use ice water to grind the ingredients.
  8. Wait for 1-2 minutes and let the idlis cool down before removing them from idli plates/mould as the idlis will break. If you are in a hurry and can’t wait, then pour little water on the back of the idli plate. Also use a sharp spoon to spoon them out of the idli mould.
  9. You do not need a special idli cooker for making idli. Any pan with lid in which you can fit the idli plates / moulds will work. Add a little water on the bottom and place the idli plates on top of it. Cover with the lid and steam.

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