Idly has occupied a very important place as breakfast in all South Indian house holds. It is a very healthy dish as it is fermented and steam cooked. Idly is an easily digestible food taken with sambar provides a mix of proteins and carbohydrates to the body. Apart from sambar, it is also taken with brinjal/tomato kosthu, vadai curry, etc. Idly with vadai curry combination is most popular in Chennai.
South Indian temple town Madurai in Tamil Nadu is famous for its overnight idly shops where one can have hot and soft idly’s even at 2 AM. These idlies are served with sambar and also with more than three varieties of chutney like coconut chutney, cilantro chutney and mint chutney. Other temple towns in Tamil Nadu like Kancheepuram and Tanjore are also famous for the tasty idly.
The softness of idly lie in the selection of rice and black gram (Ulunthu/Urad dhal). Everybody have their own way of making idly as well as different proportion. Here is my way of preparing spongy idly.
- 4 cups – Idly rice (parboiled idly rice/ heaped)
- 1 cup – Black gram (Whole ulunthu without skin/ heaped)
- 1 handful – Boiled rice
- 1/4 tsp – Fenugreek seeds
- Salt as needed
Making of batter:
- Wash and soak black gram/ulunthu and fenugreek seeds in a wide bowl for at least 4 to 5 hrs. Same way wash and soak idly rice and boiled rice in a wide bowl for at least 6 to 7 hr or overnight.
- Grind soaked black gram in a wet grinder (I always prefer wet grinding for idly and dosai) until it is light and fluffy by adding water little by little (I use either ice water or ice cubes while grinding) and transfer it to a container.The batter should not be sticky but it should be light and fluffy. I usually grind ulunthu for about 40 mins.
- Now add soaked rice to the wet grinder and grind it coarsely by adding water little by little for 15 to 20 mins. Rice batter should be little watery than ulunthu batter.Then add ground ulunthu along with required salt to the ground rice and grind for another 5 minutes so that it gets mixed well.
- Transfer ground batter to a big container or two wide container for fermentation. Container should have enough room for the batter to ferment. Consistency of batter should not be too thick or too thin. Ferment the batter for overnight or at least 9 to10 hrs.
- Mix the fermented batter well. Now it is ready for making idly. If you are not going to use it immediately, then refrigerate the batter.
Making of idly:
- Heat enough water in the idly pot, grease the idly platter with little oil or ghee (for kids) and then take a scoop of batter and fill in the idly platter. Once you see steam from the idly pot, place the idly platter and close it with a lid.
- Steam for 9 to 10 mins. Using fork you can check whether it is done or not. If it is done, then remove platter from the pot . Either allow them to cool for 5mins or you can turn over the idly platter and show it in the cold running water.
- Remove idly from the platter and transfer it to a hot pack. Spongy idly is ready and now serve with sambar, chutney and idly podi.
- The quality of idly rice and black gram/ulunthu is very important. Never stock rice and ulunthu for long, better get it in small quantity or when needed.
- The duration for fermentation may vary depending on the climatic conditions. In winter it may need longer time and in summer it may require less time to ferment. Always try to keep it in a warm place.
- The consistency of the batter is also equally important. If your batter is too thin, then your idly will be flat. If your batter is thick, then your idly will be hard. That is the reason why you should add water little by little by checking the consistency.
- You will get spongy idly only when your batter is nicely fermented. You will see lot of small bubbles in your batter and never forget to mix your fermented batter before pouring into the idly platter.
- You need to take out the batter from refrigerator about 30 mins before you make idly. Mix well once before pour into idly platter.
- You can also replace boiled rice with 1 handful of flattened rice (aval).