Friday, March 14, 2008

Idli Dosa Love

I am big on breakfasts, and strongly believe in equal opportunity for breakfast foods- so you will often catch me serving them for lunch, tea and dinner as well. This month (or what's left of it), I decided to give some thought to including more whole grains into breakfast. I do love my so-not-whole-grain poha, sabudana, rava dosa and baguettes, but let me add some whole grains to my repertoire too.

Today's whole-grain tweak: Brown rice in idlis and dosas. The idli-dosa family of breakfast foods has got to be one of the most strongest contenders in the "nutritious meets delicious" department. There is something about the whole ritual of soaking rice and lentils, grinding them, fermenting the batter and churning out fluffy idlis and crispy dosas that is just very fulfilling. Makes me feel like a real proper cook :D

Until a month or two ago, the biggest challenge for me was the grinding of the batter; I had to manage with my KitchenAid food processor. Just for the record, the food processor was able to gring soaked rice and urad dal (separately) quite well, but was an utter failure when it came to grinding soaked parboiled rice. I would bite my lip nervously every time I made batter wondering if today was the day when my delicate machine would decide that it was not built for such arduous tasks and die on me. The best way to grind these batters at home is to buy one of those heavy-duty wet grinders (developed and manufactured in India) that are uniquely designed for this purpose. But you know what- they are quite expensive and I was quite sure that one was never going to fit into my budget at this time. Then I got one of these wet grinders as a gift! V's cousin bought a newer, smaller version and generously let me have her wet grinder. This is one impressive machine. A huge metal drum with a stone floor holds two huge grinding stones (scroll down in that link to take a look at them). Start the heavy-duty motor, and even the most unyielding dal and rice is churned into a buttery paste.

One of the first recipes I tried in the wet grinder was Jugalbandi's Whole-Grain Idlis. Yes, I finally have some gorgeous rosematta rice in my pantry.

Some time ago, I whined in a post about not being able to find rosematta rice around here. Two kind souls responded: my friend Madhu came over with rosematta rice for me to try and the one and only Linda mailed me a beautiful glass jar of rosematta from far, far away! Now this is when you soberly realize what a lucky girl you are- when even your petulant whining leads kind friends to help you.

I followed Bee and Jai's recipe except that I skipped the 2 T of cooked rice/poha/soaked bread. I like this recipe because (a) it combines brown rice and parboiled rice (the latter, although not technically a whole grain, does retain a great many of its nutrients, if I understand correctly), (b) makes a small batch of 12-15 idlis which is nice because most idli recipes are designed to make enough idlis to feed a small village, (c) includes a tip for soaking the rice and lentils in filtered water and not chlorinated tap water (I never thought of that!).

The batter fermented beautifully without the need for any interventions such as the surreptitious addition of fruit salt :D. I am lucky in that respect; fermentation has never been a problem in my present kitchen. Still, whenever I ferment something overnight, I do tend to worry about it and obsess over it. The first thought as I cross the hazy land of half-sleep is, did the batter ferment? It is enough to jerk me wide awake and get me to stumble in the darkness to the kitchen and check on the bowl of batter. A whiff of the sweet-sour aroma of fermented batter and a look at the bubbling mass in the half-light, and I am able to heave a sigh of relief.

Here are the idlis, served with huli (now updated with a link to Latha's secret family recipe for vibrant huli powder). See all those holes that the yeasty beasties so obligingly made?

And if steamed whole-grain idlis feel a little too healthy, you can always find creative ways to convert them into a guilty pleasure. Exhibit A: fried idli. Idlis cut into 4-5 slices, then fried in a T or so of oil until crispy.

Now that I have the wet grinder, I am like a kid with her new toy- can't stop playing with it. Here's another recipe I tried: Ashwini's Mushti Polo. Her engaging write-up tells us the origin of the name of this dosa. Adding poha (flattened rice flakes) to dosa is something new to me. I did follow the recipe exactly, except to use 1 C brown rice and 1 C white rice in place of 2 C white rice. I figured, with the white poha being refined, I would add some brown rice and split the difference in terms of whole grains. It has worked beautifully for me every time I sub brown rice for white rice in a dosa recipe. Next time, I will try all brown rice in this recipe.

The poha really helps the fermentation along, and this was the laciest and airiest dosa I have ever made in my life. It was great in the lunch-box too! I served this with pearl-onion sambar and parsley chutney (the normal coconut-cilantro-green chillies chutney but using parsley instead of cilantro because it was what I had on hand).

Poha dosas are very popular in the food blog world:
Sharmi's Atukula Attlu looks incredibly spongy and uses sour yogurt or buttermilk to help the fermentation along.
Shilpa prefers to call her poha dosa Masti Dosa- that's how much fun it is to make and eat!
Namratha's Set Dosa comes with a great story of how that name came about.

