Idlis / Steamy rice cakes

Hot steamy rice cakes - Idlis are the most basic breakfast of South India, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu.  There is this great homely place called Brahmin's in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. They make the best idlis, chutney and vadas. The place is flocked with people, that taper from the hotel counter to the parking lot. There is hardly any place to sit and eat, but people never complain, the softness of the idlis and crispness of the vadas, just too good! Don't you dare miss the coffee to go along. You must have breakfast there, to know what I mean. The key to making great idli is fermenting the batter overnight.

What you need: Serves 6 - makes about 16-20 medium sized idlis
2 cups raw rice (Ponni idli rice, or sona masoori will do)
1 cup white urad dhal/washed black gran dhal (uddina bele)
Idli pans, or little steel cups/plates that can be steamed

Soak the rice and dhal together in 6-7 cups water for about 4-5 hours. Drain the water, keeping 2 cups of water aside for later use.
Grind the soaked rice and dhal in a blender or grinder to a fine paste,some like the batter to stay a little grainy, while others prefer it otherwise. Add water only when needed, excess water can make the batter runny. You may add a tsp of salt (and a pinch of baking soda or yeast if you like, to ensure fermentation) to the ground batter, and place it in a warm place, by the stove, oven, or even in the oven overnight with the light on. 

The batter would have fermented the next morning, doubling in quantity, not to miss the pungent odor. Now, if this is the state, you can make idlis, but if not, don't even try to make idlis from unfermented batter, make dosas or rice crepes instead. Without fermentation, your idlis can easily compete with stones.

Dip your fingers in some cooking oil, and grease the idli pans or metal cups. Add batter nearly to the brim of the cups. Steam cook them in an idli maker, or a regular steamer/cooker for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Remember not to use the cooker weight, as the idlis will get watery, and never rise.

Once they have risen, let the idlis cool a bit. Dip a spoon in a cup of cold water, and gently scoop out the idlis, like you would scoop icecream. Serve them hot with chutney, sambhar and vada, a dollop of clarified butter, and you will be on cloud nine! Enjoy!