Basics and Tips

I had always thought about having a new page for Basics of Indian cooking. I also had a few requests from my friends and readers for tips on common Indian cooking. I started this page to meet the needs of my friends and also to any beginners in cooking and newcomers to kitchen.
  1. How to make Idli-Dosa Batter
  2. How to make Perfect Puli Kulambu
  3. How to make frozen (canned) chickpeas - garbanzo beans
  4. Need more tips?? Add your question.. I will try to post a reply in this page.

Idli-Dosa Batter
These steps to make a perfect idli / dosa batter is a collection of my experience, tips from home and home away from home.
Making sponge like, jasmine touch idlis is not much of a mystery. Malligapoo* Idlis are very easy to make with little care and patience. Knowing the right texture of ground rice and urad dhal is always a question. Here I have given step-by-step pictures to show the consistency of the batter to achieve soft idlis. I have not used any idli rava or cooked rice or beaten rice (poha) or Yogurt. Just rice, urad dhal and fenugreek seeds.
Rice: Idli rice / Parboiled rice / Puzhungal arisi is the best choice and make sure the rice is of good quality.
Urad dhal: Always use whole urad dhal (Urad gota/Uruttu Uzhundhu). Broken urad dhal or urad dhal powder wouldn't cut it
Fenugreek seeds: Gives the fluffiness of the batter which gives soft idlis and crisp dosas.


Now moving on to the ingredients and the process.
Ingredients: 
Rice - 4 cups
Whole Urad dhal - 1 cup (Also read FAQs below)
Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
Salt - 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp  or to taste based on your proportions.
Washing/Soaking:
Place the rice in a big vessel and wash with several exchanges of water until the water is almost clear. This may be around 7 to 10 times. Soak the rice for a minimum of 6 hrs in clean water.
Take the urad dhal and methi seeds together in another vessel and wash with just 4 to 5 exchanges of water. Washing urad dhal too much will not allow it to rise while grinding or fermenting. Use a container which has twice the volume of the dried urad dhal, because it tends to increase in volume while in water. Soak the urad dhal in room temperature for 1 hour and transfer it to the fridge until ready to grind.
I soak both my rice and urad dhal for 6 to 8 hrs.

Grinding:
Always grind rice and dhal seperately for best results.
Wash the wet grinder with water and drain it. Drain the rice, reserving the water used for soaking. Add the rice slowly in 4 additions, with the grinder on, alternating with 1/4 cup of reserved water. Allow the grinder to run for 10 minutes and add water as needed. Whenever you add water pour it in a steady stream when the motor is running. It would take around 30 to 40 minutes for you to get a smooth liquidy paste. To check if the rice is done. Take some batter in your middle finger and stroke it with your thumb. If the batter is smooth and you do not feel even a little grit, it is done. Transfer the rice batter to a large mixing bowl.


Take the urad dhal from fridge when you are ready to grind. It goes directly from the fridge to the grinder. Drain the dhal, reserving the water used for soaking. Add the dhal slowly to the grinder with the motor on. After all the dhal is added, add about 1/4 cup of water in a steady stream when it is grinding. Keep adding water in the same way every 10 minutes. After 45 minutes the urad dhal will be soft, airy and frothy. And the volume will be same as the ground rice in the mixing bowl. Now transfer the urad dhal batter to the rice batter and add salt. Wash the grinder with about 1/2 cup of water and add this washed mixture also to the batter.
Mixing and Fermenting:
Use your hand to mix the batter. Dip your hand into the bowl and mix well scraping the bottom and sides with your fingers. You would need to beat the batter in a circular motion for 3 to 5 mins. When done, clean the sides and cover the bowl with a loose fitting lid and set undisturbed in a corner of your kitchen counter. Works like a charm for tropical climate. For fermenting batter in cold countries, place in your conventional oven undisturbed for 12 to 14 hours.
Fermented batter will rise in about twice the original volume.
To Make Idlis
Use a ladle to beat the fermented batter until it reaches to three-fourth of its volume. Grease idli plates with oil and pour the batter in the moulds. Steam using the idli steamer until done. To check the done-ness, a tooth-pick inserted should come out clean. Remove the idli plates from heat and allow to cool. Use a spoon to scoop the idlis from the plates. Serve hot with sambar/chutney/podi.

To Make Dosas
Heat a flat griddle. Take a ladle full of batter and pour in the center of the griddle. Use the back of the ladle to gently spread the batter in circular motion. 

