Idly (Uppuma)

As you all have read last weekend my f-in-law came over from India and I was busy making tiffin dabbas and the likes trying to impress him. Well, any inroads I made with the vatral kuzhambu were completely destroyed with my idlies the next day. Following my Dad's recipe I soaked the rice and urad, unfortunately I did not have parboiled rice. I ground them separately, mixed and let it rise, but I think because the weather wasn't really warm it didn't rise very well. To make a long story short the idlies were hard as BRICKS! I did receive feedback from my dear hubby that they were the worst idlies he had ever eaten. I felt bad, being the daughter of a master idly maker and all! But the sambar was pretty good if I do say so myself, and chutney! Now every person I meet has a new variation to tell me about how to make idlies, the ratio and the rising, and the brand of rice! Well, bring on the advice. Let's hear it. BTW, I did put it in the oven on warm for the whole day and it still only rose like 1cm. I guess I should not have attempted the idlies, but at least I have learned my lesson to always have a back up to them! ha.
We had some friends staying over with us as well, and luckily our Aunty who was here fixed up my idlies and transformed them into idly uppuma!! She gave me the suggestion to grate the idlies, yes folks they were THAT hard. Then she spluttered mustard seeds with channa daal, curry leaves and asafetida in a good amount of sesame oil. She added chili powder, turmeric and the grated idlies, and then mixed in a good amount of idly-milagaipodi and salt.

It tasted so good. I mean we all ate the left overs for days. You would never have know they had started out as such bricks. Its a good lesson that these Aunty's, Mother's and M-in-law's practice, they never waste any food!

Verdict: My dear f-in-law was so sweet and ate my rock hard idlies. He told me that idlies are hard to make, and so I should keep trying. Also he gave me extra compliments on the vatral kuzhambu to make me feel better! Hubby ended up warming the leftovers in the evening and eating them. My parents came over the next day and my father and mother loved the idly uppuma and we finished it off. Not one idly was wasted!


bee said...

good damage control. in this house of mine, the idli abtter refuses to rise, no matter what we do. we still make soft idlis. if the batter doesn't rise, just before steaming, add a tsp. of eno fruit salt. i's available at all indian grocers. (it's a mixture of soda bicard and citric acid). the batter will get all foamy, and you'll have soft idlis.

FH said...

Looks like a great idea with damaged idlis!:))
I keep in the oven with pilot light on over night in winter to ferment,summer is not a problem here.

Anonymous said...

welcome to the club:)) well, as u say the ratio is so varied that i've given up making idlis. but everytime i'm back after a good vacation in India (that includes devouring amma's idlis every single day) i'm tempted to give it a shot again. must try bee's tip this time:) good luck to both of us... said...

Bee, that is a good idea. My hubby was saying the same thing (of course his advice came long after the damage was done). I did this for rava idly, don't know why it didn't strike me for the idly!

Asha, also a good idea. The thing is in our rental apt there is no light in the oven! And my toaster oven is too small, and the microwave light is on the side! Maybe I need to increase the heat in the oven...but spring is here so hopefully I won't have these problems for a few months! Last time I did all kinds of experiments like putting a towel around it, putting it on the heater, putting a light right on top etc. It rose about 1 inch. But the idlies were fine. I guess I need to babysit my batter like that again!

Lakshmik said...


Idli upma was an all time favorite back home. Nice recipe.

Modern Day Hermit said...

If the weather is not cooperating, I use a yogurt and farina base, this particular recipe is for rava idli but it turns out very nice:

Recipe Link

Anonymous said...

You know the family recipe for idli.

Putting my education to good use, here's the issue: the fermentation is mainly bacterial. Optimum temperature for fermentation is between 86 and 90 degrees fahrenheit. You are waaaay off of that mark.

To make yoghurt (bacterial fermentation again), I usually sit the container in a cooler filled with warm water (at around 90 degrees). It makes a great incubator, but that might be too small for idli batter.

As far as leavening goes, the two most important things are the urad dal and the parboiled rice. The bacteria that munch on the dal produce a lot of carbon-di-oxide. The parboiled rice has gelatinized starch that holds on to the gas much better than raw rice can. The dal also has the right kinds of starches (that the bacteria like) to produce a slimy output that will hold on to the gas and help your idlies rise.

If you want to geek out even more about idli, check out this NIH paper about the fermentation process.

Anonymous said...

You could try adding a little bit of yeast to the batter. That works well for me .



Vcuisine said...

Good idea, Archana, Nice blog. Viji

Prema Sundar said...

Ur father in law was right... Idlies are difficult to make . I have faced this problem too in the early stages of cooking. But i haven't thought of idli upma.. Great idea!!!

J said...

Hi Kanchana! I luv idli upma! Idlis were difficult for me because the batter wouldn't grind properly thanks to the hopeless blenders we get here in Dubai. But thankfully it should be a breeze now since we carried a Sumeet mixie from India!!

TNL said...

what a great in NF, i am sure you know how cold it is here...I just preheat the oven to 220, let the batter sit there until it rises....I do this twice. Once in the early morning and then again in the afternoon...this works for me.

your idlis didnt go to waste..thats the main thing.

Sia said...

happy ugadi to u n ur family kanchana:) said...

Latha, Lakshmi, MDH, MK, HKJ, Viji, Prema, Jyothsna, Trupti thanks for all the wonderful advice and comments. I will be experimenting with them all. Gopi, thanks for the family recipe and your amazing breakdown. And Happy Ugadi to you all! Thanks Supriya.

Anonymous said...

hi, i live in cold cold mi, and i make idli's v often. here's what i do.
propotion is 4:1.. 4cups parboiled rice :1 cup urid dhal.
soak the night before separately. along with a spoon of methi seeds ( add this to the rice)
I grind the dhal for a long time ( i do have a wet grinder)
my mom says the key id to let them ferment in a stainless steel vessel not plastic or glass.
does that make a difference? i have no idea but my idlis are really soft .
i also set them to rise on the heat vent!!!

i usually make an extra batch and freeze them. a friend of mine runs a restrauant and
he claims the best way to reheat idlis is to dunk the frozen/refrigerated ones in water for a min
line them up on a plate cover with wet paper towel
and nuke away..
believe me it works?

you have a nice blog and if you lived close to canton/ann arbor i would gladly give you the authentic
wet grinder ground idli batter :)

Anonymous said...

Eno fruit salt does work - we use it during winter or whenever the batter doesn't rise. If they still come out hard, we make upma, but instead of grating them, we just chop them up into bite sized pieces, it becomes really crisp. Grating would make it a little softer and more upma-like, I should try it.