The Grubbie Tuesday “How Not To” Series- Idlis!

You know it’s going to be a great day when your 6 month old finally sleeps through the night (first continuous 5 and a 1/2 hours stretch of sleep in almost a year!) and then you enter the kitchen with a perfectly soured, risen idli batter greeting you.



Morning doc! Mr Batter seems to say. I’m all done dear, please let’s get going….

Idlis. Well how does one describe them. I once saw them on  5 star menu- they called them soft, fluffy, fermented rice cakes.


To me, cake never sounds right when there is no baking involved. But for the lack of a better word, I shall go along with CAKE.

But let us improve the description, shall we? We shall call our idlis- Soft, fluffy, sour, fermented, steamed, rice and black- lentil/ gram cakes. Hmmm… Much better.

They can be had with chutney/ chammandi, sambhar, or chutney powder. In some places, they are even enjoyed with meat curries. I am not sure if anyone else does this, but I sometimes eat them dunked in a hot bowl of milk with some sugar sprlinked on top. Am I a total weirdo for doing that?

There are several variations of the idli, but let us stick to the basics. The plain ol’ version.

So, how do we NOT make idlis?

1. DO NOT use a flat, unfermented batter. Might as well have toast for breakfast.

2. Do not add too much water to the steaming pot. The idlis become soggy and gross. Been there….

Just enough...
Just enough…

3. Do not add too little either. It dissappears in no time and then you have black, charred, stuck idlis. Done that…

4. Do not pour the batter into the idli plates directly. Always grease the plate/ pan with some oil.

photo (36)
The scratch marks tell a not-so-pleasant story!


Otherwise this ensues…

It is usually much worse...
It is usually much worse…

5. Do not over-fill the idli plates. Under-filling them does no harm except your idlis won’t look right.

photo (31)
For demonstration purposes only 😉

6. Do not be in a hurry to get them off the heat. No matter how hurried you are and how much your spouse haggles you. Whether you use a pot with a whistle or no, give a good 8 to 12 minutes (depends on the size of the pot and the number of idlis in them).

7. Once cooked, DO not try to scrape it off the plate immediately. Wait for it to cool.

8. Do not eat less than four idlis, at the very least. It is an insult to the idli- maker/ cook. Lick the plate and your finger’s clean.

photo (37)
Breakfast perfection!


photo (30)
Comfort food!


It's onion and coconut chammandi today. Courtesy - Mr H.
It’s onion and coconut chammandi today. Courtesy – Mr H.


Sambhar! Tastes better than it looks- I promise!


That’s all for today folks!

Till the next how-not-to…

Dr J.

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