Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Iddli Question

I just had a visit from one of my sisters-in-law who is a superb cook, and who makes wonderful iddlis, a dish I have been trying to make for years. She made a batch for us, while I hovered at her elbow, hoping to get it right in the future.

Iddlis are a South Indian snack that is usually served with a rich lentil-based gravy called sambar, or with a lentil and coconut chutney, or simply with a spiced powder combination and a little sesame oil. The recipe looks deceptively easy: Soak rice in a bowl for a few hours; soak urad dhal & fenugreek seeds in another. Grind these separately, (in a special grinding machine) then mix and add salt. Let the mixture rise overnight. Steam the cakes in a special cooking utensil.

When you get it right, the result is a about a dozen fluffy cakes with a slight spring to the touch, and they melt on the tongue, their own tangy taste lingering afterwards. When you get it wrong, well... you get my iddlis. Trust me: There is nothing more miserable to eat than a batch of flat, gummy, hard iddlis. Since even a small recipe yields about 12, it's not like you can toss it. And you can't decide at the last minute to whip up a new batch.

So, anytime one of my in-laws visit, they know it's coming: The Iddli Question: Why didn't the batter rise: I used the right steamer. Why didn't the batter rise? How long did you say to grind the rice? (Ditto for the urad dhal.) Why didn't the batter rise? Was the salt enough? Too much? Why didn't the batter rise? I used the new grinder. Why didn't the batter rise?

If the batter doesn't rise, you see, you get my iddlis, which, so far, have not been light and fluffy, and do not melt on the tongue. I have higher hopes for the next batch, though. We went through it step by step, and we even went shopping for a special iddly rice, which should help future attempts.

Meanwhile, my husband and I still have some uncooked batter leftover from her batch. It keeps well in the refrigerator. For awhile, at least, we can look forward to a delectable experience when we bite into the next iddli.

1 comment:

Kasturi Koushik said...

Hello Aunty, I am Murari's friend Kasturi. I happened to see your blog. Even i had the same experience while making idlis. Through trial and error method, i finally mastered it.

Rice should be soaked in water for a minimum of 12-14 hrs. When you do that, it usually rises up. I preheat the oven to 200 F. Switch off the oven and place the batter inside the oven. I always get fluffy idlis. :)