Idlis are a staple in every South Indian home and made very often. There is something about eating hot-steamed idlis for brunch or lunch that just brings a smile to adults and kids alike.
What are idlis
The most common idlis are made by soaking lentils and rice together that are then blended into a batter, then fermented over night, and steamed into dumplings. These are called idlis.
There are easier versions of idlis to make in an instant however. My favorite idlis are called rava idlis or semolina idlis. These idlis are made with roasted cream of wheat or semolina that is soaked in yogurt to form a thick batter, and then steamed. Think of it as an instant idli
Idlis are typically accompanied with coconut chutney along with a variety of other chutneys, and with a South Indian lentil soup called sambhar.
Kids especially love idlis for their simple not spicy flavor. The favored way for kids to eat idlis is slathered with ghee and then dipped in sugar.
Here is a recipe for rava idlis (semolina idlis) from my all-time favorite cookbook on South Indian cooking called Dakshin. Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan.
adapted from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan
with a few modifications
Ingredients: makes 15 small idlis
- 1 cup cream of wheat
- 3 -4 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) If you dont’ have ghee you can use unsalted butter instead.
- 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 small bunch cilantro – 4 tbsp chopped
- 1/2 cup regular plain yogurt
- Salt to taste. I added 1/2 tsp salt and it was perfect for this quantity of idlis
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- A few curry leaves (if you have)
Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a pan and roast semolina until golden in color and fragrance of roasted semolina is released. About 3-5 minutes. Remove semolina from heat and place in a bowl.
In a bowl combine roasted semolina, ginger, cilantro, yogurt and salt to taste. Add 1/4-cup water to make a batter of thick consistency. Set aside.
In a pan heat 1 tbsp ghee and add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Then add cumin seeds and curry leaves if you have. Add this oil to the semolina mixture and mix-in. Batter is ready – it will be a thick consistency. Let it rest for 5 minutes before steaming.
Most Indian homes have idli molds to make idlis (see photo below). Place 1 tbsp batter in each cup and steam for 10 minutes until idlis are soft and fluffy.
If you don’t have an idli mold, roll a tablespoons of batter in your palm and flatten slightly before steaming in a steamer. Make sure to coat the steamer lightly with oil before placing the idli dumplings. Steam for 10 minutes until a knife inserted comes out clean (but I am sure in 10 minutes the idlis will be cooked).
Serve idlis warm with coconut chutney. Recipe for coconut chutney to follow in next post.
Cook’s Notes: You can add finely chopped carrots, peas and onions to the rava idli batter for a colourful idli treat. Just add the raw veggies in the batter. Don’t add too much as it will change the consistency of the batter and the idlis may not be as fluffy. About 1/2 -cup chopped veggies should be enough.
You can find a copy of the cookbook Dakshin. Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan on Amazon.