Monday, August 18, 2008

Paalappam – Cleopatra of Kerala Cuisine!

Well, mine is not a Cleopatra yet……Hopefully I will become an expert to bring her home one day :)

Paalappam is every Keralite’s pride and it is the classic breakfast from the land of coconuts. A hybrid between French crêpes and Ethiopian enjera, Paalappam has a fermented pancake like texture in the centre with a beautiful lace around and to me, it is a symphony in rice flour and coconut milk!

It tastes heavenly….it has a texture that melts in your mouth…….and it has a charm and beauty that comes with its crispy paper thin laced edges which equals a bridal veil. This classic has even paved way for some popular local adages like this one below:

A marriage match-maker to boy’s mother: Nalla tharavaattukaara……Paalappathinte niramulla penkutiyaa….! ( Girl is from a well-known family…..she is as fair as Paalappam..!)

This quintessential breakfast of Kerala is thickly woven into our lives and taste memories that it is very common that you will find yourself amidst a discussion like this one here:

Menu planning for a betrothal or marriage reception between family members:
Uncle: Pinne…..nammal first-course entha kodukkande ennu theerumanicho? ( Did we decide on the first-course?)
Father: mm…appavum stew-um aayalo…? ( How about Appam & Stew?)
Mother: oru cutlet koode vechalo? …….pinne veg & non veg stew prathekam parayanam ( How about a piece of cutlet too? ……also we should specifically order for both veg and non veg stew)

Making Paalappam is an art… is about ingredients, skill, technique and timing. Right from the quality of the coconut milk used, to the temperature in the room, to the fermentation, to the swirling of the pan, everything plays quite a vital role in bringing out those perfect Paalappam and since the word ‘perfection’ has its own definitions to each home cooks, it is very easy to listen to one of these conversations:

A mid-morning telecon between mother and aunt:
Aunt: aaah……breakfast kazhinjo ? ennu entha undakkyiye? ( Had breakfast? What did you make for breakfast?)
Mother: ohh….ennathe Appam kazhinja pravashyathe pole nannaayilla….( Oh….Appam was not as perfect as that of last time..)

Is it Paalappam or Velleyappam? Honestly, I don’t know! I don’t know if there is any difference at all or if the difference is based on the method of preparation. I have seen people using it interchangeably and noticed that those from the northern part of Kerala, call it Velleyappam and sometimes those who prepare the batter by grinding raw rice and grated coconut also use the same name. Appam seems to be the shortest and widely accepted nomenclature. Well, the recipe being featured here is Paalappam for sure as the word suggests (Paal means milk) this recipe creates the batter by primarily blending rice flour and coconut milk and use yeast for fermentation. Please note that I am not yet an expert in this area and this is my grandma’s technique and recipe and the proportion I have suggested here is what works for me, based on the weather zone I am in and the cooking conditions I am given. Take this recipe as a framework and make changes to suit your conditions. Also note that the amount of yeast used here also varies depending on the room temperature and quality of yeast.

Hardware Pre-requisite: You need ‘Appa-chatti’/ ‘Appam-pan’ which is a round pan with a concave centre and wide sloped edges. Check the model here.

Ingredients: (Serves Two Adults)

