Thatte Idli refers to idlis steamed in plates, hailing from the state of Karnataka. These idlis, made using a mix of rice and urad dal, are pillowy-soft and absolutely delicious. While I am not a huge fan of idli otherwise, this is one variety I make an exception for.
The Bidadi region of the state is where these idlis (also called ‘Plate Idlis’) are believed to have originated. While driving along the Bangalore-Mysore highway, you will find several small stalls selling these spongy idlis, with a pat of butter on top, chutney or sambar on the side. Today, I am going to share with you all how to make hotel-style Thatte Idli at home, a foolproof recipe I have tried and tested several times over.
Spongy-soft hotel-style Thatte Idli at home
My house help taught me how to make hotel-style Thatte Idli at home, sans any cooking soda (a common practice in hotels), and we have been fans ever since. Even without the soda, the idlis turn out perfectly, soft and fluffy. At home, we have these with home-made dosa milagai podi drizzled over.
The rice to urad dal ratio in this recipe is a bit different from what we use in case of regular idlis – I will share the proceedure for this shortly, too. This Thatte Idli recipe uses idli rice, a variety of rice with fat grains that is specifically used for making idlis, commonly available in several departmental store (see the picture below). There’s whole white urad dal added in, along with some flattened/beaten rice (poha/aval), sago (sabudana/javvarisi) and fenugreek (methi/vendayam) seeds. These ingredients are ground to a smooth batter, which is then allowed to ferment before making the Thatte Idlis.
This is quite a healthy breakfast option, considering it is steamed and is essentially oil-free. Only a little oil is used to grease the plates the idlis are steamed in.
Thatte Idli recipe
This is how to go about making the idlis.
Ingredients (makes 10-12 small plate-sized idlis):
1. 1-1/2 cup idli rice (see the ‘Tips & Tricks’ section)
2. 1/2 cup urad dal
3. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
4. 1/4 cup beaten rice (poha/aval)
5. 1/8 cup sago (sabudana)
6. Salt to taste
7. Oil, as needed to grease the plates
1. Wash and drain the idli rice and soak it in enough fresh water to cover it completely. Take the urad dal and fenugreek seeds together in a vessel, wash well and drain, then soak in enough fresh water. Wash the sago well, then drain and soak in sufficient fresh water. Soaking time for all these ingredients would be 8-10 hours or overnight.
2. Soak the beaten rice in some water for 20-30 minutes. You can soak this just before you grind the batter.
3. When all the ingredients are done soaking, drain out the water from them and reserve. Add the soaked and drained urad dal and fenugreek seeds to a mixer jar, along with the soaked and drained sago and beaten rice. Add in a little of the soaking water we reserved earlier and grind these ingredients together to a smooth batter.
4. Test the ground batter by dropping a small blob of it in a glass of water. If the blob rises to the surface immediately and floats on the water, it means the batter is light and airy. If it sinks, you need to grind it some more. When the batter is ready, transfer it to a wide vessel.
5. Now, transfer the soaked and drained idli rice to the mixer jar along with some of the reserved water. Grind to a smooth batter. Transfer this to the same wide vessel. Mix both batters well together.
6. Add salt to taste to the batter. Mix well, using your hands. Cover the batter and set aside, undisturbed, for about 7-8 hours for fermenting.
7. Once the batter has fermented, it can be used to make Thatte Idlis. Mix it gently. If the batter is too thick, add some water to adjust the consistency – remember that the batter should be neither too thick nor too watery.
8. Take about 1 cup of water in a pressure cooker base and place a trivet inside it. Place the cooker on high flame.
9. Grease a small steel plate with some oil and place it on top of the trivet, in the pressure cooker. Let the water come to a boil and the greased plate get slightly heated up.
10. At this stage, pour a couple of ladles of the batter into the hot greased plate. Let the batter spread out evenly in the plate, then close the pressure cooker. Do not put the whistle on.
11. Steam the batter on high flame for 12-15 minutes. Wait for 7-8 minutes to open the cooker and get the idli out, then let it cool slightly more before de-moulding it from the plate and serving. Serve with milagai podi and/or sambar or chutney on the side.
12. Use all the batter to make Thatte Idli in a similar manner.
Vegan and gluten-free recipe
This Thatte Idli recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It is gluten-free as well.
Tips & Tricks
1. Some people use a mix of idli rice and raw rice to make Thatte Idli. This recipe, using only idli rice, works best for me. Do not use dosa rice instead. I’m guessing the idli rice can be substituted with parboiled rice (‘puzhungal arisi‘ in Tamil), but I have never tried that out.
2. For all idli/dosa varieties, we prefer using whole white urad dal which is also called gota urad. You could use split white urad dal too, but this yields better results.
3. I have used regular white poha of the thin variety here. Regular white sabudana has been used.
4. We always add salt to the batter before fermentation. You may add it after fermentation too, if you so prefer.
5. Remember to mix the batter and salt with your hands, before setting it aside for fermenting. This actually kickstarts the fermentation process and aids it.
6. The time the batter takes to ferment will depend upon factors like type of ingredients use and the weather conditions. Here in Bangalore, batter ferments in 5-6 hours in the peak of summer, but might take longer in the colder months.
7. I have steamed the Thatte Idli in a pressure cooker, in a steel plate. You may use a Thatte Idli/Dhokla stand instead (available in vessel stores as well as in certain departmental stores). You can also use a vegetable steamer to cook the idlis.
8. Do not overly mix the batter after fermentation. Do it very gently. If you are not planning on using the fermented batter immediately, store it in the refrigerator after gently mixing. It is best used within 2-3 days.
9. Make sure the greased plate is slightly warmed up before pouring the batter in. Do not overcook the idlis, otherwise they might become hard.
10. Make sure no water enters the plate while steaming the idlis.
11. Do not attempt to de-mould the Thatte Idli when it is too hot. It might break or get too soggy.
12. You may use the same batter to make regular idlis in an idli stand, too. I have not tried using this batter to make dosas, but I’m sure they would turn out well too.
13. Some people grind the urad dal smooth, but keep the rice batter coarse. We prefer grinding both to a smooth texture. Do not miss testing the urad dal batter as stated above – if it does not float in the water, it is not ready. This is crucial to get fluffy, soft Thatte Idlis.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!