While my hubby was in India last month, he sent me a picture of these little white cakes with a note that said, “These are made from rice. You should figure out the recipe.”
And so began my search on how to make idlis.
When my husband came back to the States we went to an Indian market in southern CA and got an idli steamer (you can also get them online) and got started searching up some authentic recipes.
In case you were wondering, idli are fermented and steamed cakes made from a mixture of rice and urad dal (hulled lentils). They are usually eaten as a breakfast or snack in India and served with chutney or sambar.
There seemed to be a little discrepancy over the exact rice:lentil ratio (probably depending on what part of the country the recipe came from), but my husband said these turned out just like what he had eaten in the south.
Now on to the recipe:
Parboil the rice, drain, and cover again with water. Wash the lentils until the water runs clear, then add fenugreek (if using) and cover with water. Soak rice and lentils separately for 4-6 hours, or overnight. When done soaking, drain rice and lentils. In a blender or food processor, grind the soaked lentils, adding about 1/2 cup water to make a paste. Pour into a large bowl. Next, grind the rice, adding about 1/2 cup water to make a paste. Pour over rice over lentils, add salt and fold together with spatula or mix with your hands. Cover and let ferment for at least 8 hours.
Once batter is risen and ferments, stir gently to let the air bubbles escape and mix in another 1/2 cup water. Batter should be a thick pouring consistency. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter into greased idli moulds and steam for about 12-20 minutes. (I’ve found the idlis cook faster over a gas stove than an electric one.) Serve hot with chutney or jam. This recipe makes about 35-40 idlis.