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Tips and Tricks for making Idli Batter

by | Apr 27, 2016 | 203 comments

I get a lot of mails everyday about idli batter fermentation. This post might be useful for all the people trying to make soft idlies at home. If you are specifically looking for recipes, here they are.
How to make idli batter in wet grinder. This is my preferred method.
How to make idli batter using an Indian heavy duty mixie
How to make idli batter using idli rava /rawa.

So lets talk about the ingredients first. The first important ingredient in making idli is the urad dal.
Urad Dal
There are basically four kinds of urad dal thats available in the market.
The black whole urad dal. Nothing but the urad dal with the husk still on. This is not good for making idlies. But they make the fantastic dal bukhara.

Soaked-Urad-Dal

The second is the split black urad dal. Its same as the previous one but its just that each grain of dal is split into two. This is the dal my mother and my grand mother used for a long time to make idli. This dal makes hands down the bestest idli. The down side of this dal is that it involves a lot of labour. Its time consuming. So if you have decided to go the old fashioned way and want to make idlies with this dal, here is what you should do.
Soak the split urad dal for 3-4 hours in lots of water. Then try rubbing the dal in your palm. Some of the black husk attached to the dal will get seperated. Drain the water along with the husk. Again fill the vessel with water and rub the dal in your palms. Repeat until all the husk is removed and only the white part of the dal remains. It will take about 15 minutes of rubbing and washing. After all the washing, a little bit of black husk – one or two here and there would remain and that’s fine. If you have the time, go ahead and try this atleast once. Its very rewarding.

idli-batter-tips-dal

Then comes the white whole urad dal. Its the urad dal without the husk or skin. The naked dal. This is the dal we use now for making idlies. But there is a catch. There are two varieties of this white whole urad dal available in the market. The polished dal popularly referred to as nylon urad and the unpolished white urad dal. We will use only unpolished urad dal.

how-to-make-Soft-idli-batter-recipe-whole-urad

The last one is the split white urad dal. Its the urad dal without its skin which has been split. This is popularly referred to as the tempering / tadka dal. We do not use this dal.

idli-batter-tips-splitdal

Why selecting the dal is important.
The factory process of removing the husk from the dal requires a certain amount of heat. The heat might have muted some of the good bacteria thats needed for fermentation.
The modern manufacturing methods have reduced this by a great extent, so using unpolished whole white urad dal is ok. But if you are a purist, go the grandmas route and buy split black urad dal and de husk the dal yourself.

Now the rice.
The only rice that will give you desired results while making idli is par boiled rice. Raw rice doesnt work. In particular, a par-boiled variety called idly rice is extensively used for making idli in the Tamilnadu region. The technical variety of parboiled rice thats referred to as simply “idly rice” is called as “salem kara” or “salem car”. If you cannot procure idly rice, try getting a good quality par boiled rice. Idly rice is a unique short grained fat rice. Here is a picture of idli rice.

idli-batter-tips-rice-idlyrice

Now, the fenugreek seeds.
I need to be honest with you here. This is an optional ingredient. But I love the flavor that fenugreek imparts in the idli or dosa. Thats the flavor that reminds me of childhood. Its healthy and it also aids in fermentation. But if you use a lot, your idli is going to be bitter. The smell of idli, and particularly the dosa roasting on a pan is something that I look forward to every time. Fermented fenugreek seeds is an important reason for that unforgettable dosa aroma. Its like petrichor. Something mostly everyone loves.
But if you dont like fenugreek seeds, you can just omit them. If you want a really really white idli, skip the fenugreek seeds.

Salt
What type of salt is used?
Rock Salt. The simple reason for using rock salt is that its minimally processed and may not contain anything else other than salt. Table salt contains other ingredients such as anti-caking agents etc… which may interfere in fermentation. So try avoiding table salt while making idli.

Other Ingredients people add while making idli batter
The two most common ingredients that I see people adding now to get more fluffier idlies are
Sabudana and Avalakki
Sabudana (Sago) or Javvarisi is a by product of Tapioca root that’s been cooked and dried. Any cooked and dried product when comes in contact with water rots (ferments) faster. In our case sabudana aids in fermentation by helping good bacteria do its work more efficiently.
Avalakki – Beaten rice – Poha
Avalakki is made from Paddy. Paddy is soaked and cooked in hot water and then dried. The dried paddy is roasted and pressed to make flakes. So it gives the same effect as Sabudana.

idli-batter-tips-aval

Idli Rava / Idli Rawa
Even though many people use idli rava to make idlies, I do not prefer this method the most. Have this as the last resort. Its ok to make idlies using idli rava when you are in a hurry. But the texture is going to be different. Also the shelf life of the batter is very limited. You will start getting hard idlies on the second day. If you are used to eating soft idlies from a wet grinder, you will not like the idlies from this method.

So that’s about the ingredients. Here are some of the common questions I get asked frequently.

The one common comment I get from a lot of readers is that, their idlies did not rise and the idlies were flat. The main reason is watery or runny batter. Watery batter will not rise and the idlies will be hard and flat. So use caution while grinding and do not add too much water while grinding. The batter will thin out a little after fermentation. So a BIG CAUTION on using water. Please use correct measurements as mentioned in the recipe.

Can you tell me something about fermentation?
Fermentation of Idli batter is carried out largely by lactic acid bacteria. Not yeast. There are two kinds of lactic acid bacteria. Homofermentive and heterofermentive.
Homofermentive lactic acid bacteria produces only lactic acid.
Heterofermentive bacteria – the Idli bacteria (Leuconostoc mesenteroides) produces carbon dioxide in addition to lactic acid.

Why the wet grinder method is superior than the mixie method?
Number 1. The ingredients do not get heated up while grinding in a wet grinder. The same is not the case with the mixie. The wet grinder method is slow but its the best.
Number 2 and the most important factor. The urad dal when ground in the wet grinder fluffs up in volume. This wont happen in the mixie.

