Idli, a southern indian favorite

Idlis are one of those satisfying wholesome yet simple foods that can be had at any time of day. It even tastes simple and consists of just two ingredients, rice and lentil. It is pressure cooked and you can be completely satisfied with just 3 idlis. They are about half the size of a pancake, puffy and round. The soaking and grinding of the ingredients would have to be done at least a couple days prior to the actual steaming part of it. Idlis are usually served with a side of chutney and sambaar. The steaming of idlis have to be in an idli pan or mould^ (see picture of idli pan) which is not difficult to find.

Pointer 1: Use both parboiled rice^ and some regular rice.
Ponter 2: Allow the ground mix to ferment so it becomes at least 11/2 times its original volume. Idlis taste better and softer with fermentation.
Ponter 3: After fermentation store them in the refrigerator until ready to be steamed.


  • 2 cups parboiled rice
  • 1 cup regular rice
  • 11/2 cups black lentil^ (urad dhal)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. of salt for taste (After tasting the first set of idlis you may add more salt if needed)

Soak the rice and lentil separately for at least 3 hours. Then grind them separately in a blender to a soft paste, the consistency of a cake mix. You may add water as you grind them to a paste but not too much to avoid making it too thin. Now mix the two (rice and lentil in a large pot), add about a 1/2 Tbsp. of salt. Mix well and let it stay overnight in a warm dark spot of the kitchen. The idea here is to help the fermentation process happen naturally. During winter since the house is generally not very warm, you may turn on the oven for a few minutes, turn it off and place the dough in the oven. Next morning say after about 8 hours, you will find that the dough has risen and expanded in quantity. Now just take a ladle, mix it well and place it in the refrigerator.

A pressure cooker or a deep wok that can be covered with a lid will work well as a steamer.
Use the idli mould^, pour the batter in it about 3/4
of the mould may be filled with the batter, so it leaves some space for the cooked idli. You may want to use a non-stick mould so that the batter slips off the mould after steaming. if it is a stainless steel mould, then you may want to coat it with a drop of grease. You may use any kind of grease, oil or a sprayer.

If steaming in a pressure cooker, you may fill the batter and then place it in the cooker after just filling it with about an inch of water to create the steam. Close the cooker with a lid, do not use any weights. Let it cook for about 15 mins. After it cools down, you may lift the mould out and transfer the idlis to a plate. A good indication that the idlis are done are the small pits you would find on the surface of the idlis. You may also use a toothpick and test it like you would a cake out of the oven. If the dough does not stick to the toothpick, then the idlis are done. It takes roughly about 15-20 minutes for a set of 8 or 12 idlis. The mould comes with plates of 3 or 4 stacked vertically, and each plate has 4 moulds to pour the idli batter in.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, you may use a deep wok and any lid to tightly close it, so the steam can be generated. Fill the bottom to an inch with water. Now fill the mould with the batter, cover it with a lid and let it cook for 20 minutes. Sometimes the water at the bottom might evaporate before the 20 mins. is up. You may want to open the lid carefully as to not get burned and pour some water in the pot. When done and the mould cools down, you can easily slide off the idlis to a plate. If the batter is not cooked completely, then it will stick to the mould and will not slide out. In which case it would need another 5 minutes
of steaming.

^ Please contact me for any of these ingredients or utensils.

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