Appam/ Pal Appam/ Meesha Appam
Whenever I go home to Kerala, I can tell you with utter surety, I most definitely, come back home to Hong Kong slightly... heavier. Honestly, how can you not?! The feasting begins in the morning, with so many different breakfasts to overindulge in and only so many days! Time is a-ticking!
Appam/ Pal Appam/ Meesha-Appam
What is it?
It's got a fluffy, soft and bouncy centre with a thin and crispy meesha/ moustache encircling it. Both perfectly complimentary and perfect for dunking into a breakfast curry like the vegetable stew, kadala curry or even an egg curry (recipe coming soon!). Or if you want to keep it really simple, enjoy the appam with milk and sugar. :D
There are a few similarities between appam and another pancake-like breakfast special, dosa:
They're both made by fermenting a rice-based batter.
Must be fermented in a nice warm place
For fermenting: adding salt after it has fermented if it's cold/ winter or adding salt before if warm/ summer :)
Now, how are they different?
Appam Has coconut milk added to it!
Yeast is used to ferment the batter
Slightly sweeter (both because of the coconut and also because a bit of sugar is added)
Use an appa-chatti (a mini wok) to cook
Urad dal and fenugreek seeds help to ferment the batter
Use a flat tava to pour the batter
Fun fact, traditionally, kallu (coconut palm wine) is used to ferment the batter, however, as kallu is a little harder to procure, we use yeast as a substitute. Not to worry, the texture and taste is not compromised in the slightest. The more you know :D
Still have much yet to learn... That meesha is looking more like the moustache of a pubescent boy than a full grown man... Guess that means more appams for breakfast! :D Also, good thing I'll be going to Kerala for Easter - I'll be taking notebook(s), pencils and taking copious notes from the experts, my grandmas <3
Also, can't wait to show my friends around Kerala. Time for a houseboat tour!!! Lush greenery and all things coconut, here we come!
Mix the warm water with the sugar until well dissolved. Then, add the yeast and let sit about 10 minutes
Meanwhile, in a grinder, grind the cooked rice and water till smooth. Add the rice flour, coconut milk and 1/4 cup water into the grinder and grind. Once smooth, pour the batter into a large container and mix in the yeast solution and 2tsp of sugar. Mix until well dissolved. Add salt depending on the temperature (see notes). Aim for a smooth, flowing batter consistency.
Cover and store in a warm place (see notes) for 8-12 hours.
Before cooking the appams, mix the batter once more and ensure a smooth, loose consistency. Add more coconut milk as required (aim for a batter looser than dosa batter).
On a stove, medium flame, heat the non-stick appachatti/ mini wok and grease with a thin layer of oil using a greased cloth. Once hot, reduce heat to low and ladle one scoop of batter into the centre of the pan. Quickly, using the handles of the pan, allow the batter to flow toward the edges of the pan to create the circular "meesha/ moustache" (it's all about that wrist action). The rest of the batter will pool into the centre of the pan and will become the soft, fluffy centre of the appam. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on low heat.
Once the "meesha/ moustache" turns golden brown and the centre is cooked, remove appam from the pan (should come out easily with the help of a wooden spatula) and into a plate and serve :)
During fermentation, the volume of the batter will double. So keep this in mind when choosing a suitable container for storing the batter for fermentation.
Mix salt into the batter after adding the yeast solution and mix well if it's summer/ warm weather to limit over-fermentation. Add salt to the batter only after fermentation if it's winter/ cold weather so that the salt doesn't interfere with fermentation.
During winter/ cooler months, I store the batter in the oven covered with a kitchen towel for more insulation.