Battle with Batter Most of us love idlies. It’s just simply white and pure like a jasmine flower. It requires no skill in making it (or so I thought) After reading Sambar’s story I thought this will go well with Sambar. It’s my story of getting perfect idlies that took me at least a decade to master. (feel free to stop here) In many families in the southern part of India idlies are a daily staple. I remember my mom making it frequently. It was the last meal of hers we had. I wanted to try making batter at home while in middle school. I myself ground the idli batter using the stone grinder. My grandmother had only stone grinder. After the pain I was left with I didn’t try that again. There used to be a store where they would grind the batter and give. I tried that too. Somehow I was not comfortable with the way it was done and so I stopped that. After that we never thought about idlies for a while. Ratna cafe Idli vada sambar became our Sunday breakfast ritual later. Now when my marriage was fixed, first question I was asked was do you know to make idlies. Why would someone even ask that I thought! How hard can it be? and I said no big deal. I will learn. They laughed and said you are marrying into a family where not a single day will go without idlies here. I did not bother much then. When someone asked me what to buy as a wedding gift I happily asked for a grinder. Now in the foreign land I set my experimentation with idli batter. Initially we used to use only uncle ben’s parboiled rice and jasmine rice. Imagine how sticky it would have been. No Indian stores in the town. So no luxury of indian raw materials. I soaked parboiled rice/jasmine rice urad dal and ground the batter too. I was told to warm it in the oven for fermentation as we lived in one of the coldest place.. It was my first time using the oven. The person who gave me the recipe forgot to mention that I need to switch the oven off before I put the batter in. So I let the batter in the oven to warm at 300 F for few hours and when I checked for fermentation, I had a big baked idli cake that I didn’t know how to even dispose. What a waste of effort and materials. I did not give up on my failed experiment. I kept experimenting over and over with different proportions and different types of rice until one day I saw a video of spiritual Guru. He mentioned ” what is in idli. just 4:1 and you measure with your hand and grind”. The video was about some spiritual talk but it gave me a clue. It’s the hand. It’s all in the hand. I have seen that when my mother-in-law grinds, the batter ferments well within hours and those idlies are very soft and fluffy. On one fine day, As a final experiment I asked my husband to rinse the rice and dal for me . After I ground the batter again I requested him to use his hands to mix salt. He refused. Obviously right! Then I offered another suggestion. Use your hand to put salt but wipe the spatula with your hands before mixing. (of course clean washed hands). Voila! the next day my fermented batter was overflowing in the oven. My happiness knew no bounds at last finding a trick for fermentation. Cleaning the oven was not a big deal. I had found the perfect recipe for soft fluffy idlies. From then on no more idli failures at home. My hands were not up for fermentation and it took me decades to figure it out. Oh there ends my battle with the batter.