For ‘Thari kurukku’/Semolina pudding
  • 2 tsp rava/semolina/cream of wheat
  • ¼ cup water
For proofing yeast:
  • ½ tsp active dry yeast ( I use Fleischmann’s active dry yeast)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2tsp sugar
For batter:
  • 1 ½ cups rice flour
  • 1 ¾ cups thin coconut milk/randaam-paal
  • ½ cup thick coconut milk/ thani-paal
  • Salt to taste
  • Make ‘Thari kurukku’: In a shallow pan pour water and rava/semolina and cook in medium heat till it is fully cooked, soft and holds together in the consistency of baby food, a semi thick and runny semolina pudding. Keep it aside until it turns cold.
  • Proof Yeast: Warm water in a microwave for 15 seconds. Add sugar and yeast; dissolve both the ingredients in this warm water and keep the mixture in a warm place for 15-20 minutes, or until it inflates and foams, creating a ‘dome of foam’, on top of the mixture. I usually keep the bowl inside the microwave itself, undisturbed until it foams.
  • Make the batter: Pick a stainless steel or glass bowl big enough to hold double the quantity of batter as during the fermentation process, the batter rises well and it should not over flow from the bowl. In the chosen stainless steel or glass bowl, pour 1 ¾ cups thin coconut milk/randaam-paal and 1 ½ cups rice flour; stir well and mix it into a smooth fine paste like batter, using your hands or wooden spoon and at this stage add ‘thari kurukku’/semolina pudding and blend till it is fully combined with the base mixture . To make this phase easier and less time consuming, I take the easy route of using electric blender; first pour the thin coconut milk and then add the rice flour. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir well and then turn on the blender for 60-90 seconds or till it forms into a nice paste and then add ‘thari kurukku’/semolina pudding and spin for another 30 -40 seconds. Now pour this back to the big stainless steel or glass container. At this stage, add the yeast mixture and lastly, pour thick coconut milk/thani-paal and blend gently and combine well. If you are using the electric blender, do not add yeast to the blender; add it only after you pour it to the bowl and mix it very gently. Also if batter is too thick, causing problems to the blender, you may add the thick coconut milk in the first stage itself, along with thin consistency milk.
  • Fermentation: Once the batter is ready, close it with a lid or plate and then leave in a warm place for overnight or 6-8 hours. The weather zone I am in compels me to heat the oven at 350F for 10 minutes and then switch it off; wait for 30-40 minutes or till it is warm enough to hold my hands inside the oven without any discomfort. At this temperature, keep your batter covered for the prescribed time. By the end of this process, the batter will rise-almost double and you will notice thick foam like ballooning on top and a sharp fermented smell, something like toddy. Ideally, this should be the stage when you check after the prescribed time but if you notice that the batter has risen and then fallen, just ignore it as the end product still comes out well for me, atleast in my case :D
  • After the fermentation, bring the bowl to the kitchen counter and sprinkle salt to taste and stir well and let it sit for another 30-40 minutes before you start cooking.
  • Make Paalappam: Heat ‘Appa-chatti’ or the non-stick ‘Appam-pan’ at medium. Hold your hand above the pan (ofcourse, not on the pan!) and see if it is medium hot. The pan should not be too hot or less hot. Ladle some batter –around ¼ cup- on the centre of ‘Appa-chatti’/ ‘Appam-pan’ and immediately swirl the pan (holding your hands on both the side handles) in a clockwise motion, spreading the batter to the sides of the pan and when you complete one full circle and bring the leftover batter directly to the centre where you poured it earlier. Swirl the pan only once, else you will not get the customary ‘lace’ of Paalappam. Also swirling is the only way to spread the batter; you should not follow any other method. Once swirling is done, keep the lid and let it cook for 2-5 minutes and at the end of it, the ‘lace’ would be crisp and paper-thin and the centre should be cooked well. If you are using a non –stick pan, the sides will come off easily and remove Paalappam to a plate.
  • Cooking time differs depending on the material of the pan, whether non-stick or cast –iron, as well as the heat form, whether flame or electric coil. Flame is the ideal situation because of the shape of ‘Appa-chatti’/ ‘Appam-pan’ as flames touch the entire sides of pan, giving beautiful lace to Paalappam but electric coil also gives satisfactory results like the ones in the picture. If you are using cast –iron pan, do rub some oil with a cotton ball before pouring batter each time.
  • Serve with either of the dishes given below. Even a drizzle of freshly squeezed coconut mik, sweetened with sugar or just a sprinkle of sugar makes this beauty melt in your mouth!
Ideal matches for Paalappam :

Potato Stew Beef Stew Fish Molee Kerala Chicken Stew Duck Roast

It also pairs well with :

Chicken Roast - Kuttanadan Style Beef Stew Prawns Stir Fry Njandu Varutharachathu Mutton Fry

I will update this post with a pictorial at the earliest but right now I am unable to as our camera conked out last weekend and had to dig out this picture from my last years snapshots in the hard disk, since I have been getting several requests for this recipe and did not want to delay it any further.

