Kerala Aapam /Appam
Aapam or appam is a very popular South Indian dish, though it’s a top Keralite favorite. It can be considered a pancake that is crispy and lacy along the edges and puffy and soft in the center.
Apart from South India, it is popular in Srilanka too. But their preparation is a bit different as they use rice powder with coconut milk to make the batter.
Being Malayalees, aapam is a family favorite and we normally prefer to have it with ishtu, coconut chutney, and sweetened coconut milk. It goes well with kadala curry as well as spicy chicken or other meat curries.
Basically it is made from a fermented batter with rice and coconut, in a special vessel called Aapa chatti. In those days toddy was used for fermentation.
When that became scarce people started using yeast or baking soda. In fact, back at our place baking soda is known as ‘aapa soda’.
Mom, like most people, used to grind the rice with coconut. At times she added cooked rice too and baking soda.
I always preferred yeast over soda, though I have been trying for quite some time to make without yeast or soda.
It did take a lot of trials, but finally am up with this recipe which is my keeper. I shall discuss in detail all the minute aspects that I have taken care of to get to this stage.
Hope you have the patience to read it completely 🙂 . Else, you are always welcome to jump to the recipe.
Do it my way, and I guarantee that you will make one of the finest aapams in your life 🙂 .
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I use a combination of parboiled rice and raw rice in equal proportions. Idli rice will also work, but I have found that ponni boiled rice works the best.
Some people use just idli rice, but I see that the crispiness is greatly attributed to the raw rice.
Also, I add a bit of urad dal as well as poha or flattened rice which helps in creating a fluffy batter.
This is a process very popular in Kerala, similar to tangzhong used in bread baking. A small quantity of the ground batter is cooked on the stovetop to a porridge consistency called kurukku and mixed with the batter before fermentation.
Here too I prefer to use rice powder. I mix up a bit of rice powder with water and sugar and cook it up, before adding to the batter.
It works best this way, though you can use a bit of the ground batter or even the washed-up water after grinding.
The best pan for making aapams will be an aapa chatti, which is usually a cast iron pan. A ladle of the batter is poured in the center and the pan is swirled so that the batter coats the sides of the pan. Then it is covered and cooked.
Aapams made in cast iron pan come out in the shape of the pan like a cup, crispy along the edges, and pillowy soft in the center.
You can make in nonstick pans too, but aapams made in non-stick tend to curl inwards and do not hold the shape or remain crispy.
Apart from these factors the following are also worth noting
- The consistency of the batter should be thick like idli batter when you grind. Later by adding fresh coconut milk and water after fermentation, the consistency should be like a normal dosa batter. If you make it like neer dosa batter it will become too crispy and break while removing from the pan.
- The batter should be well fermented for at least 6-8 hours or overnight depending on the climatic conditions. You should see nice bubbles when you mix up the batter after fermentation.
- Add sugar and salt as per preference. We do not like sour aapams so I tend to add a bit of sugar to bring down the tanginess.
- Aapams should be cooked in medium heat maintaining the temperature of the pan at an optimum. Else the tiny holes around the edges will not form properly. Sprinkle some water every now and then to bring down the temperature.
- Consider buying two aapam pans if you have a big family or everyone dines at the same time. Coz cooking aapam does take some time.
Egg aapams can be made by breaking an egg on top of the swirled batter and swirling that too. You can mix it up with a ladle or let it remain as bull’s eye.
Also a bit of salt and pepper powder can be sprinkled, thou I prefer mine, plain.
This recipe can also be used to make sannas which are nothing but Goan steamed rice cake, like our very own idli.
Reduce the amount of water in this recipe keeping it to an idli batter consistency. Instead of making aapams, steam this in small cups used for the purpose or in idli mould.
There are umpteen recipes all over the internet. But I have come up with this recipe after lots of trials and it works the best for me. Give it a try my way once and definitely you will be convinced.
O’er to the recipe…
For soaking and grinding
- 1 cup ponni par-boiled rice
- 1 cup raw rice (pachari/pacharisi)
- ⅓ cup urad dal
- a handful of poha/aval/beaten rice
- a pinch of methi seeds
- 2 tbsp rice powder
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup water
Rest of the ingredients
- ½ cup grated coconut tightly packed(100g)
- warm water as needed
- salt as needed
- sugar as needed
- oil as needed for cooking the aapams(i use sesame oil)
For sweetened coconut milk
- ½ cup grated coconut tightly packed(100g)
- ½-1 cup warm water
- a pinch of cardamom powder
- a pinch of dry ginger powder
- jaggery or sugar as needed
- 1-2 tbsp milk(optional)
- Soak all the ingredients mentioned under for soaking and grinding for 2 hours.
- Grind them in a wet grinder or a blender to a smooth thick batter. Add salt as needed. Wash the grinder/mixer with a cup of water and reserve the water.
- Make the porridge or kurukku by mixing up the ingredients mentioned under 'for kurukku' and heating up on stovetop with constant stirring till it cooks and reaches a porridge consistency.
- Let it cool down a bit and add it to the ground batter. Let it ferment for atleast 6 hours or overnight.
- Next morning, extract 1 cup of coconut milk by grinding the coconut with the warm water and straining it.
- Mix this with the fermented batter and also add the residual rice paste from the grinder washed water. Add the water too as needed to bring it to a dosa batter consistency.
- Taste test the batter and add salt and sugar as needed. Mix well and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Heat up the aapam pan or aapachatti on medium heat. Wipe the pan with oil. Pour a ladle in the center of the pan. Lift the pan using the handles at the side and gently swirl the pan so that the batter coats the entire pan. Smear oil, cover, and cook for a minute or two.
- Remove from the pan once the centre gets cooked and the edges brown up. Serve with coconut chutney, ishtu, sweetened coconut milk, kadala curry, chicken or mutton curries.
To make sweetened coconut milk
- Grind the coconut with the warm water and strain. Add the ginger and cardamom powders and sugar or jaggery as needed. Add 1-2 tbsp of milk if using. Mix well and serve with the aapam.
- Always mix the batter in an anti-clockwise direction which helps in incorporating more air into the batter.
- After all the mixing is done rest the batter for at least 10 minutes, which aids in forming nice bubbles in the batter.
- Mix the batter every time you take out a ladle. Else, as the batter decreases the aapam will not have the pores that you see in the initial ones.
- Swirl the pan gently so as to coat the entire pan with a thin layer of batter.
- You will need to grease the pan with oil if you are using the cast iron or other iron pans. Else, it will become hard to remove. Buy pre-seasoned pans or season the pan yourself before starting to use.
- I always use sesame oil, but you can use any oil of your choice.
- Leftover batter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and used. Let the batter rest on the counter for at least half an hour before making aapams. Taste test and add more sugar or salt to balance the taste.
- The addition of milk in the preparation of sweetened coconut milk prevents the coconut milk from separating or settling down when you happen to keep it for some time.
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