Do's and Dont's
1. Always bring the batter to room temperature before making idlis or dosas. Cold batter would yield hard idlis and rubbery dosas.
2. Always use the water used for soaking to grind the batter.
3. Try to use cold water while grinding urad dhal.
4. Grind rice and dhal separately.
FAQ's
1. Can I use my mixer grinder/blender to make idli / dosa batter?
Yes. You can use a mixie to make batter. Grind the rice/ urad dhal 1/2 cup at a time to avoid overload and make smooth batter. 
2. How long should I ferment the Idli/ Dosa batter?
It depends on the climatic conditions in the place you live and the seasons. In tropical countries like India, 6 - 8 hours is enough to get the batter ferment on the kitchen counter. Even lesser time during summer. 
In cold countries like UK, US it is difficult to get the batter ferment in less time. This is the method I have been following for the past few years. After grinding the batter and mixing well with hands (after adding salt) close with a lid (not tight fitting) and place inside the conventional oven or radiator (basically anyplace warmer than the rest of the house). DO NOT turn the conventional oven ON. Mine takes about 16 - 20 hours for a well-risen batter. You could lessen the time by leaving the oven light on.
3. In what vessel / utensil should I ferment the batter?
Hands down, a vessel which is not plastic. I would suggest a stainless steel vessel. A glass bowl would work fine too. I got a 8 qt mixing bowl just for idli/dosa batter.
4. Can I freeze idli / dosa batter?
Yes. Idli / Dosa batter freezes well. It can be frozen for 2 months. Transfer to a plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Take required quantity of batter, close tightly and freeze. Leave 1" space between the rim of the container and the batter since liquids expand while freezing. The frozen batter should be thawed 24 hours in the refrigerator before use. Again, should be in room temperature for 1-2 hours.
5. Why are my idlis flat? (also see Q.no 6)
Flat idlis mean too much Urad dhal. You may ask how can the urad dhal be too much if done according to proportion. Every Urad dhal is different. The urad dhal we used in India was different. It gave more volume of batter. So I would have the urad dhal rice proportion to be 8:1, as opposed to 4:1 I have mentioned above. The urad dhal I use here in US does not give that much volume. Some times I may have to use 4 cups rice to 1.5 cups urad dhal to get spongy idlis. It takes a couple of times to get the perfect idlis by changing the amount of urad dhal and sticking to what works for you.
6. Why are my idlis flat (I have reduced the amount of urad dhal as stated in Q.no 5 above but still flat idlis)?
In this case, grind your rice batter a teensy bit grainy. I mean not super smooth as I have shown in the picture but a little bit grainier than that. Then mix and ferment in the usual process.
7. Why are my idlis hard?
Hard idlis may mean one of two things. Cold batter or too less urad dhal. The batter should always be in room temperature before making idlis or dosas. The urad dhal should be ground to fluffy consistency to make soft idlis. If the ground urad dhal batter is tight it would lead to hard idlis. Having said that, do not add water to make it loose. It doesn't work that way. Adding water little by little while grinding gives the fluffy cloud like consistency. 
8. Why are my dosas rubbery?
Cold batter yields hard idlis and rubbery dosas. Bring the batter to room temperature before making dosas.
9. Why are my dosas not crispy/ Why are my dosas are white?
There are two known reasons for this. First, the batter should have fermented well and slightly sour (compared to idly) for crisp golden dosas. Second, the batter should be in room temperature for golden dosas. 
10. Why does my dosa stick to the pan or break while flipping?
If the dosa tawa is heated too much, the dosa tends to stick to the pan. Always maintain the heat in medium-high flame. If the dosa sticks to the pan, Cut an onion / shallot in half and rub the cut side all over the tawa and then make dosas. It will not break.



How to make perfect Puli Kulambu?
I do not have a recipe to post here per se for Puli Kulambu. It is like a frequent starer in my kitchen but I never got the opportunity to click it. Will try to put one soon. But there are some tips you can follow to make perfect puli kulambu like grandma.
1. Always use Gingelly oil/Nallennai to make Puli Kuzhambu/Kaara Kuzhambu.
2. Be liberal on the usage of gingelly oil. It may feel like a lot of oil at first but sure is THE taste maker in kulambus.
3. Add fenugreek seeds for tempering instead of mustard seeds.
4. Coriander powder is an important ingredient for thickening of the Kulambu.
5. Good quality tamarind is the key to make a good kulambu. Tamarind paste can be used, but it can never beat the taste of using tamarind.
6. After adding all ingredients let the kulambu come to a boil (remember it should be watery at this stage to thicken later).
7. After it comes to a boil, allow it to simmer for atleast 15 to 20 mins, Yes you read it right. 15 - 20 mins is a good time to have the kulambu simmer where the flavors meld and it thickens. Stir once or twice during the time.
8. The oil should be floating on the top, which indicates the flavors have melded well.