*** *** ***

Mandira, the talented blogger over at Ahaar, just wrote a cover story for Khabar, monthly Indian-American magazine published from Atlanta. Click to read the story, "The Call of the Kitchen". Congratulations on a beautiful article, Mandira. She was kind enough to interview me for it, although I am well aware that I absolutely do not belong in the list of accomplished cooks and writers featured there.

*** *** ***

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and wishes for our puppy. We love this dog something awful and you have no idea how grateful I am for the wishes he gets from folks near and far.


  1. Wow, you have been busy! The idlis and dosas look yummy. I have never seen such porous idlis before. Is it a good sign or was the batter over-fermented?

  2. Anamika, it tasted fine to me, but more experienced idli cooks will probably tell you that it was over-fermented :D

  3. Hi Nupur,

    So do we get any Rosematta Rice here at all ? I tried looking for them but was unsuccesful so far ..

    It is such a droolable dosa you have here ! :)

    Nice post !


  4. Stone grinder is the best for idlies and dosas! The rice or dal grain gets crushed and soaks more water so you get a fine batter. in a food processor the grains are cut and not crushed.
    I can feel your happiness after acheiving those soft idlies! :) Fried idlies look yummy!! :)

  5. WOw, seeing the 'holey' picture of the idlis, one can tell how well the batter was fermented :) I'm quite ashamed to admit that being a tamilian, I have never ground the batter successfully in the mixer, so I gave up in a couple of tries...People like you inspire me to succeed in this department some day :) It's been a month and have been seriously missing your posts...
    Will check out your interview once I post this comment.

  6. Lovely recipes...hope Dale is feeling better :-)

  7. LOVE these idlis, they look so fluffy! The recipe from Bee and Jai's is really good. Will check out the huli recipe as well.

    Heading to check Mandira's article. Great job, you are a thoughtful cook, girl!

  8. Wow that idli looks so soft .
    I don't have a idli maker so i always make dosa...

  9. Amma!! that wet grinder is expensive!! I have a problem with parboiled rice blender is already R.I.P :((.. in the new one, it takes me 2 hrs. to grind that rice and tons of patience, I'm giving up the parboiled rice.
    But u are lucky! And the idlis (fried idli as well) and the mushti dosa are perfect!
    Take care of u. and have a gr8 weekend!

  10. OMG Nupur, I'd never have thought mushti dosa could look so beautiful. You keep giving me healthy tips and I keep making a note of them. I think its high time I actually started incorporating them in my cooking :-)
    Congratulations on the article.

  11. Got to love that rosematta! And those idlis look mindblowingly good.

    Hey, I totally missed your last post about Dale. I hope he's doing better, our thoughts are with you.

  12. you should start whining for romematta poha now someone may just send it to you. i think i'm going to whine as well :D

    i think the wet grinder is a wonderful long term investment. need to get one soon. who knows, idli batter may start fermenting at our home too.

  13. all those recipes look delicious!

  14. WOw the idlies look really delicious..Have not tried dosa with Poha..will have to try them next time..

  15. oh my! that dosa looks soooo good, Nupur! that grinder will be put to good & rigorous use in ur ktchen i guess ;)

  16. I've never made idlis. I'll have to add them to my list of dishes I want to learn!

  17. The fried idli looks delish.....

  18. Hi Nupur!!gr8 looking porous and healthy idlis.hope alls well with dale....lots of love to him.I had once mentioned in one of the comments section that chinu is adear frnd of mine...i do keep mentioning abt your blog details to her.:))

  19. Even if it feeds a whole village, I would make a bigger batch of the batter, cos it stays for quite long in the refrigerator. Gosh, these idlies are gorgeous, I can have 'em anyday.

  20. Lovely Idlis & huli!! Yum Yum, Idlis & dosas r welcome at my place any time.. serve with 2-3 types of chutney & sambhar & may be vadas on the side.. Oh! Man am i dreaming, cause i need to make all these & eat too :-)
    Grinder is a good investment - if u r a Breakfast person. Expensive agreeded, but last long. Plus batter ferments perfectly well too....

  21. Good post Nupur! Lovely looking idlis, i'm not whining but i have nto found rosematta rice here, maybe i have not looked hard enough :-) The polo alos looks delicious, i have a recipe for set dosa that calls for Mamra instead of poha and gosh those do tastes heavenly, very spongy, will post that sometime!
    Nice article by Mandira! And hope Dale gets better soon! My prayers that he keeps in good health!

  22. These look utterly gorgeous! I haven't made 'real' idli dosa at all in the US, sticking to the rawa version because of the same grinder issues. Now that I have a heavy duty kitchenaid, I'm going to try. Thanks for all the great links!!

