Foamy White Steamed Rice And Bean Dumplings
idlee is the world-famous south indian breakfast or tiffin treat. it is 
made with a fermented batter containing soaked black gram bean paste 
and rice semolina (cream of rice). the batter is poured into the 
depressions in the idlee molds and steamed to yield porous, spongy 
cushions called idlee. the proportion of beans to rice is the most 
crucial element in making light and airy idlees: the rice is always 
twice the quantity of beans. the dumplings expand when they are 
steamed, and their nutritive value goes up with the fermentation of the 
batter; they become rich in proteins that are easily digestible. 
these dumplings are traditionally served with coconut chutney and red 
gun powder (see tips at bottom of idlee sambaar recipe). children 
usually like to eat them with palm jaggery syrup, which is somewhat 
difficult to find here in the united states. however, unsulphured 
molasses, natural honey, and maple syrup make wonderful substitutes. 
the best way to keep the dumplings warm is to put them in another 
steamer over hot (not boiling) water. you may use any kind you want as 
long as the steamer is large enough to accommodate all the dumplings 
without crushing them. 
1-1/3 cup  white split gram beans (urad dal)
1-1/3 cup  water
2-1/2 cup  cream of rice cereal
1 tsp  coarse salt, or to taste (optional)
1/4 tsp  baking soda
3/4 cup  light sesame oil or light vegetable oil
pick clean and wash the beans. put them in a bowl and add water to 
cover by at least 2 inches, and let them soak for 8 hours. drain and 
rinse the beans. 
add the beans and 1 1/3 cups water to the container of a food 
processor or blender and puree them. the puree should be extremely 
smooth, light, and fluffy. transfer to a large bowl. 
line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and put the cream of 
rice cereal in it. hold the sieve under cold running water right in the 
kitchen sink. rinse the cereal until no clinging starch is remaining 
and the water begins to run clear through the cheesecloth. squeeze the 
rice cereal thoroughly of all moisture and add it to the bean paste. 
beat the bean and rice mixture thoroughly. add salt if desired. cover 
the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and place it in a warm 
place for 8 to 12 hours to ferment the batter. 
when you are ready to make the dumplings, stir the baking soda 
gently into the batter, using a rubber spatula. (do not overblend as 
the batter must remain foamy and airy for the dumplings to come out 
light.) let the batter rest for 4 to 5 minutes. 
while the batter is resting, cut pieces of cheesecloth into neat 
rounds or squares to fit the depressions of the idlee dumpling racks. 
each piece of cheesecloth lining can be used twice. therefore you will 
need half as many pieces for lining as the number of dumplings. the 
cheesecloth pieces should be slightly larger than the depressions so 
that they overhang by about 1/3 inch. 
line the dumpling racks with the pieces of cheesecloth. brush them 
lightly with oil. bring water to a boil in the idlee steamer, a 
pressure cooker, or a 6- to 8-quart sauce pot in which the idlee racks 
spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter into each lined depression of the 
rack. attach the racks and place in the steamer. 
steam the dumplings for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick 
inserted into them comes out clean. remove the racks from the steamer 
apparatus and separate the dumpling racks. pick up each dumpling with 
the cloth and gently peel away the cheesecloth. place the steamed 
dumplings in another steamer or a covered dish to keep them warm. 
turn the cheesecloth pieces over and line the racks with the smooth 
reverse side up. brush lightly with oil. proceed with the remaining 
batter the same way. 
to serve, place the dumplings (2 per person) in a rimmed soup plate or 
a shallow bowl about 5 inches in diameter. make an indentation in the 
center of the dumpling with your index finger or with the back of a 
wooden spoon. pour about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil in the 
depression and over the dumplings. 
julie sahni shares her tips: 
. an idlee steamer looks like a a multitiered serving platter with 
egg-shaped indentations in each round tier to hold the batter. the 
indentations are perforated to allow the steam to pass through as the 
idlee are cooking (which keeps them light), and the whole stack fits 
into a covered pot. idlee steamers are available online at if you don't have one, an egg poacher 
can be used, but the idlee won't be quite as light. 
. split white gram beans are available online at, under the name urid dal. 
. part of the vegetarian cuisine of south india, this dish, which is 
traditionally served at tiffin (a lunch or midmorning snack), contains 
the perfect proportion of rice to beans to create a complete protein 
- the combination of various sources of protein that vegetarians must 
consume in order to get all the amino acids present in meat. "and," 
says sahni, "because the beans are fermented, their molecules are 
broken down in a way that makes them easier to digest." 
makes twenty-eight to thirty 2 1/2-inch round dumplings. 
(ID: 1583) Mirror: Sat, Aug 20, 2005

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