MINI IDLY & TIFFIN SAMBHAR - Step by Step recipe on how to make All purpose batter from scratch

I love eating in restaurants and I have tried South Indian in many places.( The list is too big and also includes roadside shops at hamlets).Having been raised in Coimbatore, I always compare the standard of Idly, Dosai and Sambhar with ones served at the unbeatable Shree Annapoorna , the best fine dine chain of restaurants in Coimbatore, initiated by Late, Shri Damodarswamy Naidu.  In appreciation of his work and dedication towards the Food Industry, his Birth Anniversary is celebrated as the Hotelier's Day till date.

If you happen to visit Coimbatore next time, I recommend you to try their Ghee Roast, Sambhar Vadai, Sambar Idly and off course Mini Idly . I am not being biased definitely, but I am saying this with my personal experience. No offence. Please feel free to suggest me real good restaurants anywhere. I am all ears and willing to try if I go there.The next place where you can try Idlis according to me are at any roadside shop in and around Madurai. Their Idlis are truly "Malligai Poo" ( compared to jasmine flower petals.) Also note that Madurai is also famous for Jasmine flowers. Unlike other places, flowers are not measured using the arm's length, instead it is counted singly and priced. Interesting right?

Idly is a popular South Indian Delicacy and is said to have originated from Karnataka. It is also popular in Tamilnadu, Andhra and Kerala. Now, walk into any household in South India..... I bet you will be welcomed with a plate of  Hot and Humble Idlis. Yes. Idlis by nature are very humble owing to the ingredients with which it is made. Simple, yet filling and tastes great with any accompaniment be it Chutney, Podi or Sambhar. As I spent most of my lifetime in Coimbatore ( Kongunaadu) the city dominated by Kounder community (Natives) who are basically Agriculturists. I grew up with lot of native friends and  I have observed that a typical breakfast in a Kounder home is Idly or Dosa on most of the days. The Rice and Urad Dhal are mostly cultivated in their own lands and the women from their home have N years of expertise preparing the batter. 

The secret of making good Idlis and Dosas lie in the batter that results from good quality Rice ( Idly Arisi),Urad Dhal ( Ulundhu), soaking and grinding time, adding right quantity of water while grinding and in addition a few tricks to get it right every time. I would also give credit to the ever sweet Siruvaani river water resource of the Coimbatore belt as an important contributing factor and a taste enhancer in food. This proportion of Idly / Dosa batter  that  I have used in the recipe was passed on to my Mother by our family friend Rukmani Aunty ( who is a native of Coimbatore) about 25 years back. Since then the same has been prepared and used for both Idly and Dosa and has never failed. Idlis are cooked traditionally on a mould covered with a soft moistened cotton cloth tugged into each depression and filled with batter. These are placed on top of a deep mud pot filled with lots of boiling water and steamed, something like a bain-marie and gently peeled from the cloth once done. My mother used to adopt this method for a long time but now these are replaced with Idly steamers for convenience. 

However, these days I have slightly improvised and made some changes to the basic batter recipe. The quality of Urad dhal that I source nowadays quadruple in volume that I have to increase the measure of rice to 6 measures and am still able to make soft Idlis. I also replace one or two measures of rice with Kodo millet (Varagu) or Barnyard millet (Kuthiraivaali) or both. These variations have also also yielded excellent results so far. Now.. the bottom-line is to first study the sourced Urad dhal quality to know how efficiently it increases in volume to judge the ratios perfectly. This can be done maybe by making a batch of Ulundhu Vadais ( click here for Mom's secret recipe) without using a large quantity. So, if you make a 4:1 ratio, the batter can be used for both Idlys, Dosas, Uttappams, Paniyaarams etc. If you go for a 6: 1 measure, it is generally for Dosa varieties. However, this can change depending on your Urad dhal quality.

Coming to Sambhar again.... the recipe in this post is actually inspired from the Sambhar that we get from Hotel Sree Annapoorna. The Sambhar they cater is so popular in Coimbatore that people just buy it to relish it like a soup. They don't even bother to take any other meal parcel and would just queue up with their utensils at the parcel counter  to collect their lot of  delicious hot Sambhar. At one point the restaurant would decide to only supply a bare minimum to each one. I had an opportunity to go for a Hotel training at their premises during my graduation program and partially managed to learn the recipe that they have standardized. Read on to know. Forget not to read my notes for some important do's and don'ts.


Idly Rice ............................. 4 measures in a stainless steel glass
Urad Dhal............................ 3/4th in the same glass
Sago pearls.......................... A handful
Flattened rice/ Aval/ Poha.... A handful (optional)
1 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds ..... If you plan to make Dosas
Rock Salt............................. Eye measurement
Castor seeds........................ 3 to 4 ( Also known as Aamanakku or Kottamuthu) 


  • Wash and soak the rice for 8 hours. I usually do the soaking the previous night and grind in the morning. Wash and soak the Urad Dhal just 45 minutes before the grinding process. Once done do not discard the soaked water after that. Use the same to sprinkle while grinding.
  • Soak the fenugreek seeds, sago pearls and flattened rice separately by adding water.