  23. Hai, lovely looking idlis! And that dosa....
    Now that dinning hall has closed, maybe we should have a Whinning Hall.

  24. Mala, yes, you do get rosematta rice in the US (I am assuming that is where you mean by "here") but it is certainly not as ubiquitous as, say, basmati rice. You may have to call several stores in your city to ask if they carry it, or have to check in stores in neighboring cities etc. Perhaps your local store owner will be able to order it for you if you request it. I hope you manage to find some!
    The dosa was really delicious. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

    Latha, yes, now that I have used the stone grinder, I completely understand why it is so highly regarded. Still, it is taking me some time to understand how to use it correctly and get that perfect consistency. Fried idlis is the only way my significant other enjoys idlis, and I will admit, they do taste good :D

    Nandita, dosa batter has worked beautifully for me from day one, but idli batter is a different story! It is taking me a long time to get it right. But I shall make good idlis or die trying :D

    Sunita, Dale is noticeably better (someone at the dog park just commented on how much more playful he is) so I think your good wishes are working :)

    Musical, you- goddess of spice powders- will love the huli recipe :)

    Happy Cook, if you have a pressure cooker you could steam idli batter in bowls and then cut them into squares for some non-traditionally-shaped idlis :) but yes, there is always dosa to fall back on!

    Manasi, yes, it is an investment for sure. But check craigslist and "for sale" ads, often people who move don't want to take the grinder with them will sell it off and you might find a second-hand (I mean previously used!) one for a more affordable price.

    Ashwini, your recipe is delicious. Thank you for sharing it :) I need to devote some time to really trying out all the amazing Konkani recipes you have posted.

    KayKat, thank you for the wishes, my dear. It certainly has been fun to try rosematta :)

    Bee, you promise to send me rosematta poha- I'll start whining this very minute ;) :D
    That's exactly it- the wet grinder will last a life-time. It is a great buy for those who know where they will be for the next few years. Not nomads like me :) I think you will love using one.

    Uma, thank you!

    Divya, dosa with poha is delightfully spongy...quite different from the usual kind I make. Totally worth a try.

    Richa, yes, the dosa made me so happy :) I am using the grinder every weekend without fail :D

    Lydia, I will say this- idlis are the most challenging thing I have ever made. Still struggling with them :) having said that, they are really fun to make and eat and I hope you get to do it sometime!

    Jayashree, glad you like it :)

    Saswati, Dale is much better, thank you for asking! He is taking a nap near my feet. How nice that you know Chinu :) I adore that girl. If you talk to her, please tell her I asked her to write me an e-mail or else! :D

    Suganya, dosa batter has many customers in my home, but idli batter, sadly, not many :) I make a batch for myself and eat it over 3-4 days.

    Seema, now that is my idea of a feast! But yes, if someone else will cook it for me ;) otherwise it is idli OR dosa OR vada :D yes, that machine is so sturdy I am quite sure it will outlive me!

    Latha, ooh...I can see how mamra (I know it more as kurmura) would make a really airy dosa as well! Hey, your idlis are next on my hit-list :D will let you know how they turn out.
    Thank you so much for your thoughts for my puppy...we thank you for that.

    Nehaj, with the kitchenaid, dosa batter worked well and idlis worked with the idli rava method (only the urad dal needs grinding in that case). Good luck...I wish you many fluffy idlis and crispy dosas!

  25. Nupur, idlis looks great. Should try with rosematta rice. The poha dosai, light and airy looks great too. Fermenting is an exercise in optimism, according to my mom the hand of the person mixing the dough has a lot to do with fermenting ;) I have had days when it simply won't and days I have spent 1 hour cleaning out the overflowing dough in the oven and shedding tears for throwing it away.

  26. Your idlis look so good that I'm almost tempted to make some, and I don't even like idlis! The fried idlis are worth a shot but I'd have to make the idlis first:-(
    The dosa looks very soft and spongy.
    Your pic of the rosematta rice is beautiful. I guess I'm one of the few Keralites who is not too crazy about this one. Nothing but basmati will do for me.:-)Even as a kid when I used to visit Kerala during summer hols, I needed my "white" rice.

  27. Nupur, Hi. Been following your blog for a few months and this post has inspired me to leave a few words. I finally have been able not only to grind the dosa batter (I use the Magic Bullet and it takes forever, but tastes good), ferment it, but have been successful in making idli, utthapam and thin, crisy dosas! (With molagai podi)...Your fried idlies are done in a new way to me...another way you can try is take fresh or day old ildis and cut into small chunks and fry up like an 'upma' with curry leaves, green chilies, little haldi, salt and dhal pieces.. it's yummy and so easy for breakfast!! Enjoy and I'll come again!

  28. Everything looks so good Nupur! Of course, I thought your idli were delicious before, so I can't even imagine how wonderful they must be now that you have the proper tool!

