Idli is a traditional staple breakfast in South India. For those who don’t know what Idli is, it can be described as steamed sourdough lentil cakes which are round. Because Idli is plain in taste, it is consumed with home-made peanut chutney, most beloved sambar (lentil soup) or podi (spice powder) mixed in ghee or oil. This idli recipe is modified version to make it low in carbohydrates, high protein, high fiber. Which makes it excellent breakfast for modern low active lifestyle, diabetic patients, infants and seniors who have poor digestion and for those who need probiotics to get immunity. Making idli whole-grain and low-carb does not change the taste, rather they are more soft, fluffy for long time. Few more ways to make idli experience more nutritious is
- Use whole-grain urad dal (Black gram lentils). This adds approx 30% fiber.
- Make home-made peanut chutney made of peanuts with skin. This adds approx 20% fiber.
- Consume home-made idli podi (spiced lentil powder) with ghee or healthy oils as olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil. This adds healthy fats, omega-3 to your diet.
- Make home-made sambar (lentil soup) with whole grain lentils.
Idli’s are made with batter made of lentils and cream of rice, fermenting and steaming in mold plates. Idli is known to have great nutrition and is light in calories. Infants get their first meal with idli. There is good reason for moms to believe idli as first meal. Seniors and sick people’s preferred food is idli. Because of its easily digestible and probiotics. Idli batter is naturally fermented. Natural fermentation breaks down the starches, carbohydrates so that they are in more digestible form. Probiotics are generated during the fermentation process, which improves digestion and gut, colon health. Nutrients are preserved as idli is steamed. Fermentation adds idli a sour taste.
Since urad dal (black gram lentils) is high in protein and calcium more whole-grain lentils and less of rice is suggested way of preparing. Traditionally idli batter is stone ground. Stone ground batter yields soft and fluffy ones. If you don’t have traditional or modern electric stone grinder, regular high efficient blender will do too.
Idli can be made either with rice or rava (cream of rice). With rice, you have choice of choosing healthy, whole-grain rice. While cream of rice is always made of white rice, it is easy to make. Idli batter doesn’t ferment in cold climate. So keep your batter in a warm place like in oven with light on. If you live in cold countries or in high altitude places, use a preheated oven for fermenting the batter.
Idli batter, peanut chutney and sambar can be refrigerated for up-to a week. I usually make the idli batter enough for 4-5 days. Usually grind on friday’s and use till Tuesday or Wednesday. This gives me lot of relaxing time over weekend. No panic Monday mornings. Not only for breakfast, it is great for packing kids and adults lunch. If you don’t have time to prepare lunch for kids in the morning, steam idli and pack with peanut chutney.
It is myth that idli’s are made of rice and not healthy. No need to gave up idli’s because they are high in carbohydrates, calories or if you want to be on low carb diet. Adding fiber to breakfast has lots of benefits.
- For idli:
- 1 cup whole urad dal (black gram lentils). Preferably split lentils to easily grind.
- 1 cup whole-grain rice as brown or parboiled. Substitute rice with 1 cup cream of rice or idli rava.
- Non iodized salt or pink Himalayan salt.
- For chutney:
- 1 cup - whole unsalted peanuts
- 5-10 green chillies depending on your spice level.
- ¼th tsp - coriander seeds - optional. adds great flavor if used.
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp - fresh tamarind juice - optional
- For chutney tampering
- 1 tbsp oil, I used coconut oil
- ¼th tsp black mustard seeds
- ¼th tsp cumin (jeera)
- ⅛th tsp - turmeric
- curry leaves
- cilantro for garnishing
- Soak lentils and rava for at-least 3 hours in separate containers. If using rice, soak for at-least 6 hours.
- In stone grinder, add lentils first let grinder run for 10 minutes with enough water, till lentils are ground to batter. If using rice, you can add rice before lentils are ground to batter as rice needs more time to grind. Grind till rice is ground to coarse or smooth batter. Both will do. If using rava, add it now. Add salt. Let it run for 2 minutes till lentils and rava are mixed well. Stop grinding and remove to a non-plastic mixing bowl.
- Place batter bowl in a warm place where it is >80ºf for at least 8 hours till it fluffs up with fermentation. I place in oven with light on. Or keep in microwave oven with door open a bit. Keeping door open will keep the light on and makes oven warm.
- Place batter in idli molds and steam for 10 minutes. If idli's are made of rice, steam them for 15 minutes.
- For chutney:
- Roast peanuts till golden brown.
- Add oil to a pan. Fry green chillies, garlic. and coriander seeds till golden brown. Turn off stove.
- Add salt, tamarind juice and Grind all together to semi watery paste with enough water.
- For tampering:
- Add oil to a small pot.
- When hot, add mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add cumin. Cook till golden brown.
- Add curry leaves. When they stop spluttering, add turmeric powder. Turn off stove.
- Add tampering to chutney while it is still hot. De-glaze tampering pot with little chutney.
- Serve immediately with idli and enjoy.