Instant Gratification: Rava Idli

rava idli
Back to my favourite cuisine, food from Southern India.

The down side of this cuisine is that a lot of the quick-cooking foods require planning ahead – at least by a 24 hours! I am talking here of the breakfast/tiffin items such as the dosai and the idli. But a couple of weeks back I had this urge to have idlies, and I wanted them that very minute.

I had heard of rava idlies but never made them. Actually, never had them either.

Let me take a moment here and tell the non-natives about the correct pronunciation before these become popular in the West as super healthy fluffy fat-free breakfast thingies and everybody starts talking about them, and NDTV decides that the American pronunciation is the correct way to say the word. I kid you not – have you never heard their ‘nature’ correspondent, whats-her-name, say Him-la-yaas for what is the bloody-lofty Himalaya! (Correct pronunciation: Him-aa-la (rhyming with ‘the’)-ya (like ‘yuh’). And someone should also help them with the right way to say ‘Mumbai’. It’s not Moom-bye. It’s cute when Americans say it (just as my friends thought it was ‘cute’ when I said ‘vet’ when I meant ‘wet’!), but for Indians to forget the name of the lofty sentinel in the north – too cute.

The idli is pronounced id (as in ‘lid’)-lee. That should prevent it going the I-ran way , if you know what I mean! Iran, the country. πŸ™‚ E-raan, for the record.

That should help the idli on its way to being addressed correctly in the West, and consequently, here in India.

Another note on the proper way to serve the idli. This is prompted by the disappointment expressed in a comment on an idli post somwhere. The writer was able to prepare the light fluffy idlies and served them the usual American way, soaked with Maple syrup and concluded them not at all a worthy breakfast. Holy cow! Talk about an idli anti-climax! Idli is no pancake, and not even a waffle.

Traditionally, here in India, idli is served with hot and spicy accompaniments such as the gunpwder (the name bestowed fondly by us, the people of the North!), a coconut chutney, and if it should be soakin’ up anything, it has to be sambar. My Tamil school-mates would bring idli in their lunchboxes, all velvety soft, with a light touch of the gunpowder mixed in ghee or oil. It looked as heavenly as it tasted. I served my rava idli with Indira’s peanut chutney, which is now de rigueur at our table when serving South Indian ‘tiffin’ items. Since this was instant gratification time, there was no sambar.

rava idli

Rava Idli
(makes about 24 medium-sized idlies)

2 C coarse sooji/rava (semolina)
1 C dahi (yoghurt)
1 T oil
1 t mustard seeds
1/4 t heeng (asafoetida), the mild kind (or a speck of the real kind!)
1 T chana dal (split chickpea)
1 T urad dal
3 dry red chilli peppers (cut into half-inch pieces)
curry leaves, a bunch
chopped coriander
a couple of chopped green chillies
1/3 t baking soda (soda-bi-carb)
1/4 t citric acid crystals (optional)
colourful chopped veges such as carrots, beans, spinach (optional)
fried bits of cashew as suggested by Priya (see comments)
a few tiny bits of fresh coconut may be nice too!

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or karahi. Splutter the mustard (it’s a good idea to cover the pan at this time or you will have mustard popping all over your kitchen!) and add the heeng. Now add the red chillies and the curry leaves. Stir for a few seconds and add the dals. Once the dals turn a dark pink toss in the sooji. Keep stirring turning the heat to medium as the sooji starts to emit a roasted aroma. Turn off heat just as it turns pink. Let cool.

Into the cooled sooji mix in the rest of the ingredients, except the baking soda, adding water (as needed) to make a thick batter. In another large pan (or pressure cooker) put about an inch of water to boil. Smear the idli moulds (or whatever you may be using for steaming the batter) with a little oil. Mix the baking soda into the batter and pour into the idli stack-mould. Steam covered (without pressure) for 10 minutes. Take out and rest the idlies for a few minutes before removing from the moulds. They will come out effortlessly if you are able to control the instant-gratification-mood for these couple of minutes, resulting in pretty idlies (with less work).

Serve with gunpowder and/or coconut chutney.

These turned out so good that I made them again a couple of days later. Instant gratification without the guilt pangs later (unlike the not-really-two-minute Maggi!). And if you have gunpowder ready, as I usually do, then you can have this under 30 min! If you are efficient in the kitchen and can work parallel-ly, then you can also make the peanut chutney within this time.

Recipes for gunpowder: here
Indira’s peanut chutney: here
recipe for sambar: here (Sambhar with baby shallots)

These have all ended up referencing Indira’s Mahanandi. I Googled but her recipes are closest to how I make my Sambar and Gunpowder! What can I say, I must cook authentic Andhra.


