Posted on October 1, 2013 by Viji
Appam is a bowl shaped crisp crepe with a small pancake in the middle, made of rice, cooked on one side only, in a curved metal pan:) For those who are familiar with “Dosa & Idli”, the two famous breakfasts of South India, appam is like a small crisp dosa with an idli in the middle. Soft, fluffy and spongy in the middle, thin, crisp and lacy on the side, this dish is usually served with a coconut based curry.
Making appam is truly an art, an art quite simple to learn. The few repetitive attempts it would need to perfect this dish is well worth the effort! Once the batter is ready, heat the pan well enough so that when we pour the batter, it sizzles. It is better to rub a drop of oil before pouring the batter each time. Pour a ladleful (1/4 cup) of batter in the center of the pan, and immediately twirl the pan to make one complete rotation in the clockwise direction, to form a thin lacy layer on the sides with a thicker center. Spread the batter only by twirling; please DO NOT use the ladle to spread. Cover and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. By then mostly the edges will be crisp and starting to leave the sides of the pan. Using a small spatula, remove the appam.
Holding the door to the cafeteria, still remember, Uma telling me “you can also add a handful of fresh grated coconut while grinding”. This was sometime in 1997, I was working in a company in B’lore, India. They had an arrangement for serving a light dinner for the employees who had to stay back due to work. Uma, who got the contract, was actually not business minded but was extremely passionate about tasty, healthy, home cooked food, and that day she had brought “appam & stew”. Oh! God! I fell in love with it. It was my first time ever….. knowing, seeing or tasting this dish. Manoj, who was also working in the same office, loved it so much too. He was used to his grand mother making it for breakfast at home. He asked me to find out the recipe from Uma. She explained the whole process. This was when there were no food blogs or google:)
I came home and soaked the rice and the few other ingredients she mentioned, had the batter ready next day itself. But only after pouring the batter into the pan did I realize, I didn’t know what exactly should I do after that. Remember spreading the batter with the ladle (yup! exactly what I told you NOT TO). Manoj came to rescue as he had seen his grand mother making it; he knew we had to rotate the pan but wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. We decided to go back to Uma and ask the next day; so kept the batter in the refrigerator. Next day, to our surprise,there was a totally new caterer. Later, we came to know Uma’s contract got terminated because of the small increase in the price she asked for. Like so many small businesses which gets started out of sheer passion but couldn’t survive the competition, she had to stop. The food she served was so tasty, sure she had put in a lot of love in everything she made. No one who came before her or after could match that taste. Felt so bad for her…
Next time we went to Manoj’s place, to our big surprise, his grand mother was making appams for breakfast. Anything she made always tasted out of the world – so good! That was my first time watching someone making appams. She rubbed the pan with li’l bit oil; poured the batter in; swirled the pan; with a very small spoon oiled all around the edges of the appam; covered the pan. After a couple of minutes removed the lid and took the appam out just with her hand. She told me if the pan was seasoned enough the appam wouldn’t stick; it would come out easily. After making a few, she gave me a chance to try and I was so thrilled the way it came out. Thanks to her, from that time onwards, I had made “appam&stew” for our family and many of our friends, so many times….. everybody loved it every single time.
We moved to U.S.; never brought any vessels with us. As soon as we came, we were staying with one of our very close friends, Amit, who is a big fan of appams. Started the search to find a round bottomed metal pan. Nowhere could we find the pan we were looking for. The search went on…
One of those days, Amit got an invitation from Deepa, his friend’s sister, for her son’s b’day party. Though we had never met earlier, she had asked Amit to bring us along too. Enjoyed the party….. was quite late in the night…… everyone left….. we were still sitting and chatting….somehow Amit brought out the topic of our search for the ‘appam pan’ (now you know how much he loves it). Immediately Deepa said she had a small pan which she was not using at all and we could have it. One look at it, I was jumping with joy….. How much did I thank her then…. still do! This was 15 years ago, since then I have been using only this pan for making appams. It definitely is not the traditional ‘appam pan’ but did give the perfect appams every time. Eventually found a good lid and a small spatula too. These three have now become my ‘gear’ for making appams.
Every appam I make, my heart gets filled with gratitude for Uma, Manoj’s grand mother and Deepa. It is their kindness because of which Maanas is now enjoying appams – his most favourite breakfast ever in the whole wide world. Hope you would enjoy as much too!
As told by Uma:
- 1:1 ratio of raw rice and boiled rice (that is if you are using 1 cup of raw rice, use the same quantity, 1 cup of boiled rice too)
- One spoon each of methi seeds (fenugreek) and urad dal
- A handful of fresh grated coconut (If you like the appam to have crispy edges, instead of the coconut, add 1 cup of coconut water while or after grinding)
- A pinch of yeast
- One spoon of sugar
Soak both the rice, methi seeds and urad dal all together for 8 hrs.
Grind to a smooth thin batter with the coconut.
Add the yeast, sugar and salt. Mix well.
Allow it to ferment for 8-10 hrs in a warm place.
Once the batter is ready, heat the pan well enough so that when we pour the batter, it sizzles. It is better to rub a drop of oil before pouring the batter each time. Pour a ladleful (1/4 cup) of batter (too much batter could result in a thicker and uncooked center) in the center of the pan, and immediately twirl the pan to make one complete rotation in the clockwise direction, to form a thin lacy layer on the sides with a thicker center. Spread the batter only by twirling; please DO NOT use the ladle to spread. Cover and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or low heat for more time to make sure the center of the appam is cooked well. By then mostly the edges will be crisp and starting to leave the sides of the pan. Using a small spatula, remove the appam.
Serve hot with Stew. Enjoy…..