Have you ever tasted an appam? These lacy rice pancakes are served for breakfast and alongside dinner (frankly, they're fantastic anytime of day) in many parts of South India and Sri Lanka. They require a little advanced planning and preparation, but are so worth it!
Appams are traditionally made with white rice, but I ventured to try a version with brown rice and I'm happy I did. They had a more substantial feel and a wonderfully nutty flavor. Throughout South India and Sri Lanka, appams are served with a variety of condiments, from basic raita to a fried egg in the center to a small puddle of coconut cream. If you have a favorite chutney or curry to dip the appam in, you're going to be a happy camper. They are also delicious on their own, especially fresh off the skillet with a chai tea to wash it down.
This recipe was modified from my notes while traveling in India and cooking with aunties and grandmothers in their home kitchens. Many of these seasoned cooks didn't use measuring utensils, instead cooking more by feel, smell, and sight, plus a lifetime of experience! I aspire to this comfort level with a handful of my favorite dishes, but for now, here's a recipe.
Brown Rice Appams
Makes about 8 appams
1 cup uncooked brown rice, rinsed and drained
1 scant teaspoon of dried yeast
1 teaspoon honey or brown sugar
3 tablespoons + 3/4 cup water
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
cashews and cilantro (optional garnish)
Set the uncooked rice in a bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak for about 3 hours. In a separate small bowl, combine the dried yeast and honey with 3 tablespoons water, let rest for 1 hour.
Put the cooked rice, cumin, yeast mixture, and pre-soaked rice into a blender and pulse a few times. Add about 3/4–1 cup water to mixture to produce a semi smooth paste (the mixture will resemble hummus).
In a large bowl, combine the coconut milk, coconut oil and salt. Slowly pour in the rice/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for 8–12 hours (this allows the yeast to ferment).
When ready to make the appams, heat a small non-stick skillet on medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and swirl the pan with your wrist, allowing the batter to spread evenly (there will be holes, that's perfectly fine!). Cook covered for about 2 - 2 1/2 minutes. Uncover and flip, letting the second side cook for just a minute or so. Be brave with your flip, the more you touch these delicate pancakes, the greater the possibility they will break.
Keep warm in a low heat oven until ready to serve. Garnish with cashews and cilantro, if desired.
Related: Cilantro Mint Chutney: Going Beyond Indian Food
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)