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A self professed urban ecologist!

49 thoughts on “Instant Gratification: Rava Idli”

  1. hehe..That was a wonderful write-up…I dont know about the Him-laa-yas….but the I-ran/I-raq thing is certainly irritating !! And the ‘chai-tea’ thing is funny too…I’ve heard people say ‘Kai tea’ !! And I cant imagine eating idli’s with maple syrup…I must say ‘eeewwwwww!!’ πŸ˜›

    I just love rava idli’s but have always made them from the MTR mix which also has cashews in it. I’m surely going to try your recipe this weekend.

    1. Yeah, I make Rava Idli for bkfast during the weekend from MTR and they are Yummy and Yes, my kids love
      them with Maple Syrup. Yes, We live in San Diego


  2. There is lot going on behind calling Eee-ran to I-ran. It’s certainly not because they don’t know the correct pronounciation.
    Rava idlies look great, Anita. Glad to hear that you tried and liked these recipes. Peanut chutney rocks, isn’t it? It’s also my favorite.:)
    It reflects a very bad attitude (couldn’t-care-less) when we mutilate our own names, and make every effort to get the French-English terms/names right! Dravid (Rahul) becomes Draaavid (because Star Sports says it so)…and now (Rajdeep) Sardesai (CNN-IBN) has taken to addressing himself as Saaardesai (because all his staff does)!
    And Indira, the peanut chutney absolutely rocks! It’s something the whole family agrees on!

  3. Hey, Rajdeep Sardesai was always a ‘pseude’, even in college! So Saaardesai is not a surprise. In fact I think he was born with an accent, what with the famous father and all. We have a Raaj (rhymes with mirage) Chauhan who does news on Channel 9 (NBC) from Denver. I don’t know where he’s from but I guess he can be forgiven if he’s not Indian and is from the West Indies or the Carribean. But then again, my nephew is Tej, rhymes with age. Annoys the heck out of me.
    Idli with maple syrup I have not had but idli with sugar is something my daughter has subsisted on for many many years now. She has only recently graduated to enjoying the pleasures of sambar. Idli with honey has also been had. I was told that many a South Indian child has idli with sugar and also, upma with sugar.
    …at least they know how to say their names properly!!
    I did have a vague-ish thought in my head of idli with sugar and ghee…and said so to TH. Seems like something moms might want to give to kids. Upma with sugar…hmmm…not for me!

  4. Hey Anita,
    Hilarious intro,
    I have always made rava idlis from MTR packs, this is even better instant gratification. However shall do the home method sometime. WIll this work out fine with the finer rava too?

    Haven’t tried with fine rava, but why not? The texture maybe finer, but it should still be good. I tend to use the fine type only for halwa/sheera. BTW, made these again last night. This time with all the chutneys and sambar too.

  5. Very funny !! BTW, I am called Kri-tee-ka at work πŸ™‚
    Rajdeep ??? oh well, requires an entire post to discuss him.
    Your rava idlis look very fluffy.

    Your blog or mine? πŸ™‚ (for the special post!)
    The point is that I have found Americans generally will make that effort to try to say your name correctly. My friends would even try to say my name with a soft ‘t’ sound because I told them that is how ‘mine’ was. There may always be certain sounds that we will find hard if they are not in our first language…but it is important to care.

  6. Hi-
    First time on your blog. I love MTR rava idli mixes. Wouldn’t it be fun if these instant mixes come with instructions on phonetics and get the name of the dish correctly..!
    It was fun to read your write-up. Will visit your blog regularly.. In a lighter vein – where I went to college, some of my north indian friends and mess bhaiyas would say – Saambar – with a low bar – I used to tell them it’s actually Saambaar – ( bar should be pronounced just like the word “bar” or rails). I am from Chennai, and I have a hard time getting the correct pronunciation for most hindi words..It’s funny, isn’t it?

    Hi Prabha. First, a warm welcome to A Mad Tea Party!
    I myself learned the correct way to say ‘sambar’ not too long ago. Like you said, part of the problem lies in using the English alphabet for Indian languages. Some of ‘our’ sounds are missing from it, and many times one letter can represent many sounds. But this beautiful language is also the bridge between our vast variety of languages. With a little bit of help from friends, we could all get better at each other’s words! But the ‘wrong’ grammar just adds to the charm, I think! Most of us today can speak some Hindi…it’ll be more effort for us North Indians to learn any of the Southern (Dravidian) languages. I can almost speak Marathi though…but it is an easy language to learn if you know Hindi.

