Who doesn’t love pancakes? Whether you prefer a thin crepe or a thick and fluffy stack; topped with fruit and honey or bacon and maple syrup; rolled up or spread flat – pancakes are a brunch staple in many countries all over the world. And South India is no exception.
Granted the pancakes preferred in Kerala, the exotic southern state renowned for its coconut palms and inviting coastline, are a little different to those we might enjoy in the Western world. They go by the name of ‘appam’and are a favourite breakfast food in India; although, as with all pancakes, you can enjoy them at any time of day.
However, the key difference between appam and British or American style pancakes is that the key ingredient is not wheat, it is rice. This is hardly a surprising fact, considering that rice is one of the main crops of India and is utilised in a wide variety of dishes as well as the ubiquitous side order, not only with your local Indian takeaway but at the tables of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants. However, the technique for making appam is a little more interesting than boiling up some plain, white rice. A more exotic version of the wheat flour and milk batter we might whip up on a Sunday morning here in the UK, rice batter for appam is left to ferment before it is mixed with creamy coconut milk.
All that needs to happen next is to decide on your favoured flavour of appam, before cooking both sides on a hot plate or in a frying pan. The result? A tasty rice pancake with a soft, spongey texture in the centre, firming up to crispy edges. Serve with stew, coconut milk or a selection of delicious chutneys – appam makes an excellent vehicle for all.
There are many different versions of appam which you will find in abundance throughout Kerala and Tamil Nadu. From banana to vegetable, appam can be created to suit all tastes. However, the recipe itself has also spawned similar recipes that are enjoying the same degree of popularity in the Indian sub-continent. Here are a few of our favourites:
This interesting type of appam uses spirals of rice flour noodles, steamed and pressed into cakes. Often served with a spicy curry of mutton, fish or vegetables, idiyappam is also enjoyed on the Malabar coast, sweetened with sugar and coconut milk.
Achappam is thought of as a type of Indian cookie. They can be found in bakeries throughout the southern states and are deep-fried, crispy, golden knots of dough, dipped in sugar and perfect for festival indulgence.
One for those with a sweet tooth, unni appam consists of a fermented rice flour batter with the addition of mashed plaintain and jaggery. Fried in lashings of ghee, this tasty treat makes an excellent comfort snack with a hot cup of masala chai.
This is a deliciously subtle variation of everyday appam with an exotic twist. A large spoonful ofthick coconut cream is swirled into the soft centre of the appam, adding a luxurious sweetness redolent of the tropical southern shores.