When to add salt?
There are two schools of thought. Whether to add salt while fermenting or to add it later. There is no right or wrong thing when it comes to adding salt. Its just a matter of choice. Salt inhibits fermentation and interferes with good bacteria to a certain extent. So one might want to add the salt after fermentation. At the same time, if you live in a hot and humid place then salt might be your friend because your batter will not be over fermented and will not turn sour soon. So when do I add salt? I add salt to the batter before fermenting in summers and add it after fermenting in winters.

My mixie is getting heated up. What can I do?
The one thing thats important while grinding batter in a mixie is to make sure that the mixie jar doesnt get heated up. Invariably thats going to happen. So what to do about it. Use ice water to grind the ingredients.

Do I need to wash the ingredients before soaking?
Yes. of course. Especially idli rice if you want whiter idlies. Wash it several times in running water. The water should run clear after some time.

How long do I soak the ingredients?
Minimum of 4 hours. Maximum – over nite.
I prefer the over nite method.

So what is the consistency of the batter?
Lets say, thick pouring consistency. The consistency that resembles a thick pan cake batter.
When the ladle from the batter is lifted and the idli batter falls from the ladle , it should form a slight ribbon which slowly becomes flat on the surface. If its too thick or the ribbon takes longer time to dissolve, add a little water to the batter.  Here is a video!

Can I use the water that I soaked the dal and rice while grinding?
You may. No harm in it. But if you want whiter idlies, drain the water completely and use fresh water for grinding.

My idli batter doesnt rise in the idli pan. Why?
The main reason for the idli pan to cook flat is that the batter was too runny.

How long do I cook the idlies?
Idli takes roughly about 7-10 minutes to cook. Insert the back of a spoon after 7 minutes and if it comes out clean without wet batter, the idlies are good to go.

My idli doesnt come off the pan? Please help.
First, Always grease the idli plates with a little oil before ladling the batter.
Do not try removing idlies from the idli plates as soon as it comes out from the steamer. Wait for 2-3 minutes.
If you are in a hurry. Pour little water on the back of the idli plate. It will help in easy release of idlies.
Also use a sharp spoon to spoon out the idlies from the idli mould.

What is thuni idli?
Thuni idli is nothing but idlies made on a cloth. Thuni means cloth in tamil. If you are a purist, then this is how you will make idlies. This is how idlies are made in hotels.
Just line a wet cloth (just wet NOT dripping with water) on top of the idli plates and ladle out the idli batter on the plates. Steam as usual. The resultant idlies will be called as gourmet idlies. They are by far the best idlies I have ever eaten. Long live thuni idlies.

idli-batter-tips-thuni-idli

Why my idli sticks to the upper idli pan?
There is a way to set the idli pans, one on top of the other. The dent from the upper mould should be inbetween the dents of the lower mould. There need to be room for the idlies to expand or it will hit the upper mold.

Do I need a special idli cooker for cooking idlies?
No. Any pan with lid that can accomodate the idli plates / moulds will work. Add a little water on the bottom and place the idli plates on top of it. Cover with the lid and steam. Here is an example of a make shift pressure pan steamer.

idli-batter-tips-pan

I live in cold weather. My batter never ferments. Please help?
If you have an oven in your home, then put the pilot light on and then leave the batter inside the oven. The heat from the light will warm up the oven compartment and will help in fermenting the batter.
I do not have an oven. What do I do?
1) You will need two things. A small table lamp and a blanket.
Keep the batter inside a cup board or a shelf or some place warm. Insulate the vessel with a warm heavy blanket. That will keep the vessel warm. Have a small table lamp running near the idli batter vessel. You just need to make sure that the batter is kept warm.
2) If the place where you live has extreme weather conditions, buy a portable room heater and have it running near the batter vessel.
Here is a picture of batter insulated with a blanket.
idli-batter-in-mixie-method-after- fermentation

When I ferment batter in cold weather, the batter forms a yellow film on top. Is it ok to consume?
When the batter is fermented for more than 12 hours (usually in colder climate), its possible that the colour on the top of the batter might turn slightly yellow. Its perfectly edible. The batter needs to be discarded only when it becomes black on top as black spots means that the batter has spoilt.
fermentation-color-change

Do I need a separate batter recipe for dosa?
My mom and grandmom used just one recipe for both idli and dosa. But here is the deal.
The first couple of days after the batter is fermented, it will be idli days. My mom made idli with “the” just fermented idli batter.
Dosa will be made from the second day of fermentation. The batter needs to sour up a little more for good dosas.
Also the batter needs to be diluted with water to make dosas.

My dosa is white. Please help.
There can be several reasons for white dosas.
# The pan is not hot.
# The dosa pan is not heavy. You need a sturdy pan that will retain the heat for making good dosas. Here is a dosa pan that I really like. Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Tawa Pan – 10.5-Inch
# If the idli/dosa batter is too thick, your dosas are going to be white. Try diluting a little with water. Don’t add too much water. Just a few tablespoons at a time.

My dosas are sticking. Please help.
Please refer to this article. Your dosa pan may need seasoning.

What equipment do you recommend?
I am from Coimbatore. If you dint know, electrical wet grinder was invented in Coimbatore. So we know wet grinder better than anyone else. I heavily fall for grinders manufactured from Coimbatore. There are very reputable brands available in the market. This is the one that I personally like.

Elgi Ultra Bigg + 2.5-Litre Table Top Wet Grinder

When it comes to mixie, these are the brands that I like.
Panasonic MX-AC300S-H 550-Watt 3-Jar Super Mixer Grinder (Grey)
Preethi Mixie

So that’s a wrap.
Hope you are able to make soft idlies with these tips.

If you are looking for recipes, here they are.
How to make idli batter in wet grinder. This is my preferred method.
How to make idli batter using an Indian heavy duty mixie
How to make idli batter using idli rava /rawa.

203 Comments

  1. Drish

    Hi Suguna,

    Thanks for your blog on the idlis. I had a question regarding the ‘graininess’ after grinding the rice. The consistency seems to be fine when I grind it but when I run my fingers through the ground rice, it is grainy. Is that how it is supposed to be? Or should it be like the urad dal after grinding?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      “The consistency seems to be fine when I grind it but when I run my fingers through the ground rice, it is grainy. Is that how it is supposed to be?” – This is the perfect consistency.

