I sometimes try using Homemade batter for making idlis and dosas as I live in the perfect temperate climate which is required for fermenting the batter properly and wish to cut down on the preservatives which are found in ready to use batter packets.

Usually it comes nice and fluffy, sometimes a little hard due to more urad in it. But this time when I thought the batter was all perfect, my idlis totally disappointed me. In the steamer it looked as if it had cooked perfectly although it did not rise much, but to my disbelief when I removed it from the steamer's plate, and opened it up it was uncooked inside.

Can anyone suggest what am I doing wrong here? I ferment the batter overnight. Is it less? Will it not become rotten if I keep it outside for 24 hours? I know its like a rocket science which either one gets it or not, but I am looking for a desi method here which will not disappoint me everytime!

P.S. I just realised that I also changed my steaming process. Do you think that could have changed something?

Earlier I was using a pot like this over the flame:

Stainless Steel Pot

Now I use an electric steamer and keep the idli plate in the steamer section, something like this:

enter image description here

  • "uncooked" caught my attention - did you notice anything different about the steaming?
    – Cascabel
    Nov 19, 2014 at 0:15
  • Yes..I changed the way I steam recently. While earlier I used to steam idlis in a pot with water over the stove flame, now I have started using an electric steamer where the water stays below and the steamer section is kept above just like in the usual pot. Could that be a reason? Different ways of steaming can produce different results??
    – Neels
    Nov 19, 2014 at 6:38
  • @neels I'm not sure I understand your description. "Used to steam idlis in a pot with water" vs. "steamer where the water stays below" - do you mean that earlier, your idlis were submerged in the water?
    – rumtscho
    Nov 19, 2014 at 7:23
  • No, even in the pot water stayed below and idli plate at a distance! The only thing changed is, instead of stove flame and steel pot now I use an electric cooker cum steamer! Sorry for the confusion!
    – Neels
    Nov 19, 2014 at 7:28
  • Hi Neels. Do both steamers have a hole in the lid, or just the new one? I cannot see from the illustration. If your new one does, but the old does not, that could possibly account for the change in cooking time. Although "steam is steam" in principle, a steamer is like an oven and ovens are notorious for varying considerably. Have you ever cooked idli in a pressure cooker?
    – user28908
    Nov 24, 2014 at 0:46

2 Answers 2


If you are in a "perfect temperate climate" then the batter should not "go rotten" as the method is from southern India, which is very hot. It does not rot there, so it will certainly not in a cooler climate. You may not, however, have the same rate of success for the same reason.

You imply you are an experienced idli and dosa maker, so you will have to experiment with fermentation and cooking times. If they did not rise, it would suggest you are not fermenting long enough. And denser batter will take longer to cook. You already have a genuine desi (Indian) recipe and methodology, you just need to tweak it to your local conditions.

  • I'm afraid "it does not rot there, so it will certainly not in a cooler climate" is not how food safety works. In this case, the batter doesn't rot because of fermentation - a benign type of bacteria multiplies so much that it overtakes the whole mini ecosystem, leaving no ecological niches for pathogens. But every type of bacteria has its preferred temperature range. If the temperature is cooler than in Southern India, it is very possible that a different culture - one which is either pathogenic or just plain unpleasant - will get the upper hand.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 19, 2014 at 7:26
  • To make it clear, I don't see anything suggesting a problem with the fermentation in the OP's description, the problem is likely elsewhere. But I wanted to explain that the logic in your answer sounds compelling, but sadly does not apply in this situation.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 19, 2014 at 7:29
  • @rumtscho I was presuming "go rotten" meant just that instead of fermenting. I answered two different aspects of the original post. Feel free to edit as you usually do!
    – user28908
    Nov 20, 2014 at 10:41
  • There must be a misunderstanding. I also assumed that "go rotten" means "instead of fermenting". My point is, if something will ferment at 38 Celsius, it is very likely that it will go rotten if you leave it out at 28 Celsius. I will not edit this into the post, as I don't want to be putting words into your mouth, edits are meant for improving style/readability and not for changing the original author's meaning. If you changed your mind after my comment, you can edit it yourself. If you did not, it is better that readers see there is disagreement than to see only my or only your side.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 20, 2014 at 10:48

When you say that usually it comes out fine, this suggests that you have a method and that this method has proven itself a reliable one. This reconciles well with the remainder of what you describe, which posits your current predicament as something of a one-off experience. In short, there's clearly in this go round some unaccounted for factor, (and probably beyond what can be apprehended though some may wish to venture a guess), which caused your batter to respond poorly to otherwise familiar conditions. More likely an issue of quality control here or there. Rather than labor further over the same batch or, for that matter, dread its recurrence, it is perhaps best to rely with confidence on what usually occurs, as this is plainly the best predictor of future events.

  • 1
    It sounds like there was a very specific failure this time, and figuring out what caused it would help avoid it in the future, rather than having another batch randomly fail. I'm not sure if "something unknown changed" is really a helpful answer.
    – Cascabel
    Nov 19, 2014 at 0:04
  • I am sorry to say, but your answer looks so generic and makes me wonder whether you have any idea about idli's or not!!!
    – Neels
    Nov 19, 2014 at 9:04
  • I am so sorry, Neels, that my answer came across as reductive or even overly clinical. I didn't mean it that way. Now going back over it however, I can certainly see where it comes across as "Why worry over it?" or the like. I hope someone is able to provide you with an answer which suits what you have in mind rather than which attempts to have you rethink the question or its merits. Nov 19, 2014 at 22:39

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