A quick trip to Idly Land: With Rava Idlies and Sagu

The human mind is the fastest conveyor that no technological breakthrough can beat. With just your memories for fuel and imagination as wings, off you can go to places with just a blink of an eye. In addition, if you have a lingering, pleasant burst of flavors on your palate that remind you so very strongly of home, it surely promises to be a ride in the first class and back! A preparation that can create such a sensation absolutely deserves a special post on my blog!

You might be wondering what this write up is all about, with such gung-ho. It is about comfort, taste, simplicity, and about a little bit of history. Rava Idlies are probably nothing new to you if you are an ardent South Indian food fan. For those of you hearing about this for the first time, rava idly is a variation of the very famous idly (rice-lentil dumpling) which is a very popular breakfast preparation mainly in southern parts of India. However the idly fanfare is now spread across the country. Rava idlies are made with wheat rava or semolina instead of the rice-lentil combination and uses slightly sour yogurt to give the batter the fermented twist. The taste of these heavenly, fluffy dumplings is enhanced by using golden bits of cashew nuts and ‘tadka’ or seasonings with mustard seeds and other usual suspects to add a nuttier and denser flavor. 

And now for the trivia on its history: I recently learnt that rava idlies were first pioneered by the famous restaurant in Bangalore, MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms). According to their website, they ventured into using rava/semolina for making idlies during WWII when there was a huge dearth of rice supply. I sure am glad they experimented! These wonderful creations are now wildly popular, served at fast food joints and sit down restaurants, making it a favorite among the locals and visitors alike. 

Rava idlies are served with the very versatile coconut chutney and/or a curry made from potatoes called “sagu.” Read on for the recipes for both of these; you can readily find instant mixes for making these idlies at your local Indian grocer but I find it immensely satisfying to make them from scratch. To steam these idlies, you’ll need an idly mould; I am sure you can just steam the batter in a greased vessel that fits into your steamer and then cut into pieces, but given that I have not tried it that way, I can’t vouch for its success! 

There, I made my quick trip to the Idly-land with these wonderful idlies! Wouldn’t you want a ride too?


To make Rava Idlies, you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cups of Rava/Semolina
  • 2 cups of whipped yogurt, preferably slightly sour
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp of urad dal (Black gram)
  • 1 tsp of chana dal (Bengal gram)
  • ¼ tsp asafotedia (Hing)
  • 2 tbsp broken cashew nuts
  • 2-3 green chilies, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro


  • Heat the oil in a pot/kadai. When hot, make the “tadka” with mustard, urad and chana dal, asafotedia and green chilies
  • Add the cashew bits and fry until they turn slightly brown
  • Add the rava and fry until it starts to give out a pleasant aroma, on medium heat. Ensure that you don’t over roast/burn the rava. That can be a real spoiler for these idlies
  • Take off the heat and let this rava mixture cool down to room temperature
  • Add about 1 ½ cups of yogurt to the rava mixture, along with baking soda, salt and chopped cilantro. Mix well to make a thick batter
  • Leave this batter aside for 30 minutes. After the resting time, add the other ½ cup of yogurt and mix well
  • Grease the idly moulds, pour the batter into individual moulds. Steam on medium heat for 15-20 minutes*
  • Allow to cool just a tad before removing these wonderful idlies. Serve hot, drizzled with ghee along with Chutney/Sagu (recipe below)

To make potato Sagu, you’ll need:

  • 2-3 medium sized potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium size onion, diced
  • ¼ cup green peas, fresh or frozen (optional)
  • 3-4 green chilies (or according your tolerance for heat)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 tbsp Urad Dal and Chana Dal mixture
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp gram flour (besan)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish 


  • Heat the oil in a pan, and make the “tadka” with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, the dals and green chilies
  • Add chopped onion and fry until they turn translucent
  • Add the diced potatoes and fry for few of minutes, until slightly tender
  • Sprinkle the ground turmeric and gram flour. Fry until the raw smell of the gram flour disappears, for just about a minute or two
  • Add water, green peas if using and season with salt to taste. Stir in the sugar and allow to boil, covered on medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through and the sagu has thickened.
  • Take off heat, garnish with cilantro and serve with hot rava idlies!

* I had a little extra time on hand, so I placed a few strands of grated carrot on the greased moulds before ladling in the batter to steam. This just adds to the pretty factor, really, not a must!  

11 thoughts on “A quick trip to Idly Land: With Rava Idlies and Sagu

  1. I didn’t know about MTR coming up with this dish. I love rava idlies and theirs especially! I haven’t tried making them a thome from scratch. I usually buy MTR mix and use that. Your recipe seems easy enough. I should try it sometime!

  2. Hi Roopa,

    I tried your rava idli recipe and they came out great! I will not be buying any of the instant mixes anymore!


  3. Hi,

    I tried sagu today, it came out very well, very tasty. I served it to one of the British friend,, even they loved it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    We can put carrot grating and coconut grating to rava idli.. even that tasts very good.

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s