      Reply
  2. Mahesh

    Thank you for the good information. My number is 7382574160 /////Hyderabad

    Reply
  3. Sue

    Thank you for sharing good tips and advice. I will try making it and let you know soon.

    Thank you
    Sue
    Saudi Arabia

    Reply
  4. Tomay

    Thank you so much for mentioning the yellow film. My dosa took over 20 hours to ferment and I thought perhaps it spoiled. Now I know I can still use it.

    Reply
  5. Meghna

    Why does my batter separate water just after 4-5 days even after kept in air tight container?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Home made batter will last for 4-5 days only.

      Reply
  6. Sandhya

    Hello Suguna

    Thank you for the detailed explanation. My query is – is there a particular reason for the urad dal to be ground in cold/room temperature?
    Sometimes, it gets warm even in a wet grinder. Is heat while grinding associated with loss of nutrients or hinder the fermentation process in anyway?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      While warmth encourages the growth of the bacteria, heat kills it. A very hot environment can make the batter sour too soon and the taste will not be good.
      Fermentation of Idli batter is carried out largely by lactic acid bacteria. Not yeast. There are two kinds of lactic acid bacteria. Homofermentive and heterofermentive.
      Homofermentive lactic acid bacteria produces only lactic acid.
      Heterofermentive bacteria – the Idli bacteria (Leuconostoc mesenteroides) produces carbon dioxide in addition to lactic acid.

      So for good Idli, we need the rise of batter (CO2 effect) and also souring of the batter. If the batter is too hot at the beginning, it gets fermented too soon and the resulting Idlies might not be very soft. Also the Idlies may be good for the first day but hard on the second day.
      So we use ice water for grinding the urad dal so the dal doesnt get heated up when ground.

      Reply
  7. Sharat

    Today our idly turned bitter, what are possible causes and how to avoid

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Can you tell what ingredients you used, how you ground etc??

      Reply
  8. Arti

    Hi,
    My Idlis are sticking to teeth after eating. I fermented idli better for 8-8:30 hrs. Batter was almost little less that doubled and humidity here is 70% with temp 28-32 degree C. I observed rice was not completely grinded.
    What could be the reason of sticky idlis to teeth?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      What rice are you using? Using idli rice is very important.

      Reply
      • Arti

        I’m using idli rice and white full Urad dal. Exact water measurement but batter was not exactly doubled after fermentation.

        Reply
  9. Rajes

    Hi my idli batter fermented very well but with a light yellowish film on top. After steaming my idli turned in brownish red. I used poha, rice, white whole urad Dall, salt

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      brownish red – ??? I am not sure whats happening there.

      Reply
  10. Nivea Joel

    Hello,
    Thanks for this informative article. I live in Canada and for the first time I found pink spots on the top layer of my batter. However, batter looks fluffy and soft. I would appreciate if you could share your insights.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      The pink spots are ok. It happens when the weather is too cold and the batter takes a little longer to ferment.

      Reply
  11. Soumya

    Amazing sharp tips

    Reply
  12. Ashwinkrishna

    Hi,
    We are doing packed lidi dosa batter business,is there any way to extend the fermentation time,without using fridge?

    Reply
  13. Smitha

    Please mention the quantity of split urid dhal for 4 cups rice

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Please check the recipe links given in the top of the post.

      Reply
  14. Rajesh

    Hi,
    For dosa batter do I need to keep the oven lights on for entire 12 hours or i can just turn the lights on for 2-3hrs and leave the batter inside the oven for 12 hours?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      In winter, I keep for the entire time in the oven with lights on for 6-8 hours. It will be fermented in that time.

      Reply
  15. Arjun Menon

    Hi.
    I am planning to start a idli batter venture. starting of with idli batter right now. your thoughts on what else could sell in the same mix of cuisine. Also trying to understand if you have idea on consumption patters of idli state wise. I am aware bengaluru has the highest consumption of idlis.

    Your thoughts would be highly appreciated.

    Reply
  16. Priya Govindaraj

    Hi ka
    Could you please mention the qty of water to be used for urud Dhal and rice?

    Reply
  17. Hema

    Hi Suguna, please let me know a good method to keep idlis piping hot for serving at a party. I find that the idlis stick to the pan when I keep them in chafing dishes.

    Reply
  18. Seema

    Hello, is it important to stir the batter after fermentation process, just before putting batter to the mould?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      This batter – You can stir well and use.

      Reply
  19. Jinny

    Hi…..so I made the batter today using wet grinder and with the same quantity of dal, rice and water as yours but ….

    1) my urad dal did not fluff as much as shown in your video….didn’t fill the container….ground for 40 mins

    2) the grinder was heating up alot so would switch off for 5 mins in between to cool….is it normal for grinder to heat up when running for30 mins?

    At the end even the batter was a little warm when removing from the grinder.

    Please guide as to where could be the mistake?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      1. use unpolished urad dal and soak for sufficient time.
      2. wet grinder should not heat up so much. which type grinder are you using?

      Reply
      • Jinny

        Ultra…..the regular one for home use which most homes have…

        Reply
  20. Ravikant Dudeja

    One of the best & most informative article of my life.

    Reply
  21. Lakshmi

    Hi Suguna,
    Thanks for the tips. I live in New Zealand. Sometimes when I steam the idly, it turns orange colour. But the taste the smell doesn’t change. Nott sure why? Any idea?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      May be it might be due to the rice. But I am not sure.

      Reply
  22. Sumita

    I have followed all your suggestions for softer idlis using the mixie recipe. I find that batter rises very well but idlis are still not as soft as I would like them to be- I steam them for 8-9 minutes on high flame and let them rest before scooping them out.
    Should idlis be steamed at high flame or medium? Have tried everything so if you could suggest…I am living in India so using gas stove

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Do not steam for more than 6-7 minutes. Try reducing the water in the batter. Very liquid batter also wont give soft idlis and try using good quality idli rice.
      For softest idlis, grinder is the best.

