Idli is a popular South Indian breakfast item throughout India. The idlis are usually two to three inches in diameter and are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented udad dal (de-husked black gram or black lentils) and rice. Idli (and the process of steaming) was unknown in India by as early as 700AD. This technique was imported from Indonesia, subsequently between 800-1200 CE. Earliest mention of idli occurs in the Kannada writing of Shivakotiacharya in 920 AD.
The stand in which the idli batter is poured to produce the idlis is a made out of stainless steel or aluminium. It has 3 to 4 plates with the cavities with perforated holes. These plates stand over each other. The base plate has a small support below it, which elevates the plate with the cavities from any surface on which it is kept , and a central vertical rod in the middle, above.
The remaining plates are positioned one over the other along this vertical rod. A plastic knurled knob with a screw embedded inside is used to lock the plates in place at the top of the central vertical rod. This stand is sold as a pressure cooker accessory as it has to be used with one in order to make idlis.
Cooking of Idli
Two parts of uncooked rice
One part of urad dal (black gram or black lentil)
2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds
Salt for taste
Procedure to make the batter:
To make idlis, two parts of uncooked rice are soaked along with one part of urad dal (black gram or black lentil) in a pan along with 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds for 3 hours with sufficient amount of water. The lentils and rice are then ground to a paste in a heavy stone grinding vessel or mixer or the wet grinder. The paste is left overnight to ferment, until it has expanded to about 2½ times its original volume. Sufficient amount of salt is added for taste & some water too is added to obtain the required consistency of the batter.
Procedure to make the idlis:
Unscrew knob of idli stand. Remove idli plates from the stand. Rub one drop of oil all over inside of each cavity. Stir batter and fill to the brim each cavity of bottom plate. Put an empty plate on stand and position it such that one cavity of the upper plate is half way between two cavities of the lower plate. Fill each cavity to the brim. In the same way fill remaining 2 plates. Screw on knob and tighten gently.
Pour water (1½ cups /360ml) in a pressure cooker. Place idli stand in the pressure cooker for steaming. The stand holds the plates above the level of boiling water in a pressure cooker. The perforated cavities allow the idlis to be cooked evenly. Close the pressure cooker without vent weight. Cook on high heat till steam passes through vent tube. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 6 minutes, ensuring a steady stream of steam from vent tube. Remove the pressure cooker from heat. Open the lid. Allow to cool for 2 minutes. Remove the idli Stand. Allow to cool for 2 minutes. Unscrew the knob and remove plates.
Run a table knife/ large spoon around the edge of each fluffy idli to remove it from the cavities in plate. Thus all the idlis can be removed in this way & stored or served hot.
Different types of idli stands :
Idli stands are usually designed to fit into standard sizes of the pressure cookers available in the market. They can have 4 tiers, 5 tiers or even 6 tiers. Each plate of the tier can have 3 to 4 cavities to hold the batter.
The plate holding mechanism varies with different brands. The materials used for stands are aluminium, stainless steel, food grade plastic. With Indian kitchens embracing cooking using a microwave oven the plastic idli stands help in cooking the idlis in them much faster than in the traditional way!
Some idli stands have more cavities, around 12 to 15 in a plate instead of the 3 or 4 thus producing mini sized idlis which are as popular as the regular sized idlis.
Multipurpose Electrical idli steamer
Image source: http://www.hotdishes.com/idlycooker.htm
This Electric Idli Steamer is sleek in style and light in weight too.
It can produce a maximum of 20 idlis at one go i.e. it has 5 plates with 4 cavities each.
The idlis are fat free, as the idli plates do not require greasing of oil or ghee.
It has two transparent chambers in different size, to let one see during the process of cooking.
There are tiny vents designed on the periphery, which allow the excess steam to escape.
It is fitted with auto shut-off timer with a 'ding' sound to let one know, when the cooking is done.
This multi-purpose steamer can conveniently steam vegetables too, thus retaining the micro nutrients. It can also steam or slow cook rice to retain its flavour and aroma. It can also steam Rice Noodles, Dhokla, Kolukattai and Puttu (these are different types of steamed snacks made in different parts of India).
This multi-purpose steamer can conveniently steam vegetables too, thus retaining the micro nutrients. It can steam or slow cook rice to retain its flavour and aroma. It can steam Rice Noodles, Dhokla, Kolukattai and Puttu (these are different types of steamed snacks made in different parts of India).