About 1000 years old south Indian delicacy, idli, is now gaining popularity all over the world as a healthy breakfast. Various studies conducted by renowned institutions around the globe state in unison that idli is one of the best breakfasts as naturally fermented rice & lentil batter is used in its preparation. Idli is a soft spongy steamed cake made using fermented rice & lentil batter prepared often in almost every South Indian’s household.
First let us look into the health benefits of these amazing idli:
Health Benefits of idli:
- Assimilation of nutrients: Fermentation of idli batter makes the minerals found in rice & lentils available that are otherwise unavailable. (Phytic acid found in lentils usually binds iron & zinc in it and is broken down during fermentation resulting in the release of these micro-nutrients.) Hence we can enjoy the benefits of rice & lentils to the fullest. Besides these nutrients, B Vitamins & Vitamin K are also made available as the by-products of fermentation process.
- Immunity: Since idli is prepared with fermented batter, each idli contains millions of good bacteria. Doctors here advise patients, who are on antibiotics, to take idli as it helps to replenish with good bacteria that are killed along with disease causing bacteria. Apparently probiotic idli is beneficial mainly to kids, or sick to improve their immunity.
- Healthy gut: Probiotic idli protects us from disease causing microbes to grow in our intestines and thus making our immune system strong. So clearly healthy gut means strong immune system which in turn promotes our overall well being.
- Weight loss: Idli with sambar can be ideally taken for a significant weight loss as this meal contains less carbs & fat but loaded with protein, vitamins & minerals. The nutritionist in our gym used to recommend us to take 2 idli with a cupful of sambar regularly for breakfast and to our surprise we all find this diet very effective in weight management.
- Easily digestible: Fermented idli batter is predigested (broken down into simple compounds) by good bacteria present in it; thus steamed idli turned out to be even more light to digest. So we can serve idli to infants, old, or even to sick without hesitation.
Now let’s move onto idli making procedure :
Idli is prepared by steaming idli batter after pouring into an idli plate similar to a muffin tray. I’d also heard people baking the same batter in a muffin tray. But whatever method we follow we have to keep in mind that cooking fermented batter at high temperature will lead to loss of vital microbes in it.
- Grease idli plate with sesame oil.
- Pour idli batter into the dents and steam for 8-10 min.
- Take idli plate out of the steamer and let it stand for 2 min.
- Run a wet spoon along the edge of each idli to scoop them out one by one.
- Transfer them to a hot casserole.
- Serve hot idli with chutney and/or sambar.
Accompaniments of idli: Idli tastes tantalizingly delicious when served with suitable accompaniment(s) as shown below.
Variations: Considering idli’s health benefits we need to make it liked by everyone in the family by adapting simple changes without affecting its nutritive values (I don’t like the idea of deep frying idli as served in restaurants) as below.
Shaped idli: Idli may be prepared in various shapes to draw the attention of kids.
Fortified idli: We may enrich idli with vegetables, greens, nuts, legumes, etc. These hearty idli are suitable for weight watchers & also for people who like to have wholesome breakfast. The key to make fortified idli appealing is to add firm & crunchy ingredients like nuts, green peas, stems of green leaf vegetables, etc.; it is better to avoid ingredients that turn mushy when steamed (like banana, etc.) as it would result in making insipid idli.
Sweet idli: We can also make healthy sweet idli cakes by adding jaggery syrup (or any sweetener except honey), fruits, dry fruits, etc. into the batter. It is required to add little more sweetener to overpower the sourness.
- It is a good practice to place idli plate (or bowl) filled with batter when the water inside the steamer reaches rolling boil and then simmer for 8-10 minutes to prevent the nutrients loss.
- It is always better to avoid using any additives like ENO salt, etc. to boost the fermentation process as we can not enjoy the benefits of idli to the fullest.
- For a fluffy idli, we have to use a deep bowl (or idli plate with deep cavity) rather than shallow bowl (ie.) deeper the cavity, fluffier the idli becomes.