Monday, September 10, 2007

Idli Sambhar and Uttapams

I LOVE South Indian food. Only rajma-chawal (kidney beans and rice) come close to my love for masala dosa. I love sambhar, fluffy idlis, crispy vadas, slurpy rasams, the wide variety of rice preparations - lime rice, curd rice, tamarind rice, bisi-bele bhaat, that great variety of chutneys and pickles - just love it all!!

We normally eat south Indian food every two weeks at least. I soak a big batch (too big for the two of us anyways) of rice and daal, make two batches of idlis right away and refrigerate the rest of the batter. Some idlis go in the freezer while some make for lunches. And we have dosas and uttapams for dinner.

Ingredients for basic batter - I realize there are various rice-lentil proportions used to make idlis and dosas. The following makes good idlis and pretty good dosas too, so I just stick to it.
1. 2 Cups rice (parboiled works the best, I mistakenly bought it one time - it made the best idlis ever). But considering that parboiled rice is not available in small packs, I make do with basmati.
2. 1 Cup dhuli urad daal (split black gram).
3. 1 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds.

Wash and soak the daal and rice (with fenugreek seeds) separately for at least 6 hrs.
Drain water and grind separately. Daal is easier to grind, rice is more of a challenge. Mix well (I mix the batter by hand), cover and let ferment for 10-12 hrs. Fermentation depends on the temperature. This time when I made the batter, it was a towering 102 degrees outside. After letting the batter sit overnight, I kept it in the patio for 2 hrs. When I checked it, the batter had risen all the way to the top! My heart danced, we were going to get fluffy idlis!!

My mom-in-law got me this set of moulds and a stand with a steamer which is one of my favorite things in my kitchen :) . I use non-stick spray to grease the idli moulds. Works very well.

So here's what I do from here - I like to make idlis right away without putting the batter in the fridge. Add a little salt to taste and very gently mix the batter (you don't want to lose all that trapped air). The idli batter should not be thin, a watered down batter will yield flat idlis. While you fill the moulds with idli batter, fill a little water in a steamer/large stock pot and let it come to a boil. You need to make sure that the water will not touch the last idli plate (I just realized I need to take some pics of the moulds and the idli stand to make more sense!)Once water comes to a boil, place the stand in the steamer/stock pot and cover. Keep the flame medium-high. Idlis are normally done in 10-12 minutes. Insert a fork and check if they are done, if it comes out clean you are good to go! Let the idlis cool down for a few minutes before removing them from the moulds.

I let the idlis cool and store one batch in the fridge and one in the freezer. They reheat very well if you sprinkle a few drops of water and partially cover them while microwaving. 30 secs works for me.


To make dosas/uttapams from the remaining batter - I remove the batter from the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature.

For uttapams (Parthiv is my dosa/uttapam expert btw :)) - Add chopped onions, tomatoes, green chillies, cilantro and salt to the batter(you can also add chopped cabbage and grated carrots). If it's too thick, add water to bring it to a pourable consistency. Heat a non-stick pan, spread a few drops of oil on it. Spread uttapam batter just like you would do for a pancake/cheela/pooda/pudla. Cover with a lid and let it cook for a minute or two. Add a few more drops of oil on the side up and then flip. Let cook without covering. Keep flipping and roasting till the uttapams are golden and crisp.

Serve with hot sambhar, coconut and tomato chutneys! :) I will post sambhar and chutney (recipe here) recipes soon... do check back! :)


Thanks to sweet Asha's suggestion, I am also submitting this recipe for RCI Karnataka (hosted by Asha of Foodie's Hope).



Asha said...

Could you send this to RCI K? Please do if you can.Thanks!:))

Asha said...

Thanks Shweta!:))

Sharmi said...

delicious plate of idlis. one of my all time favorite. thanks for dropping by. welcome to blogsphere and all the best.
Regarding your question in my blog, I make yogurt at home so I diluted the same to make buttermilk.

Shweta said...

Asha ji! Thanks for the acknowledgement :)

Thanks so much for dropping by and for the good wishes! Idlis are my favorite too... Using home-made buttermilk makes sense, store-bought buttermilk is quite sour for a sweet recipe... and that's why I was curious :)

sage said...

Wow..your idli sambhar and uttapams looks so mouthwatering. Thanks for sharing your detailed instruction and recipe, it really helps me as I am new at cooking. I have to try your recipe soon. :) I have some questions and in need of advice. I was wondering what type of grinder do you recommend? I might get one when I visit India. I made idli sometime back and I have tried 2 types; one with idli rava and the outcome was okay but the one with regular rice was hard. I use a regular supermarket type blender. Not sure but I am guessing the rice was not properly grinded and my batter didn’t rise at all after the overnight ferment (I did use an oven light as its kind of cold here in the 60s). I also have problem guessing how the consistency should look like for the batter before ferment. Great weather there in Ca, wish we had your weather. Thanks.

Shweta said...

Hi Sage, Thank you for your kind words. I have a regular Hamilton Beach blender and I just hate it! But I have found that a soak time of 6 hours or so for the rice normally makes it good enough for grinding (even in my pathetic blender). I normally have to add water to get my blender to work well. I think for idlis you can make do with even not so fine grinding. I have heard Indian brands like 'Sumeet', 'Preethi' etc have pretty good mixer/grinders. You could check them out during your India trip.

I also tried using idli rava once. Surprisingly it fermented so much that I had to throw it away. It started smelling real bad! Fermentation is the key and I totally agree, I have had the best idlis only during summer. As the nights are cooler now what I did this time was- soaked on friday night. Ground on sat morning. Let the batter sit by the window (the only place in my kitchen where I get some sun!) all through the day. In the evening, I set the oven to 400 degrees and kept it on for 5 minutes or so. Then placed the batter inside. And it did work! What I would advice is that you can try experimenting in small batches. May be warming up the oven several times during the day would help? And unless its real hot outside, my batter has never fermented overnight. It needs longer than that (I will edit the post to clarify that).

And the consistency... let's see if I can explain that. It should certainly not be very thin/watery. I think for grinding 2 cups of rice + 1 cup of daal I turn up using almost half a cup of water. I try to add as little as possible.

I hope these tips help. I am a big-time idli lover but very new to South-Indian cooking :) Do let me know if you have other questions and I'll try to answer. And wish I could send some California summer over so that you could get some great idlis! :)

sage said...

Shweta, Thank you so much for taking time to reply. Its really great info and so helpful for me. I will check out the grinder brands. Thanks for the idli timeline and I will try your suggestions. It’s been raining for the past week and unfortunately it getting cooler and hardly any sunbreaks and we are expecting more rain. When the weather gets better, I will experiment with small batches to see how it goes. You have been such a great help! Thanks again. :)