The little pancake that could - appam can be eaten with condiments but are delicious on their own too. - Photo RAYMOND OOI/The Star
The appam, that little forgotten pancake, is a breakfast star.
AN appam baking in the appachatti – a little black wok not much bigger than a bowl – will set off a delightful scent of toasted coconut. Wafting around the home, it will tingle and wake up the senses – what a lovely way to wake up on a Sunday morning!
In the appachatti is a simple mixture of rice flour, coconut milk and a pinch of sugar and salt. And oh, a pinch of dried yeast – the magic ingredient really. The mixture would have been left overnight to ferment, during which time the yeast organisms came to live and went to work creating millions of tiny bubbles to aerate the batter and build complex flavours.
With its soft and fluffy honeycomb-textured middle and tissue paper-thin, lacy and crispy fringe, the bowl-shaped appam is a pretty sight to behold. It is, however, not such a common food these days.
In the street, it is usually sold as a sweet food for breakfast, or an afternoon snack, by petty traders. In Indian restaurants, it is often enjoyed as dessert. Where it comes from in the South of India, it is also a savoury dish, enjoyed in the morning or at dinner.
In the old days, when rice flour was not available, making appam, or lace hoppers, would require you to soak and grind the rice for the batter. Palm wine, or toddy, would be the agent to start the fermentation.
The recipes here by Catherine Lau are really simple, and makes a very good appam. Tasting the appam with the coconut chutney and yoghurt was an inspired moment – it sets off in my mind a hundred different ways to enjoy the appam and customise it to the occasion. I can imagine having an appam party the way folks organise popiah parties, with the various condiments set out for a DIY do.
I sometimes like it served with palm sugar syrup and thick coconut milk. Some folks like it dipped into a glass of sweetened milk. But it is also very good just served plain.
Recipes for appam and side dishes