  • Start grinding the Urad Dhal first. Keep sprinkling water in between and scrape out any batter that sticks to the wall. Also take care to add sufficient water as it is very important to get a fluffy batter. This process takes nearly 30 to 35 minutes. Do not stop grinding the moment all the dhal is mashed . It has to become smooth and fluffy and should increase in volume. 

  • Collect all the batter in a vessel  and keep it aside. Remove any Urad Dhal batter that sticks to the sides of your grinder. Wash the grinder once and then start grinding the soaked fenugreek, sago pearls and beatened rice with little soaked rice . Once this gets smashed , add the rest of the rice and continue grinding. Add water little by little. When its half ground add the rock salt into the batter. The salt mixes very quickly. You can even check the salt by tasting a small quantity. Add more if you want. This minimizes your mixing time post grinding.
  • Rice does not take a long time for grinding. Say should be over by 15 minutes and requires a little less water. Now add the castor seeds.Tap the castor seeds with a pestle and the white amorphous portion will pop out. Add this into the rice batter and continue grinding. I don t know if castor seeds are available in Singapore. Do let me know if you are aware. Keep checking the batter in between by feeling it in between your fingers. It should be well ground at the same time slightly coarse. You can test this by feeling the batter between your finger tips.
  • Collect the batter in another tall container and fold in the Urad Dhal batter into it and mix thoroughly using your hands. This batter occupies 1/3 rd of the container. Leave it overnight to ferment with the lid closed lightly. The batter will increase to more than 2/3rd the volume of the container. Refrigerate it without disturbing the batter.


Idly Dosa Batter ...................................... As required
Sesame Oil ............................................. To grease the Idli Moulds

  • Wash and grease the Mini Idly plates. You can use sesame oil or ghee foe greasing. Spoon the batter onto the plates and steam it for 7 minutes. I have an Idly steamer for this purpose. Remove from flame and wait for two to three minutes before scooping out the Idlis. 

3 bigOnions/ Shallots
2 Tomatoes
1 Drumstick
4-5 cubes, boiled and pureedYellow Pumpkin
1/2 cup Toor Dhal
1/2 cup Moong dhal
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
2 tbsp Coriander seeds
1 tbsp Channa Dhal
1 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
6 -7 Red Chillies ( adjust as per taste)
2-3 Peppercorns
2 tbsp fresh grated Coconut
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Jaggery
2 sprigs Curry leaves  
Coriander leaves for garnish 
3 tbsp Oil
Salt. to taste
  • Cook/ boil/ microwave yellow pumpkins separately and make a puree. Set aside.
  • Chop the Onions and Tomatoes. Cut the drumstick into small pieces. Now wash the Toor dhal and Green gram Dhal. Add the chopped vegetables to the dhal with required amount of water. Add the turmeric powder, curry leaves and pressure cook until soft and keep aside. 

  • Roast the Coriander seeds, Cumin seeds, Channa Dhal, Peer and Chillies . Switch off and add the coconut, cool and dry grind to an almost fine powder . You can also grind the same using water to a thick paste. 
  • Add this powder to the steamed vegetable dhal mixture. Add more water if needed. Add salt , jaggery and mix well. Put the pressure cooker/ pan back on the stove and mix well.Add the cooked pumpkin puree and mix again. You can taste it at this point and adjust salt or jaggery as required. 
  • Cook the mixture on low flame until the raw flavour leaves. Give sufficient time for the masala and vegetable mixture to blend.  Switch off and splutter mustard seeds into the Sambhar. Garnish with coriander leaves.

  • Place the Idlis in a bowl and top it with Sambhar till the Idlis float. Drizzle a tsp of ghee and enjoy....

  • Please do not stir too much and deflate the Idly batter. For heaven's sake. Spoon it undisturbed preferably. If you break the bubbles then you may not get fluffy and soft Idlis. If you feel that the batter has fermented way too much above the vessel slightly swirl it to stop going overboard. Not more than that.
  • You can use the same batter for Idli and Dosa as mentioned earlier.The fresh batter will give you Idlis for two days. The batter volume decreases in two days time even in refrigerated conditions. 
  • Dosas can be made from the third day on wards. However, please note that fermentation continues and the sourness becomes intense on storage.
  • If you want to make Dosas on the first day itself, then collect batter as required in a separate vessel , add a little water to it and mix well to make a thick pourable batter.You will be able to spread it easily to get super crisp Dosas. 
  • Batter ferments very easily in hot and humid weathers. If you reside in colder zones, then store the batter inside your oven compartment with the lights on or alternately cover the batter utensil with a thick blanket to keep it insulated. You could also place the vessel inside another broad vessel or plate for extra warmth. Remember to use a tall vessel with enough head space for the batter to rise. 



  2. Super.. Tiffin ready board supero super.. drooling here sowmya. :-)

  3. This is my hub's fav. He will jump high up if I make it for him.

  4. Never tasted this idli til now but your post tempting me lot! Well explained!!

  5. Awesome post! Love the steps clicks :)


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