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Idli /ɪdliː/ is a traditional breakfast in Indian households. Idli is a savoury cake that is popular throughout India and neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka. The cakes are usually two to three inches in diameter and are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. The fermentation process breaks down the starches so that they are more readily metabolized by the body.
A variant of Idli known as sanna is very popular amongst the Goans and other Konkani people. Another variant known as Enduri Pitha is very popular in Odisha.
To make idli, four parts uncooked rice to one part split black lentil (urad dal, vigna mungo) are soaked separately for at least four hours. Optionally spices such as fenugreek seeds can be added at the time of soaking for additional flavor. Once done soaking, the lentils and rice are separately ground to a fine paste and then combined. Next, the mixture is left to ferment overnight during which its volume will more than double. After fermentation some of the batter may be kept as a starter culture for the next batch.
The finished idli batter is put into greased moulds of an idli tray or "tree" for steaming. The perforated molds allow the idlis to be cooked evenly. The tree holds the trays above the level of boiling water in a pot, and the pot is covered until the idlis are done (about 10–25 minutes, depending on size). A more traditional method is to use leaves instead of molds.
Parboiled rice can reduce the soaking time considerably. Store-bought ground rice or cream of rice may also be used. Similarly, semolina or cream of wheat may be used for preparingrava idli (wheat idli). Yogurt may be added to provide the sour flavor for unfermented batters. Prepackaged mixes allow for almost instant idlis.
In addition to or instead of fenugreek other spices may be used such as such as mustard seeds, chile peppers, cumin, coriander, ginger, etc. Sugar may be added to make them sweet instead of savory. Idli may also be stuffed with a filling of potato, beans, carrot and masala. Leftover idlis can be cut-up and sautéed for a dish called idli upma.
Rather than a stovetop steamer, microwave and automatic electric idli steamers are available with convenient non-stick coating. Batter preparation using a manual rocking rock grinder can be replaced by electric grinders or blenders (mixies).