  7. Man, those pictures are making me crave rava idlis so bad right now!! I just finished cooking dinner and really should stick to that plan and eat that…but..but..those idlis look so good!!
    I had to read Manisha’s comment 3 times before I got it (duh!!). I guess I must be hungry!!

    Hi SH. There is something about these idlies that calls out ‘instant gratification’, even without the pics! The first time I got them in my head I couldn’t shake it off. Thought to plate in 30 min (at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon)! If you didn’t make these already then you’ll be making them tonight.

  8. Those look so good. The semolina actually looks a lot like couscous, which is no surprise I guess. If I got all the ingredients together, I think I could manage this recipe.

    Hi Julie. Do try and tell us if you managed. You are giving me another idea…maybe these could be made with couscous!

  9. I hate it too when our own people “mis”pronounce words that are not foreign to us. Have you ever had those marketing calls that originate in India and the person that’s calling tries his hardest to sound like he has no clue how to say your name???
    The idlis look very soft and delicious.

    Can’t believe they do that!!

  10. Hi! first time on your blog and am still drooling over the rava idlies. I just love them but had no success even with instant mix. This is a must try.

    Manisha’s remark is absolutely true. A dollop of ghee on the idli (it melts when the idli is still warm), smeared well and had with sugar. That’s what most of us ate as children. Sadly my niece and nephews eat with ketchup.. yuck! And same with upma… with sugar is very yummy. Do try once:)

    Hi Latha. Welcome to the Mad Tea Party. I think I will try!

  11. the sooji you used was rice sooji or wheat sooji ?
    Indian homes make sheera/upma with wheat sooji.
    — priti πŸ™‚

    Hi Priti. use coarse wheat sooji for these idlies.

  12. Hi everyone,

    Very interesting! But one thing I noted was that a word “Sooji” thats unavailable in dictionary is lavishly used by everyone here. I think you all know very well what it means.
    I know only semolina and Rava. Is “Sooji” a hindi word.
    Sorry, if anyone did not like my response.


    Hi Gowry. Rava, sooji, semolina…all are the same thing (as noted in the topmost ingredient on the list), different languages! Sooji is used in the North (Hindi and Punjabi).

  13. Hope we all learnt little scientifically than blindly follow instructions in its recipe for Idly or Dosa.

    Now give a try, so good luck to experimenters, previously failed cooks (includes me)!
    All the best
    With Love

    Here is the link for Gowry’s info!

  14. DOSA MADE EASY – By Gowri
    I was very successful with this recipe. The DOSA I made was exactly like in KOMALAS in Singapore or SARAVANAS US/Canada or Udupi in Dubai. I was so surprised when its was so simple.

    But remember there were days until recently, I really cried when the DOSA was rolling in to a PASTE or like a ball on the stone when I tried to pick it.

    Ok, where to start from?

    TWO LINES RECIPE but I made it a story to tell very honestly what really happened to me, so that you would be cautious.

    Mix in water, pinch of salt, & 3 cups of RAW WHITE RICE flour with 1 cup of RAW URAD flour.

    Both flours should be unbaked so I think its called RAW. First time when I purchased I blindly picked baked one without reading the packet. And I messed up.

    Tear or chop the middle part of a slice of bread into very very tiny pieces. Now add a few (1 or 2 tea spoons of) these pieces as WILD YEAST. (my discovery… hahaha)

    Now if you live in a warm place the fermentation is automatically vigorous and you choose the next day or if visibly fermented then make the dosa same day. Thats it. Simple.

    Fermented means the mix would expand with bubbles to minimum twice its volume. So select bowl accordingly. Sometimes like in my case only a few bubbles just above the surface of the mix may appear, called a feeble fermentation. I learned it here.

    However in my case it was always very cold. Just imagine No SUNLIGHT could reach my BOWL. On a week end Saturday 10 am Mix was made, I was checking hourly nothing happened. I was almost crying what the heck?
    I just recalled my Grand_ma’s stance…she used to sit and pour the mix between two bowls as if you do so between a glass and another container to cool the VERY HOT (village) TEA.
    Now 5PM Saturday I found the MIX did not change, So I guessed my MIX needed (Grandma’s treatment) to be exposed to air, for its every molecule to catch up some WILD YEAST.

    VERY TRUE with about TEN SWINGS I poured between two bowls, I made 10 small bubbles to appear on the surface of the mix. I think I should say some FORCED fermentation took place or whatever!!!!

    Now Sunday morning & the evening the mix appeared the very same. No more bubbles but I began to get the flavour of the DOSA mix. It gave me little hope. Now Sunday Night I made dosa as usual after cleaning the stone with an ONION RUB.

