15 Jul 2017

Idli Dosa Batter | How to make Soft Idli

The most famous South Indian breakfast is the Idli! It is so simple in 'nature' but so good for health and tasty with a nice side dish. It is also one of the safest Indian dishes. My kids had idli's as one of their first solid food and I always turn to idli when someone is not well at home.

How to make Soft Idlis

Although it is such a simple food, this simple idli is the most fussiest food ever!! My biggest headache for a very long time, was to make soft idlis! I have tried many different recipes, proportions, tips and finally this is what worked for me and I settled on it. I got this recipe from here and here
Most recipes suggest to grind the rice and urad dal separately but I grind them together and it works well for me. 
Even if you come across a 'perfect' recipe for soft idli, you can master it only by trial and error. There are lots of factors that goes into making a soft idli and as you keep making it, week after week, you will perfect it and end up making soft idlis easily!!

How to make Soft Idlis

Soaking time 8 hours | Grinding time 40 mins 

  • Rice - 4 cups
  • Urad dal - 1 cup
  • Aval - 1 cup
  • Fenugreek seeds - 2 tsp
  • Rock salt - 2 tbsp (or as required)
How to make Soft Idlis

Tips for a soft idli.
1. The grinder plays a big role in giving soft idlis. I use a wet grinder but the best kind of grinder in the olden days stone grinder. My mother in law still uses this stone grinder and nothing can beat her idlis. She uses this same proportion except she grinds the rice and dal separately. While making the batter, very little heat should be produced. Especially while grinding the urad dal. The larger the surface area of the grinder, the lesser the heat produced thereby giving soft idlis.

2. Adding water is another very important step to get soft idlis. If you add too much water while grinding the batter, you will get flat idlis. If you add less water then your idlis will be hard. Most recipes caution on adding too much water but if you add less water that also will not work. You can master this step only by trail and error as different brands of rice and dal will require different amounts of water to grind. Each recipe can only work as a guestimate.

3. The quality of rice and dal is very important for a soft idli especially that of urad dal. Use a good quality urad dal and use fresh stock.

4. Steaming - I find that while steaming the idlis, if you use a damp muslin cloth over the moulds, it gives soft idlis. Also never over cook the idlis. Mostly idlis are done in 8-10 minutes. Always bring the water in the steamer to a boil, and then keep the idli plates inside and steam for 8-10 minutes.

5. Fermenting - Fermenting the batter is also very important. When it's hot (summer) the batter will ferment quickly (within 6-8 hours). During winters, it might take even 10 hours to ferment especially if you're living in a cold country. You can keep the batter to ferment in your oven with the lights turned on during winter. If the batter is not fermented properly, again the idli will not be perfect.

6. When steaming idli immediately after fermenting, never mix the batter vigorously and never 'dive' in with your ladle to take the batter. Always scoop off a ladle full of batter gently from the top. If you're grinding the urad dal and rice separately, you will have to mix the batter as the rice can settle down but since we are grinding both together, you need not mix the batter before making idlis. 

How to make Soft Idlis

Watch the video in English

Watch the video in Tamil

1. Soaking Wash the rice and urad dal and soak them together with aval in 6 cups of water. Soak the fenugreek seeds separately with little water. Soak them all for about 8 hours. Do not discard the water used for soaking. Use this 6 cups of water for grinding. You might need a little more or less water depending on the quality/brand of rice and dal.

2. Start the grinder and add the soaked fenugreek seeds to the grinder first and add half cup of water and grind till the fenugreek seeds are smooth.

3. Next add the soaked rice, dal and aval little by little. Take the water used for soaking rice and dal and add little by little. Do not add all the water in the beginning. Add little by little ensuring the grinder is grinding the batter easily without strain. You can add cold water too.

4. Grind this mixture for about 40 minutes or until the batter is soft and smooth.
5. Remove to a large vessel. Make sure the batter is only occupying half the vessel. 

6. Add rock salt and mix it well with the batter.
7. Cover and let it ferment in a warm place for 8 hours by the end of which the batter would have almost doubled.

How to make Soft Idlis

How to make idlis
1. If you have added water perfectly during grinding then the batter will be perfect to make idlis. However, if you find your batter to be very thick, then you have not added enough water while grinding. In that case, gently remove the batter you require for that day, from the top to another vessel and add 2 tbsp of water and mix gently. Do not add lots of water to the whole batter and mix. 
2. Grease the idli moulds with some oil. You can place a damp muslin cloth too on the moulds.
3. Add some water to the steamer and keep it on high flame to get the water boiling.

4. Gently scoop off the batter from the top and add it to the idli moulds. 
5. While stacking the idli plates, make sure the small vents (holes) in the idli plates are alternating and not one on top of the other.

6. When the water is boiling, slightly reduce the flame and place the moulds inside the steamer and close the lid.
7. Steam for 10-12 minutes only. Once done, open the steamer and insert a fork or knife. If it comes out without any batter sticking to it, then the idlis are done.

8. Switch off the flame. Do not remove the plates immediately. Keep the steamer closed for 5 minutes.
9. Then remove the idli plates and set aside for 5 minutes. If you remove the idlis immediately, the idlis will stick. 

10. Dip a spoon or knife in water and just slide around the idli, it will come out easily.

You can make soft fluffy idlis for 2 days and then make dosa on day 3 and 4. You can also start making dosa from day 2. Then make uthapam on day 3-4 and panniyaram on day 5. This is how I finish my dosa batter.

How to make Dosa

How to make Dosa
To make dosa, the batter should be of thinner consistency than the idli batter. It should be of a pouring consistency. Add little water to thin out the batter and then make the dosa. 

1. Add 3 drops of oil to the dosa tawa and spread it well.

2. Add a ladle full of dosa batter on the tawa and spread it in circular motion.
3. Add a tsp oil around the edges of the dosa.

4. Wait for 2 minutes until the dosa cooks and starts browning and the edges starts to release.
5. Slowly release the dosa around the edges and flip it over. Cook for another minute and remove from flame.

6. If you cover and cook the dosa, then you need not flip the dosa. It gets cooked on both sides.

You can add a masala to the center of the dosa to make masala dosa or sprinkle some podi on the dosa to make podi dosa.

How to make Dosa

1. I got the tip about adding fenugreek seeds first from kannama cooks and it works well for me. It gives me soft fluffy idli, except the idlis are not pearly white!
2. You can add upto 1 tbsp of fenugreek.
3. If you live in a very cold place and your batter is not fermenting well, then add a ladle full of old fermented batter to the new batter and let it ferment. 
4. If you are placing the dosas in a hot pack, then to prevent the first dosa from sticking to the hot case, you can sprinkle some sugar oh the hot pack.
5. If you want a super crisp browned dosa, then you can add a tsp of sugar or besan flour to your dosa batter.
6. For the aval you can use white or red aval. I use both.

Until next time,
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  1. Different proportions seem to work for different people... I take half the urad dal with the rice, it seems to be working well for me, especially since I grind in my Premier jar, and it doesn't give a really smooth mixture...

  2. Very well explained..lovely share ..the dosa and idlis both look so yumm ..


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