  29. Nupur, what a cute idli you have there. Glad to read you again, it s been a while :-)

  30. Just loved the idli fry....

  31. I love idli - and tried this and had a TOTAL failure. I do have rosematta, so used all that instead of part brown/part rosematta. I made flat, stodgy rather moist cakes that wouldn't cook up right now matter how long I steamed them. I've successfully made dosas in the past, but these did not fly. I just wanted to cry. I don't know what went wrong. Perhaps the batter didn't fully ferment. I may have to resign myself to continuing to buy idlis, and just make other breakfast items.

    Any ideas?

  32. TheCooker, whining and dining...a classic combination :)

    Indosungod, well-said! I have to agree with you that overflowing dough can drive one to tears. That is one messy mess!

    TBC, ah, I see we have another idli-hater here :D
    I have to say that eating parboiled rice by itself (I mean as rice and not ground into batter) is definitely an acquired taste and one that I am still trying to acquire. It tastes really different from cooked raw rice whether white or brown.

    Jennifer, yes, I do make idli upma once in a while too. But the fried idlis are always received with much more enthusiasm in my home.

    Cathy, you have to come visit again...I can now produce crispy golden dosas for you :)

    Zlamushka, thanks :)

    easycrafts, glad you liked it!

    Diane, yes, yes, the very thing you describe has happened to me once. Now, I am very new to parboiled rice myself so I might be wrong in being to "diagnose" this but I will give you my thoughts anyway. Grinding parboiled rice is a bit tricky. When I made this batter (that yielded these failed idlis) the parboiled rice did not grind down to an absolutely smooth batter...there were tiny "nibs" left in it. In an effort to get these to break down, I added water. All in all, I ended up with batter that was too watery and not smooth enough. It did ferment but the consistency was not thick enough to trap the air bubbles and the idlis collapsed into a mushy paste when I tried steaming them.
    I don;t know what grinding device you are using. With my wet grinder, it needs some water to start with, and then for the rice to be added bit by bit so a batch grinds down before I add more. I am careful to add very limited water to make a batter than does not pour easily but instead, drips thickly. The idlis work only if the batter is as smooth as cream.
    For me, dosas work like a charm. Idlis are very tricky. They have made me cry many times :) Good luck for your next attempt!

  33. Nupur: Thanks! That may be it. My batter was kind of grainy - I thought it was supposed to be like that, and I didn't overgrind the rice (did grind dal totally smooth like cream). So now I know. I am lucky enough to have a Sumeet, so its ability to grind is not in question, but clearly my ability to judge the correct consistency is. I will try again and aim to get it totally smooth.

  34. The fried idlis look great and just everything about this post has me drooling actually.

  35. I am one of those rare Tamilians who has never owned the heavy duty wet grinder and made do with my trusty Sumeet - all raised eyebrows were met with a perfectly turned out plate of fluffy idlis....
    Till I moved to Delhi - now even I have been contemplating buying a wet grinder (but am sure that the bread dough kneader will win over this in the jostling of appliances) in a desparate attempt to salvage my once perfect idlis. But I dont think it has as much to do with the grinding as it has with the quality of parboiled rice I'm getting here....

    Those rosematta idlis look tempting -and yes, another way of including it in our diet...thanks!

  36. Hey Nupur,

    You do get rsoematta rice in St Louis. It is available in global foods. I think it is called Kuthari thought maybe not rosematta.

    BTW, your blog is wonderful!!

  37. Diane, I don't know- my batter was not grainy; it was smooth with rather big rice bits. In any case, I do hope your next attempt is a complete success!

    Laavanya, glad to hear that :) idlis and dosas never fail to make me drool either!

    Miri, oh dear, is Delhi too cold for the poor batter? I absolutely agree with you...I have had to struggle a lot because the bag of parboiled rice that I used in the beginning was just not the right thing to make idlis with.

    Veena, I did look high and low in Global but had no idea that rosematta was also called Kuthari! Thanks for the information :)

  38. So glad you have lots of rosematta rice now! Those idlies and dosa are completely tempting in every way. No such thing as over-fermented in my book ;)

  39. Linda, the rosematta rice is giving me such delicious treats day after day. Can't thank you enough for sharing it with me!

  40. nupur, I think you should see this. the above post of yours have been copied word to word here.


  41. Hi,
    I decided to try with long-grain parboiled rice and used my usual measurements of 4:1(which works perfectly with idli rice), but with the parboiled rice, the idli just collapsed and is all mushy(can't even make uppama). I'm now stuck with a huge vessel of batter(made 8 cups) and its not working for idli or dosa. Any ideas on what I could do????
    Please help!!

  42. Nupur, I googled for whole grain idlis and got to another website which has this entire post. I see that Kay has already mentioned that.


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