    Man! Wonderful dosa as big as UDUPI, KOmalas, Or Saravana makes I made at last.Oh heaven!!!!! Very crispy and VERY tasty!!!!!

    Now Just remembered the (CO2 game from NaHCO3) baking soda bubbles so I added a PINCH of that. JESUS CHRIST! the DOSA was doubly FANTASTIC.

    You would be lucky and feeling very easy if you live in a place where the mix can be JUST kept exposed to SUNLIGHT VIA WINDOWS or even balcony like in UAE.

    Imagine my experiment was in a cold place,like in YELLOWKNIFE, Canada. Hehehehe. Yet very successfully achieved what I wanted to eat.

    One time believe it, making DOSA for me was a Challenge. Now SUPER simple.

    Well, that is a wealth of information there on the idli-dosa batter and its chemistry. Though some ‘mystery’ is desirable sometimes! You use a stone to make the dosa?

    And I think you should strongly consider starting your own blog. Seriously!

    1. gowri, its very easy to ferment in cold countries if u keep the mixed batter in the oven , with the oven light on. say u keep it in at 6pm, switch off light before going to sleep ,say 9pm. Next morning,check batter , usually mine is abt to overflow or just dripping coz of gud fermentation. Take batter out , stir with a ladle and keep it in fridge. its a trick i learnt from my sis-in law. This has worked from california to atlanta to michigan to pennsylvania.

  15. I second that thought!

    Motion moved and approved, m’lord!

    I do want to know what brought Gowri to the conclusion that baked bread contains wild yeast. My understanding was that the yeast dies upon baking the bread and if bread or cooked rice are added to the batter, it is as a starter food for the bacteria to feed upon and multiply. Or am I completely off the marker on that one?

  16. Hi Anita,
    Thanks for your compliments.
    Regarding the stone instead of a tava / griddle:- It has a big story. To make it simple. Our grandma used to tell “mmmm put the “Dosa Kallu” on the fire I am just coming to pour some dosa for you guys. (“Kallu” in Tamil = stone)
    During Grandma’s days Dosa_Griddle is called a Dosa_STONE like PIZZA -STONE which when I was ten years old cannot simply carry; so heavy If at all she asked me to carry and put on fire she would say “Careful…Careful.” about ten times since that round stone if fell on a foot would chop into two halves. Her stone is also like a gramophone record but little bigger. As a matter of curiosity I had a very very close look at the rectangular baking stone of a pizza hut (owner well known to dad), and it appeared like the great grandpa of our dosa_griddle (or Dosa_stone).

    With regard to your advise to start a blog of my own, I am flattered. Thanks. Would you mind to write to my email address as to how do I qualify to do so, in your mind.

    I just wonder the otherwise also…
    Well! One day when I played with my sister’s children for a break, a guest in our house who watched me said, “Well you seem to be liking kids very much, you should marry sooner to have yours”.
    I said that I am not yet obviously qualified for that. Hahaha Because I was kid. Then why did the guest said so?

    However, I just come to break fatiqueness and give “a change” before another heavy exposition elsewhere. I wonder whether I could take up that extra load?


  17. Fantastic, made them this evening for dinner on the go…our foodie interest group in Bombay is heading out for the Dessert Buffet at Taj President, hence DH insisted on a light something that he could munch on the way in the gaddi…so have quartered the soft idlis, smeared molagai podi with gingelly oil and it is fabulous…thanks A! And i didn’t put any veggies, plain but superb!

    Glad you and yours liked ’em! These are so quick – and I see you like them like I do – with gunpowder! It is so great to see you make my South Indian recipe!

  18. i cringed when i read the part about people eating idlies with maple syrup. ugh! talk about adultery!

    idli is one of my favorite Indian food offerings. i don’t know if i’ll ever attempt to make them myself. your version with the chopped coriander looks really good!

    found this post through polarmate’s flickr photo.

    Hey Piegirl, welcome here! These are quite easy should you ever want to try!

  19. Hi Anita,
    This is a great recipe of different kind of Idli. I would love to make this idli as I have always made regular idli and problem is rise of dough depending on the mood of warm weather in LA area. I loved your description of this Rava Idli, very humorous and funny. Pronounciation of Indian words by news anchor person is disastrous here, even Bugdaad is pronounced as “Bag_daad” like a carrying bag. Problem with Indian anchor persons pronouncing wrong is that they have not learnt their own native language, because after attending English medium high school, they have neglected their own language. School should make mandatory to take Sanskrit than French or German.
    btw I got link thru Shilpa’s site on recipe. and I will be a frequent visitor to read not only your version of recipe but I enjoy reading other comments.

