How to make Idli & Dosai Batter: Step by Step

Idli/Dosai batter is something I learnt how to make very very late in my life. Not because I wasn’t interested to learn, but mostly because someone else always took care of it in my household. Growing up, it was either my mother or grandmother who handled the wet grinder and stood before it (for what seemed like hours) until the batter was ready. After I got married, my MIL was pretty active in the kitchen, and she handled this process. So I basically never had the need to learn it at all, until this year when I started handling the kitchen full-time.

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Every month, this is made in my house at least once. Usually made to coincide with ‘amavaasai’ or new moon day, because on those days we do not consume onion with our food, and having this batter ready meant one less worry about breakfast and dinner. On the first day this batter is made, we usually have idlis, then dosa, then kuzhi paniyaram, and then Kanchipuram idli with the last remnants of the ‘now-turning-sour’ batter. Usually lasts us about 2-3 days for a family of four. It will last you much longer depending on your usage and family size.

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A couple of things I learnt for foolproof, dependable idli/dosai batter, based on my trial and error experiences:

  1. A lot of people recommend grinding the soaked urad dal first, separately, and then grinding the rice. These two batters are later mixed by hand and salt is added to ferment it. It is believed that by this process you get fluffier, softer idlis. I’ve tried this, and with good results. However, not everybody has the time for this during our busy workdays, and frankly, half the times I forget to soak the rice and lentils separately. Once, I called my mum frantically because I’d soaked rice and lentils together, and was worried that I wasn’t going to get proper idlis the next day. So imagine my surprise when she said that she has been soaking rice and lentils together all these years and grinding batter! I was super relieved when I heard this, because my mum makes some of the best idlis in town. They’re super soft and fluffy – and I promptly took down instructions from her for making the batter.
  2. Turns out, what’s important is the ratio of the idli rice to the urad dal. A 2:1 ratio of rice to lentils is fantastic, and will give you great batter, both for idlis and for dosa. Even if you soak and grind them together!
  3. The grinding time in the wet grinder needs to be about 40-45 minutes here, as both rice and lentils need to be ground to the right consistency. The batter must be not be completely smooth. It should still be slightly coarse with fine grains.
  4. You need to let the batter ferment for at least 6-8 hours (if you live in a hot and humid place) or upto 12 hours, if you live in colder climes. Another tip – fenugreek really helps with the fermentation process during winter. It also helps in keeping the body cool, and is great for the stomach. So I usually add fenugreek while soaking the rice and lentils.
  5. You can add salt to the batter (I use table salt, not crystal salt) at these points:
    • during the grinding process (ensures even mixing)
    • during the mixing of the batter, after grinding and before fermentation
    • or during the mixing of batter, after the fermentation process

Read on for the recipe!

Ingredients

  • Idli Rice – 2 cups
  • Urad Dal (whole) – 1 cup
  • Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 2 tsp

Method

Soaking

Wash the idli rice and urad dal under running water until the water runs clear. Drain.

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Add drinking water upto two inches higher than the rice and lentils.

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Add 1 tsp fenugreek seeds to this.

Cover and let it soak for 6 hours.

Grinding

  • Drain the water, and reserve about 2-3 cups for grinding.
  • Add the rice and lentils in one go to the wet grinder.
  • Allow to grind for about 40-45 minutes, checking every 15 minutes to top up with water (if the batter gets really tight). Scrape down the sides of the grinder container using a spatula, and mix the batter well at periodic intervals. Be careful while doing this, and switch off the grinder if you must. You can switch it on again when you’re done with the scraping and mixing.
  • If adding salt, add at this stage.
  • After 45 minutes, switch off the grinder.

Fermentation

Try to scrape out all the batter into an airtight container.

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Cover with the lid and allow to ferment for 6-8 hours, or overnight in a warm place.

After 8 hours, you will see the batter has more than doubled in quantity and risen up, being all frothy.

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Use a ladle to vigorously mix the batter and knock out the bigger air bubbles.

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Add water little by little to dilute the batter if required (if batter is too tight/thick)

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Check for salt and add more if required at this stage.

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Your batter is now ready! Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

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Do try this and let us know what you think 🙂

 

 

 

 

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