Friday, April 4, 2014

Recipe of the month: Rava Idli

I dedicate this post to my beloved paternal grandmother who passed away last month. She was the warmest, kindest, liveliest and most hospitable woman I have ever known and I consider it a privilege to be her granddaughter. When I was born, she flew all the way to England along with my maternal grandmother (those two got along famously) so she was one of the first among my extended family who welcomed me into this world. I will forever remember her as someone who loved chatting with people, sharing family stories, gardening, drinking filter coffee, reading kannada novels, watching daily soaps on tv (she could often be heard openly chastising the antagonist for his/her villainous deeds) but most of all, as someone who was devoted to her family. She epitomized generosity, wisdom, patience, sacrifice and hard work. During her lifetime, she showed nothing but kindness and a genuine affection towards my mother which made me respect her even more.  I loved her with all my heart and I am going to miss her dearly. The gentle soul that she is, I'm sure she is even making heaven a better place  ❤️

Rava idli or steamed semolina cakes is a popular South-Indian breakfast dish. To be completely honest, rava idli is one of those dishes that I have struggled with over the years. It started off with me not acknowledging it's existence altogether to buying instant rava idli mixes and then to a few disastrous attempts at making it myself from scratch. It's weird because I make the regular kind of idlis all the time and they turn out fine. Unlike the regular idli, rava idli does not require any soaking, grinding, fermentation (basically any cumbersome procedure) and can be prepared in a jiffy so you would think that it should be a cinch right? For me at least, no such luck (boo!). It took me a few trials to figure out the right kind of rava, the consistency of the batter and the life-altering realization that it was so much better to use fruit salt instead of cooking soda. Anyway, better late than never so here I am with a rava idli post which should be an indication that I have finally laid my rava idli demons to rest....haha!

Rava idli has quite an interesting history. This dish which originates from my home state of Karnataka is said to be the brainchild of the popular restaurant chain Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) of Bangalore. It is said to have been invented during World War II when rice (which was the staple ingredient used to make idli) was in short supply. In order to overcome this impediment, MTR apparently experimented with rava to make idlis and lo behold, the humble rava idli was born. Since then, it has been a staple on the menus of restaurants that serve Udupi cuisine and eventually it spread to feature on breakfast menus of restaurants serving South-Indian food in general. 

My mum makes rava idlis very frequently at home and she consistently prepares two side dishes to go along with it - coconut chutney (on demand) and a potato bhaji (courtesy my demanding brother). Since rava idli is already flavoured with an array of tempering ingredients, curry leaves, ginger, green chillies and coriander, I don't really need much to go along with it. All I need is my favourite chutney pudi and I am all set to tuck in. But then again, despite my best efforts to keep it simple, nostalgia kicks in at the very last minute and I end up going the same route as my mum and prepare both the coconut chutney and the potato bhaji

The last two or three occasions I made rava idlis at home, they turned out well enough for me to consider the recipe blogworthy. I know of many people who are not familiar with rava idli. This is an easy to make dish which is nutritious, delicious and vegan-friendly (i.e. if you replace the ghee with oil). Here is my version which results in soft and spongy idlis. This recipe works for me and I hope it works for you too!

Rava Idli

Preparation time: 20 min
Cooking/Steaming time: 8-10 min
Makes: 12 rava idlis; Serves: 3-4
Recipe level: Easy


1 cup rava/sooji/semolina (I use chiroti/ceroti rava)
a handful of cashews, broken into small pieces
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp channa dal
10 curry leaves, chopped
1 tsp grated fresh ginger, Optional
3-4 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust according to spice level)
1 cup plain yoghurt/curds  
~1/2 cup water 
1 small bunch fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped 
1 tsp eno fruit salt
2 tsp oil or ghee + more for greasing the idli plates
Salt to taste


1. Heat ghee or oil in a pot, add the broken cashews and fry till they just start to turn golden.

2. Now splutter the mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal and curry leaves. I had run out of channa dal so I haven't used it here. 

3. Add the chopped green chillies and grated ginger (if using) and fry for a few seconds.

4. Now lower the flame, add the rava and fry for 5 min stirring frequently until you can smell the aroma of the rava. Take care not to over roast it. 

5. Transfer contents to a bowl and keep aside for a few min to cool down. 

6. Add in the yoghurt, chopped coriander leaves and salt. Gradually add in the water while mixing gently until the consistency reaches the regular idli batter consistency (neither too thick nor too thin - sort of like thick custard). Allow the batter to rest for at least 10 min.

7. Fill the idli cooker/steamer with water and get it ready for steaming. Grease the idli plates with preferably a little ghee or oil.

8. When you are ready to make the idlis, add the eno salt to the batter and combine gently (do not over mix). If the eno salt is active, you will see bubbles forming in the batter making it frothy. 

9. Immediately, ladle a spoonful of batter into the idli plates and steam for 8-10 minutes on medium flame. To check if its done, insert a toothpick or knife in the middle and it should come out clean.

10. Take out the idli plates and keep them aside for a few mins until they cool down otherwise the idlis will not come out cleanly. Using a butter knife or spoon, remove the idles from the plates and keep them in a hot box. 

11. Serve hot with chutney, chutney pudi (spiced chutney powder) or potato bhaji. 

  • Chiroti rava is fine rava. I've tried a few varieties of rava and I found this one to work the best for me. I've seen many recipes that use Bombay rava but I've never tried that myself. 
  • You can add grated carrots into the rava idli batter for color and texture. You can also add in other cooked vegetables of your choice to make it a more wholesome meal (esp for kids). 
  • You can garnish the rava idlis with fried cashews, sliced carrots or tomato. Arrange fried cashews or slices of carrot (cut into decorative shapes) or a thinly sliced tomato in the middle of the idli mould, spoon the idli mixture on top and steam as described. 




  1. All your food profile/cover pics turn out soo awesome. I hope your new flash will ease the restrictions on outdoor lighting when you cook :)

  2. Rava Idli is a popular South Indian dish. If you start to make Rava Idli in traditional way, it would take two days. You describe the method of how to prepare Rava Idli in detail. This recipe is much quicker and easier, and tasty.


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