    Hi KP! A very warm welcome to you here at A Mad Tea Party! We do get into some interesting conversations here πŸ™‚

    This is a very easy yet satisfying recipe that has been tried by quite a few readers! It is also a recipe that has stayed in the top five on this blog till date!

  20. where can I find the ingredients or buy it

    Which ingredient are you having difficulty sourcing? All of them should be available at any Indian/Asian store. In fact, semolina is available with most any grocer.

  21. These idlis r great Anita…I just made them for dinner today n both me n hubby loved them. Thanks a ton for the wonderful recipe. This one’s a keeper 4 sure. πŸ™‚

    Yup, out with MTR rava idli mix (not Indian anymore 😦 ), in with fresh instant idli!

  22. Hi Anita,

    I have been visiting your blog regularly, but have never left a comment. I love your write ups, your photographs and recipes. I have to try out quite a few recipes from your site. The chole, the soup, the masalas.

    I have made rava idli’s once before(like you said – for instant gratification), but I got to try this recipe. The pictures are great. My husband loooveeesss the peanut chutney and it also goes well with Dosa’s.

    The I-ran thing is hilarious isn’t it?

    Thanks for stopping to write.

    I-ran is not half as amusing as the fact that we are murdering the “Him-a-layas” ourselves now!

  23. I must say, this recipe is fantastic!!!. I have tried so many other recipes for idli but failed. I had almost given up trying idlis when one day I found this awesome recipe. It is great and I receive tons of compliments- Thanx to u!!. I also add broccoli to my Idlis and they become more nutritious too!!


    I think it is time for me to add some veggies to mine as well – that’s what’s for dinner tomorrow then! Isn’t it great when you can have a recipe that is easy and delivers every time!

  24. Lovely looking and perfect rava idlis’s. This will be a perfect recipe for the event I am hosting – I would love for you to send this recipe for my event – ONE DISH MEALS. Check my site or the link below for more details.

  25. Hey Anita..

    The rava idlis look wonderful. Yummmyyy…I am feeling hungry again πŸ™‚

    Btw..a quick it OK if I don’t add baking soda coz I don’t have soda at home and I wanted to make these in the evening or tomorrow morning?

    Hi Ritika. The baking soda is critical to get these idlies to be fluffy since there is no fermentation involved. Some people use Eno fruit salt which again, has soda bi-carb as the active ingredient.

  26. Hi Anita,

    Whenever I make Idli or Dosa batter and if the weather is cold, I keep it in the microwave with the light switched on. The batter ferments overnight with the warmth of the light. Gowry can try this method if it works.

    BTW, I am planning to make the idlis tomorrow. Will let you know how it turns.

    That’s a good tip, Vaishali. I keep my batter overnight in a warmed up oven to ferment in the wintertime here in Delhi.

  27. Hi Anita,

    Thanks a lot for ur recipe. Yesterday we tried it out and everyone liked it a lot. It is a definite keeper and tastes a lot better than the MTR Mix. Going to visit ur blog regularly. Thanks again.

    Wish u the best in everything that u do.

    Welcome to The Party, Raji!
    Keep visiting – it lives up to its name!

  28. Hi,
    Ur recipe has never let me down n idlis always turn out good. I was just wondering if I could use Eno instead of Baking soda?.Also I could not find a dhokla recipe here.


  29. I tried making them.I faced a problem.The idli’s broke in to upma kind of foem.They did not set as idli shape when taken out of mould.

  30. Your Rava Idlis look finger-licking good! I tried them once but they were nowhere close to my normal plain (how can I call them that???) idlis.

    I’ll try your recipe this week. I’m sure it’ll work! Thanks!

  31. MmmmmmmK. I just made a batch of these for the first time ever. They are scrumptious- even all by themselves!

    But…I couldn’t help but notice while I was frying, and then mixing the batter, and then eating them, that I am, for some reason, reminded strongly of curd-rice. Is it just me??!

    And, if I’m right, you know then what that means: yum-with-pickle!!! πŸ™‚

    They make you feel better when you want instant idli-gratification, though not a spot on the fermented kind! πŸ™‚

  32. hi.. my first post.
    I used to often make rawa idli for tiffin. I wud soak 1 cup of sooji with 1.5 cup of curd for 20 min. use baking powder to bubble up the batter. And steam for 10 min. Over steaming would make idli hard. but otherwise they would come out soft n lovely. But now since about last 6-7 times the same method is making idli soft but its not getting cooked from the lower surface . After cooking for 30 min also!!. Help me in finding the reason.

    Instead, follow the recipe here! πŸ™‚

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