      Reply
  23. Mrs.Lakshmi

    Hi Suguna am overwhelmed after finding your website.., especially about a idli. I am unable to make paper dosa from dosa batter when other friends of mine doing same easily .., I don’t understand where went wrong. Please advice me . Than you .

    Reply
  24. Neetaneeta

    Very clear information many doubts cleared thanksN

    Reply
  25. Shrinivas Pakhale

    I am feeling very happy because of you give such deep knowledge of receipy of dili.
    Very thankful for spreading worth knowledge to all others.

    Reply
  26. dhaneesh mahadevan

    How can we improve the shelf life of batter with out using

    Reply
  27. Ekta

    So beautifully explained about how to go about making idlis.

    Reply
  28. Suganya

    Hi I m from south i use to prepare batter which comes out well but nowadays batter gets ferment but on the top it gets pusanam y so ?

    Reply
    • PUNITHA A/ P NARAYANAN

      Hi. I would like to know…after the batter fermented, do I give it a good mix or just just sccop the top portion for idli and leave the bottom portion for dosa.

      Reply
  29. Viji

    Hi Suguna,

    I have been making idlis for decades and usually they are fool proof. But I recently changed my Idli pan to one of those huge idli coolers that hold 21 idlis at the same time. The plates don’t have any holes so I don’t put any idli cloth to make idlis.

    The middle and bottom plates are so soggy in the middle. The top plate is great as usual.

    Any pointers? It negates the purpose of getting a 21-idli cooker if the bottom two plates are getting soggy.

    Thanks

    Reply
  30. ammir

    i want to know, if after making the batter i use a glazed clay pot to store the batter and ferment it… does it effect thw batter? or shld i use glass or steel? does this have any effect or it dont matter?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      glass or steel is preferred. Never tried with clay pot.

      Reply
  31. Anu

    Hi I have been making idlis in the mixie, and they were never soft. I live in kerala, by the sea and so it’s humid. and it takes about 24hrs to ferment. frustrated, I bought a wet grinder yday hoping that might make a difference.
    Would it be OK if I grind 1/2 cup urad and 2 cups idli rice in a 2 litre grinder? am really nervous and want to try a small amount of batter first.
    Please help!

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Sure Anu, half the qty will definetely work.

      Reply
  32. Kadur Ramesh

    The process explained to prepare idli batter sounds good, but the measurement of

    ingredients are missing and the grinding of soked rice need to explain. (Coarse or paste ).

    Reply
    • Sathya U

      Usually 4:1(rice:urad dal)
      The batter should be slightly course not paste.

      Reply
  33. Ibrahim

    I am a marketing person in idli batter company…. I need to know why the batter packets getting bulge in summer time..

    Reply
  34. Lalitha Palanki

    Hi Suguna,

    I have been using your idli recipe for quite sometime now. I tried many different recipes in the past and yours is the most successful every time. Thank you. Only this time, I added more fenugreek as you have suggested and in the past I have used only half of it. Also this time I used
    Kosher sea salt. The result my idlis came very orange. Is it the salt or fenugreek that changed the color. Idlis are still super soft.

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Its the fenugreek seeds. If you want a white idli, you may omit or use very less of it. Thanks.

      Reply
  35. shailaja

    I want to start idli dosa batter business. When I need to pack batter. Is before fermentation or after fermented. Because we have some time to deliver to shops. All the day auto will travel all city. Can u suggest how to pack

    Reply
  36. Srini

    Excellent! I enjoy your blog every single time I visit, there’s always that whole details of the recipe you’re talking about.

    I’ve a couple of questions –

    1. The idlis in the bottom and middle plates don’t get cooked fully, or take a long time, the topmost gets cooked properly. The plates are kept properly, do you know what could be the problem?
    2. Isn’t the whole urad dal with the peel more healthy?

    Thanks,
    Srini

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Hi Srini,
      I am not sure why the idlis in the middle are not getting cooked.
      The whole urad dal with peel is un processed and unpolished. So its healthy and is good for making idlis.

      Reply
  37. Vijay O.

    Great comprehensive article on idly. I always thought it was yeast and not the bacteria that is needed for fermentation. If fact if I’m in hurry, I have used regular yeast for pizza and bread with rice flour to make batter, though it does not match regular batter, but a reasonable substitute.

    I think adding fenugreek is to manage the batter culture, bitter keeps unwanted stuff from multiplying, similar to hops in beer.

    If you can understand tamil, watch this https://youtu.be/AYvwKjOqOOo. You can also learn what is with idly and dosa batter. This video did a time travel on me to little kid helping my grand mom grind batter on a hand stone grinder. Wonderful.

    Cooking is part science, part art. Understanding the science helps to push the boundaries.

    Suguna, thank you for this great article.

    Reply
  38. Jefrin

    Hi, I’m Jefrin. I’m doing idli dosa batter business. After packing and selling in the market, the cover gets bulged like pillow. What is the solution? Is that because of sour. Can you tell me the remedy to reduce the sour.

    Reply
  39. Alice

    Thank you for your fantastic detailed and knowledgeable information!

    Reply
  40. Vaishnavi

    I recently moved to the US and having a tough time making the batter. The first time it came out well with one cup urad dhal and 2 cups idli rice with little fenugreek and poha . I placed the mixer ground batter in the oven with light on and it fe4mented well.I followed the same procedure the second time around but my dosa is tasting slightly bitter and the batter is a little fluffy and airy. Can i use this batter or is something wrong?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      2:1 is a wrong proportion. Please follow the recipe.

      Reply
  41. siddharath mehra

    hii ,
    I am making idli from past 5 years , and they ferment and comes out of steamer really fluffy . But the thing i miss is the taste . It never taste like those idlis which are sell by idli street vendors.Their idlis have some unique taste . I use simple rice and urad daal in 2:1 with tablespoon of fenugreek seeds

    Reply
  42. San

    Nothing more to say ” very much informative, Excellent”

    Reply
  43. Neha

    Hi Kannama…thankyou so much for the detailed recipe..i have a query please..the idli stand or moulds that we use..does it have to be steel or aluminium..does it make a difference?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      I like to use stainless steel as aluminium may leach.

