If you are busy with work, without much time to soak a bunch of stuff and clean grinders, here’s an easy 4 step technique to make idli batter ready for fermentation in under 10 minutes.
Note, I did not say – most traditional recipe, fluffiest idli, etc…The internet is filled with ideas for those. But, if you are looking for the easiest way to make idli batter with least amount of effort, least amount of washing, you have come to the right place.
Steve Jobs has said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”
So, let us just focus on the shortest route to making idlis. (I bet this might be the only time in history Steve Jobs and Idlis are quoted together, lol!!)
4 easy steps to make fermented idli batter using a Blender and Smart Pot
- 3/4 cup Urad dal
- 2 cups Idli Rava
- 1/2 tsp Salt
Soak Urad Dal Overnight
Grind Urad dal in High speed blender and pour batter to instant pot. Whisk the batter vigorously with a hand whisk.
Add hot water and rinse out blender. Pour the hot water on to the idli rava
Add idli rava paste to the instant pot, mix well. Set to ferment in 'Yogurt' setting for 12 hours.
Ensure that the 'Steam Release Handle' is left open to Vent mode to ensure flow of air.
What is the minimum number of ingredients to make idli? – 3.
Urad dal, Idli Rava and Salt.
But, wait a minute, you wonder about other add-ons like fenugreek seeds, poha (flattened rice), cooked rice etc…Aren’t those necessary?
While all those ingredients add different functions like taste, complexity, softness to batter, they are not mandatory in a basic idli batter.
When Urad dal is soaked and ground, it has a unique ability to rapidly grow good bacteria (~290 species) and increase in volume. The rice along with the urad dal gives the batter a glutinous consistency and retain the gases evolved.
Thus, if you have urad dal, you have fermentation.
Idli Rava is basically parboiled rice that has already been coarsely ground for you.
When it comes to ease of making idlis:
Idli Rava > Parboiled Rice > Plain Rice
I used to think buying Idli Rava was an overkill. What’s the big deal? I could always buy parboiled rice and use that, right?
But considering that I do not have to soak, grind, do multiple blender runs, of Idli Rava, unlike the whole rice, it saves me quite a bit of time and effort. I found myself making more idlis. In this case, processed food = time-saver, so yay to Idli Rava!!
Step by Step Pictures
Let us look at the steps in details:
1. Soak Urad Dal Overnight
That’s it… You only need to soak Urad dal. No other multitude of vessels in your kitchen filled with water soaked stuff…Isn’t that liberating???
2. Grind Urad dal in High speed blender and add paste to instant pot
Wet Grinder or Mixie?? Why do some Indians swear by their stone grinder?
The reason Indians use wet grinder is to maximize surface area of dal without heating up the batter too much. If you heat the batter too much (>60C, 140F), then the temperature becomes too high for the microbes to survive. Another reason – the grinders grind the Urad dal so well, that there is more surface area in the batter for the microbes to grow.
But, if you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec, less than a minute of grinding is enough to get a smooth batter without over heating.
But what about the fluffiness, you ask? The Indian grinder whips air into the batter as it grinds. More air = better rise. To imitate this aspect, it is best to whip the urad dal batter with a whisk thoroughly and then proceed to the next step. (I don’t have a picture of this step, but I have repeatedly gotten the best results when I whip the batter vigorously with my hand whisk before setting it to ferment.)
3. Add hot water and rinse out blender. Pour the rinsed hot water on to the idli rava
Use hot water to clean the blender and pour it on the idli rava. The hot water technique accomplishes 3 things at the same time – 1. Clean out 80% of the blender and 2. Soften the idli rava 3) Raise the temperature of the idli rava.
Notice you are adding hot water to the carbs (idli rava) and not to the urad dal portion of the batter. Thus, you will not mess with our friends – the microbes:).
4. Mix batter and set to ferment
The warm idli rava can be mixed in with the urad dal paste and salt in the Instant pot. Add room temperature water if the batter is too thick.
Set to ferment in ‘Yogurt’ setting for 12 hours. The yogurt setting, by default is 8 hours. You will want to increase that to 12 hours for idli fermentation.
During fermentation the volume of idli batter increases from 1.62 to 3.2 times its original volume. This increased volume of idli batter is due to the incorporation of lactic acid bacteria into the batter during fermentation and entrapment of air.
Once batter is fermented, prepare idlis using steamer. Hot yummy idlis ready from the idli batter.
People in India, especially in the south, don’t have to worry about fermentation. But for those outside with colder weather, it is trickier to get the batter to ferment. I love the fact that the instant pot keeps the batter in constant warm and humid conditions (106f-113F range) best for the microbes to multiply. (Ensure that the vent is left open for the Yogurt mode)
Because of this controlled temperature help, I am able to get results without having to molly-coddle the batter even in winter.
My aunt, Raji perimma, first gave me the idea to add idli rava directly (no soaking, no grinding) to the batter. Thank you Perimma!! It was a paradigm shift for me. I always thought, the smoother the batter, the better the quality of idlis. But no, she said that her family preferred the slight graininess in the idlis and lo and behold…so did my husband!!
That made my life easier. Not only does it save time for me, it also gives me a tasty idli. Win-Win!!
Hope you are able to save time using these techniques as well. Please share your comments down below. As always, I love hearing from you!!
Looking for other time saving ideas? Try:
- Quick Milagu Jeera Rasam – Cumin Pepper Soup (6 ingredients, 8 minutes or under)
- Easy Vegan Creamy Tofu Curry
- Vegan Chana Masala ready in under 10 minutes
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