I am beyond excited to share this recipe because it is absolute my FAVORITE Kerala breakfast! Idli sambar is a close second. Typically our breakfasts are savory/spicy, but sometimes we opt for mildly sweet breakfasts. The sweetness comes from, of course, coconut. I would not call this dish particularly sweet like American pancakes, but they are a sort of pancake made from a fermented batter of rice and coconut milk. Another difference is that these are soft and thick in the center with a crispy outer edge. Also, these are served with a savory/spicy curry so it really isn’t a sweet dish overall. An added bonus is that these are naturally gluten-free since there is no wheat!
In Indian, cooking, anything requiring grinding rice/lentils to make a batter tends to intimidate me (i.e. idli). However, just like any other cooking, it just takes some trial and error. It does not have to be perfect the first time around, so if you are a new chef or have been cooking for a long time, don’t be discouraged! Keep trying and making tweaks until you get it just right.
There are various kinds of “appam” that we make. Some examples include palappam, neyappam, unniyappam, vellayappam, idiappam, and so on. I only eat palappam when I visit my mom or when she is visiting us because she makes the BEST ones (obvi)! However, the other day my daughter was talking about appam which of course made me want to eat some! Since my mom was back at home, the only way I’d be able to eat it was to make it myself (the inspiration for learning to make a lot of her recipes). Not only this, I wanted to learn how to make this special dish for my own daughter.
There are a few variations on the palappam recipe depending on who you ask. Some use ground coconut while others use coconut milk. Some use semolina while others use rice flour. Some incorporate a portion of cooked rice. Some use yeast whereas others use baking soda. None are wrong! The important thing is to get a smooth batter and let it properly ferment. This was my first attempt at making palappam, and it turned out pretty good except next time I need to assure the batter is a bit smoother. You want a soft, fluffy pancake, not a gritty one if the rice is not properly blended.
So what do you eat palappam with? It goes well with any curry! You can keep it vegetarian with a vegetable curry (my mom makes an awesome cauliflower, potato, and green peas coconut curry). Other options are egg curry, chicken curry, Kerala style black chickpea curry (kala channa), goat curry, etc. My personal favorite for palappam is goat curry! In my opinion, palappam is extra tasty with a coconut curry version of any of these.
- 3 cups basmati rice, soaked for 2-8 hours, then drained (I soaked the rice during the day so that I could blend the ingredients that night, then keep overnight to ferment)
- 3 Tbsp rice flour
- 1 14 oz. can full fat coconut milk (will use a little over 2/3 of the can) – whisk contents to mix the water and cream components well
- 1 cup recently boiled water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
Special pan needed: appachatty (palappam pan) – available on Amazon!
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees F. Once pre-heated, turn oven off and open door slightly to let some of the heat out. This is just a good trick to make sure the oven stays slightly warm to help the fermentation process along.
2. In a deep pot, mix the rice flour with hot water on low/medium heat until you get a thick transparent paste (kind of like a roux but without any fat). Turn heat off and let cool to room temperature.
3. In a blender, add the drained pre-soaked rice. Add a about 1/4 coconut milk at a time and blend well. It will take at least 5-10 minutes of continuous blending to get a good smooth batter. It will feel slightly gritty from the rice, but you want the grittiness to be fine like sand. The batter should be loose enough to drip from the spoon but not too watery. For 3 cups of rice, I ended up using just over 2/3 of a 14 oz can of coconut milk.
4. Add the blended batter to the flour paste in the pot and mix well.
5. Add the baking soda, sugar, and salt. Mix well.
6. Cover pot and place in slightly warm oven. Keep the oven light on. Let ferment overnight, at least 8 hours.
7. In the morning, the batter will have some bubbles in it and have risen some from the fermentation process. Mix well. If it has thickened, add a tiny bit more coconut milk (the remaining amount from the can should be enough) to loosen it a little.
*8. In an un-greased palappam pan, ladle about 1/3 cup batter into the center of the pan and immediately tilt and twirl the pan so that the batter lines the edges. (No oil or butter needed if it’s a nonstick pan). The remaining batter will settle in the center. Cover with the lid and let cook 2-3 minutes on medium heat until the edges are crispy and the middle is cooked. Do not flip.
*The important part about step 8 is that each time you ladle the batter into the pan, make sure to remove the pan from heat first. Otherwise it will start to cook too fast and you won’t be able to twirl it to get the crispy outer edge. Once you have twirled the pan, put it back on the heat to cook.
Serve with the curry of your choice! For today, I made coconut egg curry =)