How to make frozen "canned" garbanzo beans / chickpeas?
I always love using canned beans for my cooking. They are instant, no soaking required, no pre-cooking required and overall easy to use. It was until recently when I discovered how easy it is to make frozen chickpeas at home with dry chickpeas. One may ask why would someone make these at home when they are readily available in cans. I can list out the pros..
1. It is "home-made". So you know what goes in the making.
2. Control the amount of salt in the beans by which you could control the amount of salt in the dish.
3. Cost. The dry chickpeas is far more cheaper compared to the canned ones.
 
Now to the process. A pressure cooker is a great nice-to-have equipment for making these at home. Since most of the recipes call for units of cans for beans, here I am starting with dry garbanzo (chickpeas) required to make 1 can equivalent of beans. 
Ingredients:
Yield - 1-3/4 cups cooked or 1 can drained; Soaking time - 8 hrs; Cooking time - 15 mins
Dry White Garbanzo beans / Chickpeas / Konda kadalai - 2/3 cup or 1 rice cooker cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Water - 3 times of the dried beans + more for soaking

Method:
Pick any twigs or stones from the beans and wash well. Soak in 2 litres (approx) of water for 8 hours. After soaking, drain well. In a pressure cooker, add the drained beans, 3 times water and salt. Cover and pressure cook for 1 whistle. Drain well and spread on a plate lined with kitchen towel. When it is moist-free, transfer to a quart sized ziploc bag and seal, removing excess air. Freeze flat. No need to thaw when using. Simply transfer the contents of the ziploc bag to boiling water. Drain after a couple of minutes. Now it is fresh and ready for use in any recipe.

60 comments:

  1. the do's n dont's exactly the same my mom tells me and that I follow, nice fluffy idls !

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  2. Useful info Krithi. I use the same 1:4 ratio with few changes like I grind the rice to a coarse consistency so that the idli has a texture.

    I put the batter in the oven with just the oven light on and that helps in fermentation in winter.

    Vardhini

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  3. A very useful & well written post Krithi!!!! I prefer idlis with smooth texture too...:)
    Prathima Rao
    Prats Corner

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  4. Hi Krithi

    I've been your follower for past few days, but only today I had the time to chek it out.

    I must say, this is one of the very few food blogs I found which are very helpful for beginners in the Kitchen. I'm new to South Indian cooking. Very useful post!

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  5. I am so impressed by the way you detailed each step. My hubby is a gr8 idli-lover.. 365 days around the calendar you give him fluffy idlis, he will be the happiest man on earth. I make idlis but not that "Poovu like idlis". The difference which i noticed is i use pachari/ pacharassi/raw rice. Does that really make a difference? Thanks a million.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Merine, The rice does make a difference. try using Idli rice/parboiled rice next time and let me know how it turned out.

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  6. Replies
    1. Let me know how I can help you..

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    2. Thanks Kirthi for responding. I use the same measurements and keep in oven (I dont turn it on) as I am in Boston, MA. Batter definitely gets airy but doesn't rise visibly as it does in India. Idlis are not very soft either.

      Delete
    3. Next time try these...
      1. Keep the oven light on
      2. Make sure you use stainless steel vessel. Plastics don't work well.
      3. Increase the proportion of rice and dhal to 3:1 instead of 4:1
      4. I always use Swad or Laxmi brand urad dhal since the other brands didnt work for me
      5. While grinding urad dhal make sure it rises well in the grinder.. if you see my above pic the ground urad batter would almost be covering the grinder stones..
      Let me know how it turned out..

      Delete
  7. Hi Kirthi,

    Thanks for your quick response. I will follow these next time.

    When the temperature is not less than 70 Far, Is it necessary to turn on oven light?

    And Can you explain how increasing the proportion of rice will help me?

    Also I have noticed that my idli batter kept in fridge for a few days kind of separates- Sometimes I wonder if it has spoiled. But I still mix it and use it as it doesn't smell odd. Is that right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is not necessary always to turn on oven light. But you can try for the batter to rise. Here we are increasing the quantity of urad (not the rice) I meant 3:1 for that. It helps the batter rise. Always make sure you mix the ground batter with clean hands, not a ladle, before allowing it to rise. I haven't experienced the separation of the batter, though I have heard like thinning out and water floating. Not sure why this happens.

