Whenever homesickness crept into the first couple of years of my marriage, I would just close my eyes and imagine the comforting flavours & fragrances of my mom’s kitchen in my home back in Mangalore. A kitchen filled with the sweetish aroma of fermenting batter – especially for Appams (‘Appaan’ is it’s nasal pronounciation in Konkani) is something I vowed to recreate in my kitchen. Mum’s collection of recipes (a little tattered diary dated 1986) helped me understand the proportions of rice used in addition to the science & art of cooking. Appams were usually made only for special occasions – birthdays or when dinner was hosted for guests (especially those who came from abroad). The giant stone grinder would grind away the rice & coconut as mum prepared the yeast.
Before yeast became the most common & convinient fermenting agent, it was sweet toddy procured from – my guess is Arack shops. I always waited patiently for mum to prepare this kind of a sweet fermented ‘dosa’ cum ‘idli’ combo and enjoyed bite after bite especially the crispy frill.
Appams can delight anyone – young or old, especially those who are health conscious as its preparation does not involve the use of oil for frying.
I am glad I am able to make decent appams today so that my little one can enjoy it just the way I did.
Appam placed on a traditional ‘kurpon’ woven out of reeds
- 1 cup raw rice (called as Surai in Mangalore, I use Kollam rice in Mumbai – its a small grained rice)
- 1/2 cup boiled rice (called as Ukdo in Konkani, Ukda in Hindi & Marathi, Katsambar in Kannada)
- 1/2 cup grated coconut (about a fistful) (or you can add 2 tbsps coconut milk powder)
- 1 handful or half a cup cooked rice – optional (this makes your appams ultra soft!)
- 2 level tsps sugar (plus 1 tsp if you like your appams a little sweetish)
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
To prepare the yeast for fermentation
- 1 tsp active dried yeast (I use DCL brand which is famous in the Gulf)
- 1 tsps sugar (this helps the yeast to dissolve faster & turn frothy and in turn aids fermentation)
- 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
Soak each rice separately for at least 3 hours (overnight is better). Gring both fine along with the grated coconut and cooked rice (optional). Add water as you grind, but leave the consistency to be that of dosa batter and not too thin like neer dosa
Put the batter in a large pan (so that the batter doesnt spill over during fermentation) & keep aside. To prepare the yeast – add the 1 tsp of yeast plus the 1 tsp of sugar in a bowl of lukewarm water. Set aside for 5-10minutes and you will see that the yeast has dissolved & turned a frothy mixture of a dull brownish pink colour. Add this to the batter, stir well & add the salt to taste. Add some water to achieve dosa batter kind of consistency. You cannot add water after the batter has fermented because the dough would have risen and if you stir it once it has, the dough will just fall flat.
Cover the pan with thin muslin cloth (or bairas as it’s called in Konkani) and keep in a warm place for fermentation. Depending on the climate and the quality of yeast used, the batter should ferment & double in a span of 1 1/2 – 2hours.
No warm weather where you live? I have heard a lot of friends lament about this. Do not fret my friend! If you own an oven which has a ‘keep warm’ mode (my OTG does), just turn the oven temperature to minimum & set the timer to 10minutes on ‘Keep Warm’ mode. Warning! Dont set it on bake/grill mode or else you’l have cakes instead of appams!! I tried it for the first time today & it worked beeeeautifully! In almost 90 minutes I had the pan full of risen dough! Just make sure you check on the timer, if you feel it has become too hot, turn it off & redo this step again after 30minutes (No! its not as complicated as it sounds)
When the dough has doubled do not shake the vessel or place it on a surface with a thud. Be gentle!
Alternately heat a non-stick deep bottomed skillet (appanchi kaail as it’s called in Konkani – You can buy one in Kamath & Co in Hampankatta, Mangalore. Just ask for Appam kadai. If you dont have one, you can use a deepish wide non stick kadai/wok with handles on each side.) and pour one ladle full of batter right in the centre of the it. Wait for 4-5 seconds (so that the centre remains like a fluffy idli) and then holding both the handles of the kadai twirl it around just once until the batter spreads around the centre like a fluffy frill. Place it back on the stove. Cover & cook on medium heat for about 90 seconds.
Tip! : I am told that the appams dont ‘lift’ well the next time around if you use its kadai for anything besides making appams – so ideally, do not use it for anything else.
Your appam is done when the centre looks cooked (translucent) and the frill is golden in colour (NOT brown, just a pale golden). Remove gently with a wooden/rubber spatula and place in a hot box (serving casserole).
Serve hot!! It is probably the most versatile Indian bread as you can eat it with Chicken/Veg stew, Pork Indad, Chicken Curry or even with coconut chutney (for breakfast)