Idlis are steamed rice cakes. Idli (/ɪdliː/) is a traditional breakfast in South Indian households. Idli is a savoury cake that is popular throughout India and neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka. The cakes are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. The fermentation process breaks down the starches so that they are more readily metabolized by the body.
Idli has several variations, including rava idli, which is made from semolina. Regional variants include sanna of Konkan and Enduri Pitha of Odisha.
To make Idli, four parts uncooked rice (Idli rice or parboiled rice) to one part whole white lentil (urad dal, vigna mungo) are soaked separately for at least four hours to six hours or overnight. Optionally spices such as fenugreek seeds can be added at the time of soaking for additional flavor. Once done soaking, the lentils are ground to a fine paste and the rice is separately coarsely ground, then they are combined. Next, the mixture is left to ferment overnight during which its volume will more than double. After fermentation some of the batter may be kept as a starter culture for the next batch. The finished idli batter is put into greased moulds of an idli tray or “tree” for steaming. The perforated molds allow the idlis to be cooked evenly. The tree holds the trays above the level of boiling water in a pot, and the pot is covered until the idlis are done (about 10–25 minutes, depending on size). A more traditional method is to use leaves instead of molds.
For party picnic, cocktail idlis can be prepared as well
For making the Rainbow idlis, I use green chutney made with Mint and Coriander (Dhaniya Pudina) and red chutney made with Date Tamarind(Khajur Imli).
Since plain idlis are mild in taste, a condiment is considered essential. Idlis are often served with sambar but this varies greatly by region and personal taste. Idlis are also frequently served with chutnies (coconut based), kaara chutney (onion based) or Spicy Fish Curries. The dry spice mixture podi is convenient while traveling.
- 2 cups Rice
- 1 cup Urad Daal (white)
- 11/2 tbsp Salt
- A pinch of Baking Soda
- Oil (for greasing the pans)
- Pick, wash and soak the rice and daal overnight or for 8 hours.
- Grind rice coarsely in a blender.
- Grind the daal into a smooth and forthy paste.
- Now mix the grinded rice and daal together into a batter.
- Mix salt and set aside in a warm place for 8-9 hours or overnight for fermenting.
- Idlis are ready to be cooked when the batter is well fermented.
- Grease the idle holder or pan well and fill each of thm with 3/4th full of batter.
- Steam cook idlis on medium flame for about 10 minutes or until done.
- Use a butter knife to remove the idlis.
- Serve them with sambhar or chutney.
With the emigration of south Indians and Sri Lankans throughout the region and world, many variations on idli have been created in addition to the almost countless local variations. Hard-to-get ingredients and differing cooking customs have required changes in both ingredients and methods. Parboiled rice can reduce the soaking time considerably. Store-bought ground rice or cream of rice may also be used. Similarly, semolina or cream of wheat may be used for preparing rava idli (wheat idli). Yogurt may be added to provide the sour flavor for unfermented batters. Prepackaged mixes allow for almost instant idlis.
In addition to or instead of fenugreek other spices may be used such as such as mustard seeds, chile peppers, cumin, coriander, ginger, etc. Sugar may be added to make them sweet instead of savory. Idli may also be stuffed with a filling of potato, beans, carrot and masala. Leftover idlis can be cut-up and sautéed for a dish called idli upma. Rather than a stovetop steamer, microwave and automatic electric idli steamers are available with convenient non-stick coating. Batter preparation using a manual rocking rock grinder can be replaced by electric grinders or blenders (mixies). Many restaurants have also come up with fusion recipes of Idlis as idly manchurian, idly fry, chilly idly and a lot of different ideas.