      Reply
  44. Padhu

    Hello,
    I used split black Urad Dal and followed exact measurements but Urad Dal didn fluff up. Used 1/2 cup water as indicated.please help

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Did you use grinder or mixie? It does not fluff up as much in a mixie.

      Reply
  45. Susan

    Hi Suguna,
    Thank you for the detailed instructions. I used to make idlis based on the mixie method and it used to come out good. I bought a wet grinder and grinding the daal for 30 min, but not fluffing up. What could be the reason?

    Reply
  46. Heba

    Thanks for your quick reply. One more thing I want to know regarding fermentation. If I’m just making daal n rice separately. How will I know that the rice/daal has perfectly been fermented?

    Reply
  47. Sneha

    Hi Suguna
    I am Sneha, I almost loved your explanation on idly making and also the various informative aspects on the texture of Idlis. My question is
    when I make idlis in my idli maker of 24 plates, the lid of idli maker opens up a little after some time and vents out steam inspite of having a separate outlet for steam. I want to know whether because of this are my idlis turning hard or less spongy?

    Reply
  48. Heba

    Hi. I’ll be making idlis and dosas for the very first time. So my question is do we need to soak the rice n lentil first (if yes then for how long), then to grind it n then let it ferment by adding any acidic liquid? Plz can you explain the process step by step. I’ll be really greatful. Thanks

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Please refer to the recipes given. Have detailed writeup given.

      Reply
  49. Prathibha

    Thanks Kannamma! I came across your site during my google search on how to make soft idlies in mixie and living in cold weather of -40 C. I was tired of the seeing the idlis getting hard.

    Reply
  50. Ramya Mohanraj

    Thank you Kannamma 😊 I like your write up & the recipes. This is really helpful!

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Thank you so much. Really glad that you liked the recipe.

      Reply
  51. Sheerja

    Hi Suguna,
    This article is exactly what I would have needed in my life two years ago when I just started making idlis here in Italy and was totally clueless as to why it wouldn’t ferment. Thank you for the thorough explanation (liked the science bit about the heterofermentive bacteria!)
    Sheerja

    Reply
  52. S

    Hi, your article is very informative, thanks for the tips. I ended up adding more water while grinding, will it ferment? Any tips on that?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      It will ferment but the idlis will be flat. It wont be soft.

      Reply
  53. Jayashree

    Very thorough write up. Much appreciated. Thanks.

    Reply
  54. Mani

    The idly batter has poha in it. Is it ok to make thosai with it. Will the thosai be different from the normal thosai.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Dosa comes well Mani. This is the batter I make regularly at home.

      Reply
  55. Pooja

    Hi,

    I make batter at home that comes out perfectly. This time I bought from market to try brand Chennai caters and it has light pink layer on top and smell over fermented . Should I discard it or use it? Any suggestions

    Thanks

    Reply
  56. Monica

    Hi Kanamma. Thank you so so soooo much for taking the efforts to write this article. Idlis have been THE most favorite of mine and I have been trying to understand the mechanism of making perfect idlis for so long now. Although my idlis have turned out to be pretty decent, I am yet to achieve the ‘Saravana Bhavan’ style of idlis.
    I agree Thuni idli is the best. I have not tried making it yet. What do you think is the contribution of the cloth for making a perfect Thuni idli?

    Reply
  57. Vismay Chintan

    Hi Kanamma, First of all thanks a lot for such a superb and detailed post. And avery nice looking blog as well. Very nicely designed!
    Anyway, my query is this…what happens if I ferment the batter for too long? Does it go bad? Asking cos sometimes I have left the batter out overnight when fermenting and the idlis taste bitter (meaning the batter has probably over fermented and gone bad). So, I keep checking it and in summers here in Pune, I don’t ferment it for more than 6-8 hours now…but u keep worrying if I have fermented it enough or should I let it ferment more. So does the batter get bad so quickly if left just overnight to ferment? By way I get super fluffy idlis every time…i grind in the usual mixer and soak the water and rice together ( but will try to soak them separately after reading this post of urs and see the difference).

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Hi Vismay, if the batter has risen, it has fermented. No need to extend the time after the batter has risen. Always refrigerate after fermentation. Also what rice do you use? The quality of rice will always impact on the final taste. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  58. anant

    Excellent inputs provided in a practical way

    Reply
  59. Meeta

    Such an amazing informative article…thank so much for the detailed information. Stumbled on to it when searching for why my idlis didn’t come out very soft even though batter had risen well…perhaps it was over steaming….will try again with your recepie

    Reply
  60. FouziA

    Hi Kannamma.. Thanks for brief explanation. I tried as per your comments. It came out very nice. My husband and in-laws are fond of idly n dosa. So frequently we used to prepare it’s batter. Here, I used the ratio of 1:4 it’s sufficient for me, husband n 1yr old son. But I want the ratio for 6 members (if my in-laws visits..) So Pls suggest. Awaiting for your reply.

    Reply
  61. Pavi

    I accidentally soaked udud dal and rice together.will tht affect the batter .what do I do?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      The batter may not fluff up a lot but dont worry. Its ok. You will still get decent idlis.

      Reply
  62. Akhila

    Hi kannama
    1. You are an excellent cook, and your approach towards cooking is commendable. So divine and pure is your work.
    2. Cooking is an art, and you have dealt it like a genuine artist.
    3. Thanks for helping so many people, by writing such a wonderful blog. Good people like you are doing great job by helping others.
    4. Please keep the good work going
    God bless
    Love akhila

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot to me.

      Reply
  63. Vindhya

    Hi… very clear explanation of preparing idlis…thanks a lot

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Thank you so much! Glad you liked it. Happy Cooking!

      Reply
  64. Krishna

    Am dealing lots of urad producers in rajestan gujrat mp and tamilnadu.every place quality is different in sometimes.sometimes urad is grinding there us very low quantity is got.whts the reason.i am using urad gota for sale .which type of urad is best for huge quantity

    Reply
  65. Susan

    What’s the quantity of sabudana if I’m I’m using it instead of flattened rice? I soaked all the ingredients and waiting. Can’t wait to see the results.

