Idli, a traditional South Indian delicacy, is a popular breakfast item enjoyed by people all over the world. These soft, fluffy and spongy rice cakes are made from a fermented batter, resulting in a unique texture and a mild, tangy flavour. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of making idli from scratch, including tips and tricks to ensure your idlis turn out perfect every time.Ingredients for IdliTo make idli, you will need a few key ingredients: rice, urad dal (skinned black gram), fenugreek seeds and salt. The ratio of rice to urad dal may vary depending on your preference. While traditional idlis are made with a combination of rice and urad dal, you can also experiment with idli rava (semolina) or other variations like rava idli.How to Make Idli Batter● Soak the rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds separately in water for a few hours.● Grind the soaked ingredients together into a smooth batter, adding water as needed.● Combine the ground batter in a large bowl and mix well.● Add salt and mix again.● Cover the bowl and let the batter ferment for 8-12 hours or overnight, allowing it to rise and develop a slight tangy flavour.How to Ferment Idli BatterFermenting the idli batter is a crucial step that contributes to the unique texture and taste of idlis. Here's how to ferment the batter:● Keep the batter in a warm place, preferably in a slightly warm oven or a warm corner of your kitchen.● Ensure the batter is covered to prevent any contamination.● Fermentation time may vary depending on the temperature and climate. Warmer temperatures may require less time.● Once the batter has fermented, it will rise and become slightly frothy.How to Make Idli● Grease the idli moulds or plates with oil or ghee.● Gently stir the fermented batter to mix it well.● Pour the batter into each mould, filling it about three-fourths full.● Place the moulds in a steamer and steam the idlis for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.● Remove the moulds from the steamer and let them cool for a few minutes.● Using a spoon or a knife, carefully remove the idlis from the moulds.How Long to Cook IdliThe cooking time for idlis may vary depending on the size and thickness of the idlis. Generally, steaming them for 10-12 minutes is sufficient to cook them thoroughly. However, it's always a good idea to check their doneness by inserting a toothpick or a knife into the centre of an idli. If it comes out clean, the idlis are ready to be removed from the steamer.Tips and Tricks for Perfect Idlis● Ensure the consistency of the batter: The idli batter should be neither too thick nor too thin. It should have a pouring consistency, similar to pancake batter. Adjust the water quantity while grinding the batter to achieve the right consistency.● Use quality ingredients: Choose good quality rice, urad dal, and fenugreek seeds for the best results. Fresh ingredients will contribute to the flavour and texture of the idlis.● Grinding the batter: Grind the soaked rice and dal separately to ensure a smooth and fluffy batter. Use a high-quality grinder or blender that can handle the quantity and consistency required for idli batter.● Fermentation temperature: The ideal temperature for fermentation is around 80-90F (27-32C). In colder climates, you can place the batter in a warm oven or use a fermentation setting if available. You can also wrap the bowl with a warm cloth to create a cozy environment for fermentation.● Fermentation duration: Ferment the batter for at least 8-12 hours or overnight. This allows the batter to rise and develop a tangy flavour. However, the fermentation time may vary based on the temperature and climate conditions.● Steaming technique: Grease the idli moulds with oil or ghee to prevent sticking. Place a steamer filled with water on medium heat. Once the water starts boiling, arrange the idli moulds in the steamer and cover it with a lid. Steam the idlis on medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until they are cooked through.● Test for doneness: To check if the idlis are cooked, insert a toothpick or a knife into the centre of an idli. If it comes out clean without any batter sticking to it, the idlis are ready to be removed from the steamer.● Resting time: After steaming, let the idlis rest for a couple of minutes before removing them from the moulds. This helps them firm up slightly and makes it easier to take them out without breaking.How to Make SambarSambar is a flavourful lentil and vegetable stew that pairs perfectly with idli. Here's a simple recipe to make delicious sambar:Ingredients● Toor dal (pigeon pea lentils)● Mixed vegetables (such as carrots, beans, drumsticks, pumpkin)● Tamarind pulp● Sambar powder● Mustard seeds● Curry leaves● Asafoetida (hing)● Turmeric powder● Salt● OilInstructions● Cook the toor dal with water until soft and mushy.● In a separate pot, cook the mixed vegetables until tender.● In a pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add curry leaves and asafoetida.● Add sambar powder and turmeric powder to the pan and saut for a minute.● Add the cooked dal, cooked vegetables, tamarind pulp and salt to the pan.● Bring the sambar to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes.● Adjust the consistency by adding water if needed.● Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with idli.How to Make Coconut ChutneyCoconut chutney is a classic accompaniment to idli. It adds a refreshing and tangy flavour to the dish. Here's a simple recipe to make coconut chutney:Ingredients● Fresh coconut● Roasted chana dal (split roasted chickpeas)● Green chilies● Ginger● Tamarind● Salt● Water● Oil● Mustard seedsInstructions● In a blender or food processor, add fresh coconut, roasted chana dal, green chilies, ginger, tamarind and salt.● Blend the ingredients together, gradually adding water to achieve a smooth and creamy consistency.● Heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds. Let them splutter.● Pour the tempered mustard seeds over the coconut chutney and mix well.● Adjust the seasoning according to your taste preferences.● Transfer the chutney to a serving bowl and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.● Serve the coconut chutney alongside idli and sambar for a delightful combination of flavours.ConclusionIdli, a beloved South Indian dish, is not only delicious but also nutritious and easy to make at home. By following the step-by-step process of soaking, grinding, fermenting, and steaming the batter, you can enjoy soft and fluffy idlis that are sure to satisfy your cravings. Pair them with homemade sambar and coconut chutney for a complete and authentic culinary experience.With this comprehensive guide and the provided idli recipe, you have all the information you need to embark on your idli-making journey. Experiment with different variations, such as rava idli or rice idli, and personalise your idli experience. Don't forget to try out the flavourful sambar and coconut chutney recipes that perfectly complement the idlis.Now, it's time to gather your ingredients, don your chef's hat, and indulge in the delightful world of idli-making. Get ready to savour the aroma, taste, and satisfaction of homemade idlis that will transport you to the vibrant streets of South India.FAQsCan I use idli batter immediately after grinding?No, it's essential to ferment the idli batter for the desired texture and taste. Fermentation helps in the flavour development and makes the idlis light and fluffy.Can I use store-bought idli batter?Yes, store-bought idli batter can be a convenient option. However, homemade batter allows you to have more control over the ingredients and fermentation process.Can I freeze the idli batter?Yes, you can freeze the idli batter for later use. Ensure the batter is transferred to an airtight container and thaw it in the refrigerator before using it.Can I make idli without a steamer?If you don't have a steamer, you can use an idli cooker, pressure cooker or even a large pot with a steaming rack. Place the idli moulds on the rack and follow the steaming instructions accordingly.Can I make idlis without fermenting the batter?While fermenting the batter is crucial for traditional idlis, you can make instant idlis using baking soda or fruit salt as a leavening agent. However, the texture and taste may differ from fermented idlis.