Making soft idlis used to be a pet peeve of mine for many years. Whenever my idlis would not turn out super soft enough for me to press my finger into one of them and watch it bounce back to shape, I had an excuse ready. The shopkeeper sold me an old batch of urad dal. The idli rava wasn’t fine enough. The water was hard and had excess salts. The batter didn’t ferment well because the weather-man predicted warm weather, but he was wrong!! Until many years ago, I was frustrated enough to give up making them for good, but my mother came to my rescue. “Just add a couple of spoons of cooked rice to your dal and grind it into the batter”, is what she told me. “It aids in the fermentation process, creating more air, thus making your idlis super soft”, she added. And she was right! I also found out that adding salt after the batter ferments is better for fermentation, as salt can retard the process if the environmental conditions are not perfect. And yes, don’t forget to add a teaspoon of fenugreek (methi) seeds before soaking the urad dal.