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      You can add about 2-3 tablespoons powdered sabudana.

      Reply
  66. Zainab

    Can we freeze the batter? I don’t make idli or dosa very often

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Hi Zainab, Honestly, I have never freezed idli batter. So not able to guide you. I will try and update here.

      Reply
  67. Remya Antony

    Hi there,

    Thank u so much for the detailed explanation. I got a query, I use the same 1:4 ratio and my batter ferments well too..Idli’s are fluffy n well risen but when I took it out of the steamer it shrinks n become flat..I dont where I am going wrong. Is it due to over fermentation? Please help..
    Many Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      This is mainly due to excess addition of water in the batter. Reduce the water quantity next time when you grind the batter.

      Reply
  68. Merine Rajamani

    Sorry! I meant dish, not fish 😁 and *leaving a comment. I tried the idli batter exactly the way you’ve mentioned and it’s the best I’ve ever made so far! The batter fermented well and idlies came out so soft and tasty. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Thanks so much. really happy that you liked it!

      Reply
  69. Merine Rajamani

    OH MY GOD!!!!! What an article!!! It’s one thing to be a good cook, but to take so much passion into the fish and getting to the very roots is a mark of an excellent cook! I was so very impressed with your writing and the content it provided that I couldn’t just scroll past without leeching a comment! Thank you so much for sharing this! God bless you! வாழ்க தமிழ்!

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Thank you so much. It means a lot to me.

      Reply
  70. Domaraj

    Hello!
    I am french married to an indian from TN. We make idlis for the past two weeks. It is pretty hard to find ingredients here ( north of francej so i tried different types of rice, and I can tell it was a disaster for the risotto rice ( which is advised to be used by some people…well…i tried, dont waste your time and money! : it is sticky. The fermentatin was awesome but it was impossible to cook them!! I couldnt make dosa either. I had to throw everything…😶)

    I finally found par boiled rice,basic one, but long grain. It fits well, i just need to soak it whole day /or night, and and let it grind for half an hour to make it really smooth.
    Concerning the dals, is there any other kind of dal we can use?
    It is really hard to find here…

    I have a question about the batter. I read some people add some kurd in the batter, and I asked many times if saravana bhavan idlis were made this way, as they have a sour taste, like kurd.
    What do you think about it.

    Thank you so much for sharing yoir knowledge and your time with us.
    You helped a lot in understanding the process of idli’s creation😝

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Thanks so much Domaraj.
      Sorry that Arborio rice dint work. Always go for parboiled rice. Glad that the long grain rice worked.
      Traditionally, curd is never added in regular idli batter.
      For rava idli ( a type of idli made with semolina), curd is added.
      Thank you!

      Reply
  71. Mumuftwo

    I have a question!!. During winters, After my batter ferments, and i add salt to it, i have to mix the batter so the salt gets well mixed. That removes the balloony effect of the fermented batter and makes it more flat. Will my idlis still turn out good.

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Sure it will. Make sure you do not add too much water while grinding.

      Reply
  72. Lavanya

    Excellent tips

    Reply
  73. Harshita

    If your idli rice is too runny after grinding, why can’t you add some dry ground rice flour to it to absorb the extra water; then use 4:1 ratio to mix after dal is ground? Just wondering if this will work?

    Reply
  74. priyabalachander

    Hi…..idly batter it is become watery after fermentation .so i don”t know how to rectify this problem with out wasting this batter. please suggest as soon as possible

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      You may still do dosa. But idli might be hard with watery batter.

      Reply
  75. Pallavi Gaur

    Urgent !
    Hi .. The dosa batter which I have already fermented is looking too grainy to me .. Guess it’s the rice which is giving it a coarse effect.. Infact while eating I can feel little pieces of rice ..
    Can I grind it again now after fermentation a little bit ( the batter already has daal and salt in it )
    Pls suggest ASAP 🙁

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      You cannot grind now Pallavi. Soaking the rice over nite helps to grind the rice to a smooth batter.

      Reply
  76. Gouthami Suguru

    Hey what if the idly batter turns out too watery b any idea how to deal with it ?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      You cannot do much if the batter turns watery. You can mix with some atta (wheat flour) and make dosas.

      Reply
  77. Priya

    I am trying to use cream of rice and urad flour to make idlis, do I have to ferment it? Why do we ferment anyways? If we use eno at the end then can we skip fermentation?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      I have never used cream of rice and the flavour of idli comes only from fermentation. Being a south Indian, eno for idli is a strict NO.

      Reply
  78. Sreela

    Loved your article on dosa idli batter, fermentation, hitches, improvement, and all. I too share many of your tastes, culinary above all, as I love south indian vegetarian food, being from kerala. I have friends from tamil nadu who are fine cooks, who know different kinds of seasoned rice preparations. My favourites are lemon rice, curd, tomato and sambar rice. Could you take me to a link where you provide these recipes too, in the same pervasive technique as in the blog on dosa batter? Would be grateful. And, the most defining trait of yours i fell for due to similarity with mine, i too love beaches and literature. And tamil in Carnatic music.

    Reply
  79. Jose Sebastian

    I use American par boiled rice but my idlies never rise

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      try changing the rice brand or try using an indian variety. Its easily available in indian grocery.

      Reply
  80. Snackchaat

    After reading your blog I just subscribed your youtube Chanel because you idliten me 🙂

    Reply
  81. Gayatri

    Hello Suguna ji,
    Thank you so much for the detailed recipe and tips.. I live in cold place.. here it takes more than 16 hours to ferment.. I have one question.. does the fermentation depend on type of vessel used to store the batter to ferment? Does it ferment well in stainless steel vessel than in a ceramic bowl or plastic?

    Thanks in advance for clarifying

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      I am not sure if the vessel will make a huge difference as each material retain heat to a specific range and that’s not a significant difference or a lot comparitively. The outside temperature matters a lot for idli batter fermentation.

