Idli Sambhar

Idli-Sambhar is one of my favorite breakfast items. I consider it as one complete meal. As a matter of fact, I can eat Idli and Sambhar any time of the day … literally!

Idli Sambhar
Idli Sambhar

Making Idlis in India or in Summer in the US is not a problem at all since the weather aids in fermentation more easily. However, fermenting the batter to make idlis in the cold season of NY was always a challenge to me. I was never really satisfied with the end result but now I think I am happy the way it comes out. Fermentation takes longer in the winter than the summer. So yes, you need to have a little bit of planning in place. But its not too hard.

Again, I am no expert in South Indian foods but I think I make pretty decent Idli and Sambhar. I use the short cut method to make sambhar which may not be the most authentic way but it is quite healthy and of course very fast when prepared this way. I think the Sambhar powder that you use really makes a difference in the taste. My dear South Indian friend visits India every year and I am lucky to get some freshly made very authentic Sambhar and Rasam powder from him.

Example Use Case: Say I am making Idli for breakfast on Sunday morning.

This is what I follow to make Idli depending on the season: 

Summer – Soak the ingredients for 5-6 hours on Saturday and grind at night. Leave the batter to ferment overnight. No brainer!

Winter/Spring/Fall – Soak the ingredients on friday night. Grind it on saturday morning around say 7:30 am. Cover the vessel with a lid loosely and then wrap the vessel with an old sweater and leave it in the oven without turning it on. On Saturday night, take the vessel out. Pre-heat oven to about 150 deg F. Switch it off. Keep the vessel inside the oven covered with lid, sweater removed. Turn the oven light on and leave it on overnight. You are all set to make idlis on Sunday for breakfast.  See the pictures that I clicked this morning. The vessel was only half full before fermentation. So it actually has risen so much in volume that it pushed the lid!

Idli Batter with raised lid
Idli Batter with raised lid

And this is after I removed the lid. 

Idli batter
Idli batter

Can you believe that these idlis are made in the cold November weather in New York? So soft and fluffy!

Idli Sambhar
For making Idli
  1. Rice - 1 cup
  2. Whole Urad dal - a little more than 1/2 cup
  3. Methi seeds - 1 tspn
  4. Salt - to taste
For Making Sambhar
  1. Toor dal - 1/2 cup
  2. Onion - 1 small
  3. Vegetables of your choice such as carrots, green beans, cauliflower etc - 1 cup, diced
  4. Tamarind pulp - About 2 tblspn or as needed
  5. Jaggery - 1 tblspn (Optional)
  6. Sambhar powder - 1 tblspn
  7. Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tspn
  8. Salt - to taste
For tempering
  1. Coconut Oil - 1.5 tblspn
  2. Hing - a pinch
  3. Mustard seeds - 1 tspn
  4. Methi seeds - a pinch
  5. Red Chillies - 2, broken into 2 pieces each
  6. Curry leaves - About 5
To Make Idli
  1. 1) Wash and soak rice in a vessel with enough water.
  2. 2) Wash and soak urad and methi in a separate vessel with enough water.
  3. 3) Soak these for 5-6 hours in summer or overnight in winter.
  4. 4) Grind the urad and methi first using the water that was used for soaking it. Grind to a fine paste. The paste should not be runny.Transfer to a mixing bowl.
  5. 5) Grind the rice to a fine paste using the water that was used for soaking it. Again, this should not be runny as well. Transfer to the same mixing bowl. Add salt. and mix the batter well using your hand and not a spatula.
  6. 6) Leave the batter for fermentation. Please refer to the blog post for tips on fermentation depending on the season.
  7. 7) Add enough water in the idli steamer, cover with lid and bring it to a boil on high flame.
  8. 8) Grease the idli steaming plates lightly with coconut oil or any neutral tasting oil. Spoon the batter into them.
  9. 9) Steam cook for about 11 mins on medium flame.
  10. 10) Switch off the flame. Let cool for a while and then remove the idlis from the steamer plates. Serve hot withe Sambhar.
To make Sambhar (Not a very authentic but fast way)
  1. 1) Wash and soak dal for about 10-15 minutes. Add the onion and vegetables and 1/2 tspn of salt. Pressure cook on high for 1 whistle and on medium low for 2 whistles. Switch off flame. Let the pressure drop by itself.
  2. 2) Open the lid of the pressure cooker/pan. The vegetables will be on top. Gently move it to one side and mash the dal lightly.
  3. 3) Add sambhar powder, red chilli powder, jaggery, tamarind pulp and salt. Adjust consistency adding enough water if needed. Bring to a boil over medium flame. Switch off the flame.
  4. 5) Prepare tempering with the ingredients listed and pour on top of the dal mixture. Cover with lid. Let stand for 2 minutes before serving.
  1. Servings: Varies. Makes about 37 idlis if the batter is well fermented as shown in the picture.
  1. 1) Do not use olive oil for greasing the steamer plates or else you will end up with dark colored idlis. Learnt this the hard way.
  2. 2) I used Kernel basmati rice for making this.
  3. 3) Please use white whole urad only and not the split dal to make idli.
Meals and All Things Life

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