The south Indian homes have a unique morning ritual. Take out a pack of bread for breakfast and you can hear all the family members sing, bread aaaa!! (sing the aaa to get the perfect sound). This happens when there is a wafting aroma of filter coffee in the background. This happens in my house too! Not often, but the prep for the sides for bread seems to be more extensive as each have its own list of it!! Then the easier, ever pleasing savoury steamed rice cakes, idli. So it is far easier for me just to get the idlies done. This time we are making bamboo rice idli or moongil arisi idly. Since, we are heading into winter here, I m sharing my best tried and tested ideas for making idlies in winter.
Finding some bamboo rice
The first time I used bamboo rice or moongil arisi, is to make payasam. This batch was given by my mother who carefully sourced it from my native. After a long time, I was walking the aisles of the Asian grocer when I spotted a small pack of bamboo rice. So I certainly picked it up. Though it was a small pack, there was enough to make payasam and then to make a moongil arisi idly batter.
What do you need to make this idly?
The bamboo rice idli or moongil idly needs a few ingredients to make it soft and fluffy. Here is the list
Bamboo rice– the seed kernel of the mature bamboo plant is bamboo rice. We have discussed bamboo rice in detail when we made the moongil arisi payasam (Click here to check the post). Resembling the brown rice this bamboo rice is a bit firm than regular rice and hence the idlies with only bamboo rice will not be fluffy. So match it up with an equal quantity of idly rice.
Idly Rice –parboiled short-grain rice similar to arborio rice is idly rice. A quick tip to find good idly rice is to make sure a lot of them have white centres on the oblong rice grains. The idly rice when soaked and ground provides the carb substrate the bacteria can break down.
Black gram dal– the essential lentil that goes into this steamed rice and lentil cake is the black gram dal. The black gram is skinned resulting in just the white cotyledons. This is available in most Indian grocery as Urad dal. Either the cotyledons are held together or separated. Both these varieties are ok to make the idly. I do find that the rise of the batter however is better with the cotyledons still stuck together. If you end up buying the whole or split black gram with skin, try out the millet adai we made earlier.
Fenugreek seeds-the familiar smell of the idli steaming comes from the soaked and ground fenugreek. It is not essential for the recipe. Also, you do not want to add a lot as they will turn the batter bitter.
Salt -to start with avoiding table salt. Since these have anticaking agents that interfere with fermentation, especially in winter, stick to plain rock salt or sea salt.
Making idlies in winter.
Idlies are the softest and most healthy steamed breakfast. To make idlies perfectly comes with slow practice. This is because the fermentation of the batter is reliant on airborne bacteria (it is good for you). Bacterial growth in turn depends on several factors mainly temperature and humidity.
Here are a few tried and tested ways I use for making idlies in winter.
The image here of the moongail arisi idly batter is not the one we call a mess, this is a perfect situation. While making idlies in tropical heat seems a breeze, making idlies in winter can turn out to be an ordeal. The batter fermentation is what makes the process tough.
Loose lid – the circulation of air is absolutely critical for bacterial growth. So, cover the batter just with a loose lid. Once the batter has risen, you can swap to a better fitting lid.
Hot water bottle – one of the simplest and best tricks I have learnt with winter is the hot-water bottle. Since the touch is comfortable for us, it will be so for the bacteria too. I would use one that I can easily wash the surface as the batter can flow over. Secure with a band around the batter container and leave it in a warm corner or a bit away from your heater. Check the batter rise on the left side , that is done using the hot water method.
The low oven light method- is most successful when the mercury dips really low. For moderate cold situations use just the oven light overnight. Once it starts getting really cold, preheat the oven to about 60 degrees Celcius and turn it off. Leave it open for 5 minutes and then place the batter inside.
You can use the oven warmth if you have been baking or roasting in the oven too, save some energy. Make sure it is not too hot, just hand-warm oven. Here is a very useful tip. Place a small bowl of warm water inside the oven to maintain the humidity. In the picture above, the one on the right is done in a low oven with a bowl of warm water.
Add some salt- adding salt to the batter is avoided when you are in tropical regions. If you are in colder countries, adding salt actually helps to activate the bacteria and get a better rise. Usually, I add half the quantity of salt that is needed for the batter and stir in the other half once the batter is ready.
Instant pot– if you own one, go for it. Set up the instant pot in yogurt mode. This is the ideal setting for bacterial growth. Don’t fill your bowl fully as it will overflow. Usually, I fill half the bowl only so there is enough space for air and rise. The oy drawback is that it can only keep half the volume of your instant pot bowl.
Blanket and an esky- This is an age-old technique. So an old clean wool blanket wrapped around the steel batter bowls will help to maintain a constant warmth. Place this in an icebox (esky) to hold the temperature. Cover the batter with a loose lid and then put the esky lid on. The key drawback of this idea is that if the batter overflows you have a long time washing the blanket.
These are my tested ideas for making idlies in winter with perfect batter.
How to store the bamboo rice idli batter?
Once the batter has well risen, you don’t want further fermentation from the bacteria. So, the batter is best kept refrigerated. Before you do this mix the rest of the salt needed for the batter. This mixing will also get the batter a bit punched down(don’t overmix). Wipe down the spills if any. Use a tight-fitting lid now to prevent drying in the fridge. Now your batter is perfect to stay for a week in the fridge. Remove only the quantity you approximately need to make for the day from the batter batch. If excess, don’t pour back the mixed batter. Store separately.
Now let us get on with having some fluffy moongil arisi idly to eat.
This recipe card has all the details, step by step to show you how to go about making these bamboo rice idli or moongil idly.
Bamboo rice idly
- mixing bowls and spoons.
- measuring cups and spoons
- 1 cup Urad Dal
- 2 cups bamboo rice
- 2 cups parboiled rice
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- salt to taste
To make the batter
- Measure the urad dal and rices and add to seperate bowls.
- Wash them both till the water runs clear and soak them with excess water. For the urad dal keep the water an inch above the dry beans. For rices add three inches above the layer of rice.
- Add the fenugreek seeds to the rice that is being soaked.
- Cover and leave them to soak for 3 to 5 hours.
- Once the bean and the rice are soaked, grind the urad dal to a smooth paste with the water that it is soaked in. Add just enough water additional to make it a smooth paste.
- Remove the dal paste into a large mixing bowl.
- Grind the rice and fenugreek mix. Use only the amount of water you need to make a smooth paste. Thick but pouring consistency batter.
- Remove this batter and mix it with the previously made urad dal batter.
- Add some salt and mix the two batters well.
- Cover with a loose lid and place in a warm corner of your kitchen to ferment.
- If it was winter, use the tips in the post to fermented.
To steam the batter and make idlies
- Let the batter ferment for 6 to 8 hours.
- Once the batter is fermented, mix it up and add the rest of the necessary salt.
- Grease the idly moulds.
- Place water in the steamer.
- Pour a small ladle full of batter per mould and place in the steamer.
- Layer up the moulds allowing enough steam passage.
- Steam the batter for 20 minutes.
- Allow it to stand for 5 minutes and gently unmould the idlies.
- Serve warm with chutneys of choice.
If you need to save the idlies as a part of meal prep, check out the basic idly post on this blog to see how I keep idlies frozen. If you have leftover idlies that have to be revamped, try three ways to make idly upma.
If you are looking for more South Indian breakfast ideas, here are a couple
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See you at the next post and stay safe.