      Reply
  82. Lalita

    Hi Suguna, thanks for writing such a useful post. I have always been in a bind about figuring out these dals, and your post made it clear, crystal. I had this strange phenomenon with my batter this morning. It rose more than usual and was very frothy. But when I made the idlis, the cooked idlis were flat! What did I do wrong? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      The reason for flat idlis is usually a runny batter. Use as little water as possible to grind.

      Reply
  83. Sneha

    Hi Saguna , I have been using best quality idli rice along whole urad daal for making idli with various ratios from 3:1, 3:1.5 , 4:1 , 4: .75 … With small quantity of methi seed and half a cup of poha … The water was just enough … My problem is the up to 4:1, the idli is flat and sticks to the idli patra , with 4:.75 , idli did not stick to the patra , it wasn’t flat but it tasted ricy ☺️ and had waxy surface .. the rice is one of the popular brand in tamilnadu …. can you share some tips to get the best , something is missing I am not sure what it is … Thanks

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      the main reason for flat idlis is excess water in batter. Also grind fine and grind the ingredients separately. Add ground poha for more softer idlis.

      Reply
  84. Rupa

    Thank you for posting such detailed explanation on the common issues as I keep referring to it

    Reply
  85. Aarti

    Hello Suguna,
    You seem to have extensive knowledge and experience with idli and dosa–thanks for sharing it so generously.
    I am new to the southern region of the country (I now live in Bangalore), and am up for trying my first batch of idli with idli rice. Can you please suggest how to choose good idli rice? What should I look out for?
    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Hi Aarti, Grocery stores usually carry mostly just one or two varieties of idli rice. The variety I like is called “Salem Car”.
      The rice should be off white and plump.

      Reply
      • Aarti

        Thanks very much!

        Reply
  86. Divya

    I used more fenugreek seeds I think the batter is tasting bitter. Do my idlis also taste bitter tomorrow. What should I do. I added only less fenugreek less than 1 spoon for 2:1 Ural dal and idly rava

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      which recipe? My recipe is 4 rice and 1 urad dal. I think if you used too much fenugreek, then idlis will be bitter.

      Reply
  87. Fouz

    I used your same recipe 5 :1 ratio 5 cups idly rice and 1 cup urad dal I used to get bubbles dots in my idly can you tell me why

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      My ratio is not 5:1
      Can you tell me which recipe you followed?

      Reply
  88. sarath kumar

    I am packing the dosa batter in a sealed cover in night.By morning the packet is Swallowing and packets is bulging what may be the reason pls tell

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      The batter ferments and while it ferments, it leaves gas. The bulging is because of the gas buildup.

      Reply
      • Greeshma

        Maam, As we are doing dosa batter business… After packing in cover…with zipper lock and will seal the cover..But some packets are getting bulge and swollen by morning.. As we are loosing business because of the issue..Kindly let me know how to avoid the same.

        Reply
  89. Shyla Iyengar

    Kannamma,

    You re a cookery scientist! The explanations compel me to say that. Thanks a lot for all the research and sharing. My daughter and husband loved the super soft Idlis and sambar that I made by following your site.

    Keep rocking…..

    Warm regs
    Shyla

    Reply
  90. N

    My idli batter ferments and comes out soft very well with your receipe. Though one thing I find is after idlis are cooked, the top part of idly looks waxy. It doesn’t look flaky. How can that be fixed?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Try to reduce the amount of water used for steaming.

      Reply
  91. Mayuri

    Hi Suguna
    Thanks for such detailing on how to make idlis.
    Why can’t we use skinless split urad dal instead of whole urad dal?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Read the above article where I have spoken about the lentils in detail.

      Reply
  92. Parimala

    I fermented for 16-17 hrs as I had ground the batter very late in the night and so had to leave it till evening . actually the idlies were not flat they had nicely tuned out but hard

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Cooking for a long time also will turn the idlies hard. 7-10 minutes maximum.

      Reply
  93. Parimala

    thanks Suguna for sharing your recipe and the simple way you have explained.I used same proportion and method but idlis are hard can you help

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Which method did you follow? mixie or grinder?. Main reason for hard idlies is not following the correct water measurements. Too liquidy batter produces flat and hard idlies!
      Also if you used any other rice other than parboiled idli rice, idlies wont be good.

      Reply
    • Parimala

      I used the ultra grinder and used idli rice. I added one cup water to grind then added a little more just before making idlies

      Reply
      • Suguna Vinodh

        How long did you ferment and may i know why did you add water before making idlies? Water batter is the main reason for flat idlies.

        Reply
  94. Kavitha

    Hi Ma’am
    I am Kavitha from Tuticorin. I appreciate your tips for making soft idlis. One more tip if it sounds logical to you – I always add salt before fermenting, coz I don’t mix the batter once fermented. I do not disturb the bacterial aeration created by fermentation. [This is the same logic while making cakes, where the beaten cake batter needs just to be folded in with the latter additions (like nuts/chocolate chips) to sustain the sponge once baked]. This ensures spongy idlis – but you need two more than you usually eat, since its so airy and soft. What do you think?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      That’s a really good one Kavitha. Thank you for sharing your tip! Many of the readers might try it!

      Reply
  95. cynthia

    This is my ultimate comfort food at any given time, but never knew there a lot of things and science behind it. Lucky I have a wonderful Grandma who taught all these; I was doing it without even knowing it. Besides aval and sago sometimes we add castor seeds in our village ( after peeling the hard shell there is a white spongy part) this is very occasional but gives fluffy idlis.

    Life cannot be any better than having Idli daily for breakfast with coconut chutney and sambar.

    Reply
  96. sunil

    great blog for a food lover. the idli batter is not rising in rainy season. it was not the case just a forth night ago. still using the same dal and rawa and also the procedure. in fact i am grinding it 6 hours earlier than before.. Any suggestion?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      if your place is cold, then try to insulate the batter box

      Reply
  97. Sadhana

    Simply superb explanation of the doubts that strum to any body else’s mind. Thanks very much.

