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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rice Idlee

easy rice idlee idli indian vegetarian

I had resisted posting a recipe for idlee for almost a year now, since I started blogging because, to me, it felt like posting a recipe for cooking plain rice... I mean, agreed, different varieties of rice need different handling, different amounts of water and such, but basically, it is nothing much to get excited about.

But, ever since my mom gave me this rice-cooker/idlee-steamer apparatus, and ever since I discovered a short-cut of sorts for the batter that works consistently, idlee has become a favorite at home.

Simply put, idlees are steamed savory rice cakes, a staple in most South Indian households, ubiquitous and mostly uncelebrated. Many prefer Dosai (rice crepes) to idlees, at least in my close circle.

The nice thing about this electrical gadget my mom gave me is it takes the guesswork out and consistently delivers perfectly done idlees - it comes with a measuring cup to add water for each batch of steaming and has an on/off light to indicate if it is done. Otherwise, I usually steam it in a pressure cooker (minus the weight) or a stove-top idlee-steamer.

easy recipe idlee rice cakes snack vegetarian healthy indian

The batter to make idlees is fairly standard but each family usually adds its own little touch to make it different. The traditional process is to soak the rice and urad dal overnight, in proper proportion, then grind it to a fine batter and let it ferment till fluffy. Once the batter is ready, add salt to taste, pour into idlee molds and steam them.

Now, at home, my mom always made the batter smooth and silky so that the idlees were soft and spongy. Whereas, every now and then, when we went to restaurants, the idlees there had a certain coarse texture (yet fluffy, not dense) that I liked better than the soft and silky home-made ones.

Over the last 5 or six years, I've been doing the soaking-grinding-fermenting for idlee/dosai batters as much as I can.

But, to save some time and labor, I started using what I creatively call the "Short-cut Method": use urad flour, rice flour and rice (idlee) rava for making the idlee batter. This eliminates the soaking and grinding phase and I can just jump straight to the fermentation phase and have the batter ready easily.

rice/idlee rava is sold in most indian stores as rice meal or rice farina - it is coarse grain rice (almost like cornmeal texture) - and adds some body and dimension to the idlees that I like better.

Now, fermentation is not easy when weather is not hot enough... so, I try to help the process along by adding a touch of active dry yeast and leaving it by the heating vent in Winters.

Idlees are usually served with an array of chutneys like mint chutney, coriander chutney, coconut chutney, tomato chutney and so forth; as well as with delicious sambar; but, my mom's favorite side always is the idlee milaga podi (recipe coming shortly) - a ground spicy dal powder mixed with gingelly oil.

1 cup urad flour
1½ cups rice idlee rava
2 cups rice flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1½ cups warm water
½ cup buttermilk
salt to taste
1-2 tsp gingelly or canola oil for greasing the idlee molds


Mix the dry ingredients and stir in the buttermilk and water a little at a time till a thickish batter is formed.

Cover and set aside in a warm place to ferment for about 24 hours - I start it tonight, and leave it fermenting to be ready for dinner tomorrow night.

When batter is fermented well it turns fluffy and bubbly and acquires a mild sour smell and taste which is perfect.

At this point, the batter consistency can be adjusted by adding a little water at a time to get it to pour-able consistency, like thickish pancake batter.

Gently stir in salt to taste without losing the air pockets - over-stirring punches down the batter flat and sometimes can leave the idlee hard and dense.

Pour into greased idlee molds and steam for about 10-12 minutes till done - i.e., a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

p.s: thanks to Ashaji's comment reminding me about RCI:Karnataka, I would like to enter this post for the same! Yay!

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  • At 1:32 PM, Blogger Asha said…

    They look fabulous, white and fluffy! I would gladly take this for RCI Karnataka if you will give it to me please!:))
    Still recovering from the Lasik, but couldn't resist!

  • At 2:06 PM, Blogger meeso said…

    Yummy! I just love them!!!

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger Asha said…

    Thank you Sheela,that is a great entry!:)))))))

  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger Rajitha said…

    they look so good. good idea on adding hte yeast, i refrain from making this in winter on account of it not fermenting.. i think this should do the trick

  • At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Lakshmi said…

    Lovely Idli. Your tips are very useful.

  • At 8:31 PM, Blogger Nandita said…

    I want to try it this way...because I dont have a Maavu grinder and I hate to do the grinding in the noisy blender, it takes quite a while to get the smooth consistency...
    Do you get udad dal flour where you live/? I dont remember having seen it in the shops here.

  • At 9:03 PM, Blogger Sheela said…

    Thank you, all!

    Nandita: yes, surprisingly, I get urad flour here! The urad flour even makes really good vadais...

  • At 10:10 PM, Blogger Suganya said…

    I am little apprehensive abt using rice rava. But do you really need yeast to ferment the batter? I live in a pretty warm place.

  • At 2:10 AM, Blogger Raaga said…

    I bought this exact same steamer some 4 years ago... and recommend it to everyone :-)

    I steam veggies, rice and of course idlis in this.

    Lovely recipe :-)

  • At 4:36 AM, Blogger Baskaran said…

    could u give details for making urad powder. Is it possible to avoid using yeast for fermentation

  • At 9:02 AM, Blogger Sheela said…

    hi all, re yeast: as noted in my post, I add it in winter to help with fermentation but is not a requirement. This is just my recipe that works for me, so, feel free to omit the yeast and do natural fermentation if the weather is warm enough for you.

  • At 5:58 PM, Blogger Baskaran said…

    u hv not replied how u prepare urad dal powder. is it like making rice flour to soak urad dal and dry them and powdered in a grinder? Whether to be powdered coarse or fine

  • At 9:00 AM, Blogger Sheela said…

    @baskaran, I responded about urad flour in response to an earlier comment by Nandita's - maybe you missed it: I buy urad flour at the store - I don't make it.

  • At 7:03 PM, Blogger Baskaran said…

    Your recipe for making idlis using urad flour is so interesting that we can get away with the rigmarole of messy grinding .
    Please advise whether the urad flour used for blending should be finely ground or coarse? Is it available in Bangalore/Chennai in India
    can we avoid using Yeast for fermenting the batter

  • At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I made these today after having eyed this recipe for SO long. Loved it. So easy and fantastic results! I made the flour myself with whole urad - so I didnt get pure white idlis but they tasted awesome.


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