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  8. you said tht pinch of yeast will properly ferment idli batter... but mam we a runing a business of idli paste and we sell it in market.. mam i want to know is there any process or any chemical or anything is there to stop fermentation idli batter for 10-15 day..i mean it should b fresh for minimum 10dys ???

    is there any chance for tht ???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. you could divide the fermented batter into smaller portions and freeze it (In your case a deep freezer). Pull out from the freezer 8 hours before you need it and pop it in the refridgerator to thaw.

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  9. can i use idly rice powder and urad dal powder to make idly and dosa?

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    Replies
    1. I have not tried that way. Sorry.

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    2. I used 2 cups idli rice, 2 cups par boiled & 1 1/2 urad dal. Urad dal did become fluffy when grinding, but why is my idli's sticky & cracking. It rises when being steamed but later flattens. My dosas are nice & crispy.

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    3. Same problem I face, the idli flattens within few seconds

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  10. It looks really amazing!! I have to try it!! Thanks for sharing :-)
    sesame seeds
    fennel seeds

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  11. > I put the batter in the oven with just the oven light on and that helps in fermentation in winter

    I did too. A thick film () formed at the top. I should have discarded the film but didn't. This is only a minor problem.

    I used i cup of whole urad to 2 cups of idli rava. It did not ferment in 12 hours.

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  12. Hi, this is Sudha. we live in Texas. I'm using long grain rice(thai variety) for making dosa batter, but I'm not getting my dosa softer. Can I use this type of rice for making doasas?

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    Replies
    1. hi Sudha, I have not tried long grain rice. Since it is thai variety it is more glutinous. So I dont know how it will work out. But since it is dosa (and not idli) I hope it wouldn't turn out bad.

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  13. is 1cup whole urad dal is equal to 1cup broken urad dal

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  14. Hello.. :)

    Your tips and techniques are a treat to read. Thank you so much for that...

    I'm trying to purchase a grinder. Could you please help me?

    What are the best grinders you think are available in the market?

    Thanks
    Ilma Cader

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  15. Looks so nice idlis and dosa I will try your recipe thank you for posting

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  16. is 1cup whole urad dal is equal to 1cup broken urad dal

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  17. What is Kari masala powder as you have mentioned in chicken chukka?

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    Replies
    1. Ramya, It is south indian curry powder. You can look for karimasala powder in spices section of Indian grocery stores.

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    2. Hi pls provide step wise method for making soft roti , pulkha and paratha (even stuffed). I am a beginner, pls help... I had rasam today seeing your blog, it came out very well,..

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  18. Could you post simple step wise method to make roti , pulkha and paratha?? I am a beginner... Pls help.., also your bloris very useful, I made rasam today, which came out very well..

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for trying out Rasam Suganthy.. I will try to post detailed steps on the parathas and rotis as early as poosible.. Thanks!

      Delete
  19. Hi mam,
    If i use mixi to make batter,can i soak both rice,urad dal and fenugreek together for 7 hrs?will this process allows good fermenting?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pragathi, I strongly recommend using a grinder but if in any case you can't use grinder, mixie works pretty well. You can soak rice, dhal and fenugreek together. Soaking for 6 hours should work fine. But take a note of few steps to get good batter in mixie.
      1. The proportion of rice to urad dhal may differ a little bit in this case. You may need to add 1/4-1/2 cup more urad dhal when grinding together. See the scientific reason in point 4.
      2. While washing DO NOT wash rice and dhal at the same time. First rinse the rice for 4-5 times and then add dhal and fenugreek and rinse everything together another 3-4 times. This ensures we don't wash the urad dhal too much.
      3. Soak together with lots of water. Urad dhal requires lot of water to soak.
      4. Urad dhal, when ground seperately in grinder/mixie, expands in volume pretty well which is the base for spongy idlis and crispy dosas. But when ground together the heaviness in the rice, does not allow the urad dhal to expand that much. So we need to add a litttle more for the right consistency.
      5. Grind in batches.
      6. Add salt and mix well. Ferment for 8 hours or overnight.

      Delete
    2. Hi Krithi,

      I am also using a mixie for the batter. This is what I am doing, but my idli's do not turn out well. Could you help me with what I am doing wrong?

      - Whole Urad:Rice - I use 1:3. I soak them separately for around 7-8 hours with fenugreek.
      - I grind them separately. Could you help me with how long I should grind them?
      - I mix them with hand, but I guess I am not mixing enough.
      - I warm up the conventional oven a little and then I keep the mixed batter for 8-12 hours and sometimes even 24 hours ( I should try to keep the oven lights on)
      - The batter does not rise much and idlis are very hard. Dosa comes out well, brown and crispy.