    Reply
  98. Gayathri

    Excellent research of idly. I have shocked to knew these lot of tips. Really you did a great job. Hereafter I’ll follow your blog for every recipe. Thanks for sharing. Keep on blogging.

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Thank you so much. Really glad that you liked it.

      Reply
  99. Kalyani Kulkarni

    Hi i wanted to say you the tips and tricks that u shared are really helpfuk, just wanted to ask u that while making idlies like cooking them in cooker, what should be the gas flame like, should it be Sim or high or medium! pls do let me know, i had kept it high last time and it became really hard, Pls help!!!

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      medium. The idli becomes hard if you cook for long. Just after 6-7 minutes, take a spoon and insert it into an idli. If it comes without wet batter, the idli is done. The cooked idli might stick to the spoon and thats fine. If there is no wet batter, its done.

      Reply
  100. Dr.N.Ravichandran

    Please send me a recipe for KUSHBOO IDLI which is very familiar in your home town as well as around Erode area. I have tried so many recipes from various chefs and net procedures but I could not get as original and authentic.

    Please do me favour

    Reply
  101. Bhavna

    Thanks mam
    So I have to cook them on medium flame only for 10 -12 mins?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      If the batter is correct consistency, the idlis will cook in the given time. Dont add too much water at the bottom. Make sure water doesnt over flow to the plate.

      Reply
  102. Bhavna

    Hi suguna

    I tried by ur way..so worst idlis that were. I m not able to understand what the problem is.
    I used splitted urad dal. I guess my batter is not properly fermented.I kept it for 8 hrs in blanket.
    1st question is there any method so we can know that now the batter is ready for making idlis
    2 my batter is runny, so plz tell me, if it happens by mistake then what to do
    3.when I making idlis then first these looks very fluffy after that those were sometimes sticky or not spongy.I cooked them first 5 mins on high flame then medium for 10-15 mins. But my idlis of lower plate are always wet in between and not cooked.
    Plz help ASAP

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      I am sorry your idlies dint turn our properly. From what I am able to understand, your idli batter is watery. Watery idli batter wont work. And I have mentioned clearly in my post not to use white split urad dal for making idlis. Please follow the recipe if you want proper outcome.
      One gauge to know that whether the idli batter is ready is when it has increased in volume. Almost double. And the lower plate being wet is because of adding too much water at the bottom and keeping the flame on high so the water bubbles up. usually idlis cook in 10-12 minutes in a nicely closed pan with lid.
      The problems with your idli batter is
      # split urad dal. use whole white urad dal
      # You need a thick batter. There is no way to set the batter right if the batter goes runny. So please use caution.

      Reply
  103. Bhavna

    Hi suguna,

    M jab idli bnati hu to wo pehle to khoob fool jati h n then Wo pichki so ho jati hain.M first 5 minutes tej flame m then medium par pakati hu..mujhe 20 min k kareeb lag jate hain..but kabhi bhi ekdum fluffy market jesi soft ni banti..me kaha galti karti hu pls btaiye…aur main urad dal bina chilke wali splitted use krtu hu..mixer se grind krti hu
    One more thing ki meri neeche wali plate ki idlis sari geeli geeli kacchi si rhti h…plz help me..I like idlis very much but m acchi bana ni pa rhi hu

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      I am sorry but I dont understand what you are trying to say. Request you to send your comments in English.

      Reply
  104. Jei

    Hi Suguna,

    very, very helpful. Thanks a lot!!! I just want to ask you some information about the wet grinder. Is the one you are using the Elgi Ultra Bigg + 2.5 that you are advising in this post? I have seen pictures in the other post “How to make Soft Idli Recipe” and noticed yours is made of stainless steel, as opposed to the one I have just bought (Premier 2 Litre) which has lots of cheap plastic, which I dislike very much for two reasons: very fragile and not healthy in food preparation. I wish there was no plastic in my equipment at all. So I want to return mine and buy something sturdy and fit for professional and heavy use. I saw you mentioning 5 litres wet grinder in the other post too. What would you advise for that size?

    Reply
    • Suguna Vinodh

      Mine is a 15 year old Elgi 6 or 7 litre grinder. The model may not be anymore available. Most of the wet grinders these days come with plastic parts only. But I find Elgi to be sturdy!

      Reply
    • Jei

      Could you please post some pictures of your wet grinder so that I could see how a 10 litre one looks like?

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • Suguna Vinodh

        Hi Jei. We recently moved to Hong Kong and I dont have my wet grinder yet!

        Reply
    • Jei

      I understand. Your grinder must be huge, impossible to bring it with you…

      I have found out another kind of wet grinders that seem to do the job of grinding in a different way:
      Did you know about them and did you ever see one in operation?

      Reply
      • Suguna Vinodh

        I have not seen these ones. In hotels, they use these huge wet grinders called tilting wet grinders.You can check them out. There are domestic versions that are small in size and commercial versions that are huge.

        Reply
    • Jei

      Yes I saw tilting wet grinders but the commercial ones are too big for me and the domestic ones seem not to be that great. I would need a grinder in the range 5/10 kg that was still table top but may be I am asking for too much. I tried to contact Elgi to see if they still produced some bigger grinders but didn’t get a reply from them yet.

      Reply
  105. Sunitha

    wow… Nice and Elaborate post. So much Gyaan in our good old idlies… Good post Suguna. Very informative

    Reply
      • kalaivani

        hai ,

        thanks for the tips .

        how to avoid the packet from bulging . u said its forming gas . how to stop it . is there any method or any different packaging or machines to be used.

        ( I am packing the dosa batter in a sealed cover in night.By morning the packet is Swallowing and packets is bulging what may be the reason pls tell

        Reply
        • Suguna Vinodh

          Hi, I am not sure if that can be prevented. May be try contacting someone from the packaging industry.

          Reply
          • Geeta

            Hi
            As I am South Indian, followed the procedure but still the idlis were not came fluffy. The batter has thick consistency, ratio is 4:1.Where I am going wrong I don’t know, Please suggest me .

          • Suguna Vinodh

            If the batter is very thick, dilute a little with water. Also adding poha makes a lots of difference in getting soft idlis.

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