      I am in the US and the weather is cold now.

      Delete
    3. Grinding urad dhal in mixie is tricky. You should not add more water. Grind in batches and add water only little by little... The urad dhal batter should be fluffy and smooth and not watery and smooth. Mixie tends to heat up quicker than wet grinder, so you should grind urad dhal before rice. Try the urad dhal soaked and refrigerated, that way the mixie won't become too hot while grinding

      Delete
  20. Hi,
    I am beginner and wanted to know that 1 cup whole urad dal is equal to how much proportion in split urad dal ... might sound funny :) but pls clear my doubt ... is the same quantity if measure split urad dal & rice in 1:4 proportion .. pls reply

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  21. Hi Tanushree,
    I have not tried using the split urad dhal. So I cannot share my experience. I would suggest to use the same proportion and try.

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  22. Hi krithi Very neat explanation.Glad to see homemade chickpeas from dry one which i searched for long time .shall i try the same with dry grèen peas ?

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  23. Hi Krithi,
    Thanks for the great tips. While making dosas, sometimes the edges curl up and the bottom becomes crinkly. Why does this happen? Thanks.

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  24. Krithi,

    What brand and model wet grinder do you use? Is it something I can get online? I have not seen wet grinders for sale in the U.S.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Amanda, Thanks for writing..
    I use a Premier 2 litre tilting wet grinder which I got from India. Some Indian stores in the US carry wet grinders.
    I see Amazon.com carry wet grinders.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi Krithi.

    Very nice blog.

    For Dosa my ratio of udid dal to rice is 1:5(3 cups of boiled rice and 2 cups of short grained rice).I also add 1/2 cup of channdal and 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds.I use wet grinder.Though my dosa comes to crispy and golden brown it sticks at the edges .

    Does this require adding more rice?Also in wet grinder how long should be I grinding Udid dal?

    I use Hawkins futura anodized normal skillet.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Priya, That is a really good question. I grind urad dhal until it is fluffy and smooth, about 40-45 minutes should be fine. Not more than that since it will deflate.
    While making dosas, make sure the heat of the skillet is not too high. Cut an onion in half and apply two drops of oil on the cut side. Rub the onion all over the dosa pan and try making dosas. Let me know how it turns out..

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  28. Hi Kirthi,
    Can Brown basmati rice be used to make dosas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello there, You could substitute 1/2 of the rice with brown basmati rice. I have tried that.
      You could use the recipe here.. http://krithiskitchen.blogspot.in/2014/06/brown-rice-idli-idli-dosa-recipes.html
      But I have not tried replacing the whole idli rice with brown rice.

      Delete
  29. Hi Krithi,

    Healthy choice for breakfast. Thanks for sharing the recipe !!

    You must have tried the traditional south indian idlis. Here is my little innovation with idlis...try them in chinese style

    Explore the recipe at

    http://recipe-chinese-idli.blogspot.in

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi

    What is there is more water in the batter, can I add a bit of rice flour while fermentation?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A little bit about a couple of tbsps should be ok.

      Delete
  31. Informative and knowledgeable post!!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Kirthi,
    You have got a great blog.

    My latest batch of idly-dosa batter yeilds comparitively harder idlies and dosai. I feel that i have put more of rice than urud dhal. ( which has never gone wrong 😣). If thats rhe truth pls tell me how to correct it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For more rice, you could soak some urad dhal (urad dhal can be soaked in little time 1-2 hours) and grind and add to the batter. I have not tried this way but it might work.

      Delete
  33. Thank you so much for the detailed explanation and FAQ. Very very VERY informative!!!!! San D

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  34. Hi kirthi...I am new to US and now it's winter...after grinding I put the batter for 24 hr out..I can see my batter risen...but why my dosa curls at the end and white ...and I am using presto pan cake maker is that a problem. ..is any Indian people tried making dosa in this presto pan...thank you needs help

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ROMI, I have not tried using that pan. I use a cast iron pan to make dosas. Try using a heavy bottomed pan for dosas for even heat and crispy dosas.

      Delete
  35. Many thanks I got all my answer. Awesome my idli came too soft and too good.

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  36. Thanks a lot for detailed instructions and Q&A. Ever since I read this blog, I have made the softest and the most perfect idlis - each time!! It's like you have figured out the science of making perfect idlis. A big thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi Akka,
    After fermentation, if I want to store the batter for a month and make idlies and dosas every day I cannot store it in freezer every day. Can I store it in refrigerator for a month and use it daily ?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi Akka, and please advice how long I can store the batter without refrigeration.

    ReplyDelete

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