Beginners please keep trying and experiment with the measurements to suit your cooking conditions and weather zone, in particular. Those who prefer golden ‘laces’ may add one more tablespoon sugar but such result is best accomplished on a gas flame stove. This is one dish that is considered a lottery, even by the experienced hands, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get it ‘perfect’ the very first time. This is one dish that requires lots of skill and patience and above all, a lot of luck too and you have a lifetime to perfect it :)


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. i too like palappams a lot..v make it at party times with chicken curry..really its taste heavenly..

  2. Hi Shn
    U n Nags r d first ones who inspired me 2 read ur lovely blogs. Nw i am regular since last year. But ur palappams tempted me to leave a comment here. They look so awesome man. I was always hesitant to try out this palappams. Nw with ur recipe i am gonna give it a try. Luv Jish

  3. Nice paalappam Shn. U n Nags r d first ones who inspired me to read these lovely recipes. Now i am a regular. Ur paalappams look awesome. Gonna give it a try. Thanx also for the comforting words in the end.
    Luv Jish

  4. Hi Shn,

    Been reading your posts so just wanted to let you know that the little conversation that you bring in enhances the flavor to the recipe.

    Moreover I believe that the ladies are not satisfied with the appam however good they are lest some "bad eye" befall their technique.. so the common refrain is it was not as good as the previous time.

  5. We call it palappam too...

    "ennathe palappam kazhinja praavshyathe pole sherri aayilla" ditto at my home too!!;-P

    I am wondering why only the Appam evokes comparision with the previous one..No one tells like that for any other dish..maybe except biriyani..

    I love Appam..and i cant think of a easter or christmas without Appam and stew..its is easily the world's best breakfast!!

    Your looks so crisp and perfect!!I am spoilt for choice about what to go with it from your repoitere..i think i ll take the beef stew!:-)

  6. This looks so similar to one of our breakfast items in assam...made with rice flour and water...beautiful :-)

  7. Vellappam as we call it is made with ground rice and coconut and has crisp crunchy edges with fluffy spongy interior. But I fell in love with these too a long a time appams in any form is delish!! bring them on...

  8. omg... soo yumm... we call it veleyappam...
    Velayepam-Muttacurry or chckstew s defnitely the best breakfast ever... :) :) we make it with Nirapara easy palaappam mix comes out very well, mishmash coming to ur blog is like going on a culinary journey :)

  9. This sounds such a hearty dish!

  10. Just a small doubt .. is Paalappam the same as appam??

  11. Never tried these. I love the holes on those palappams. I will try these soon.

  12. They look perfect! Will email soon.

  13. AS u said, palappam is not very common in Palakkad area. But always wanted to try it once. With ur detailed recipe, I am going to try it. Thanks for sharing.

  14. are thy same as appam,,thy look soso delicious,..

  15. Love paalapam with coconut milk :) Love Kerala Clepatra !

  16. Looks so lacy and perfect, Shn....

  17. Suma Rajesh, aww....making paalappam for parties is a big mother gets into such adventures but I usually stay away from such time consuming stuff :P

    Jisha, thanks for coming out of your vail..was so nice of you to leave few lines here.....hope you get the perfect appams...wish u all the best :)

    Pramod Abraham, thank you for the appreciation :) yeah, that should be one reason too.....i know women who belives in such bad eye stuff and my mother is one person, who used to chuck me out of kitchen if I told her something was smelling nice, as acco to her that itself is not a good omen..."kannu vechu" she use to say like that !!! :))

    Mathew, I would have striked you out of the 'achayan' category had u not gone for beef stew to go with it :)) Appam gets into such comparison group only coz everyones thinks and knows that it is an elite everyone wants to perfect it...and mine is just @ ok level, i still remember how my mother partly approved this pic last year when i showed her...and for me her part approval itself was a big achievement :)))

    Sunita, you got me curious dear....could you tell what you call it there....? you may think of blogging too.....u know, to enlighten us ;) :)

    Mallugirl, yes, i have a friend who pronounce it as 'Vellaappam' and she also makes the batter bry i guess the difference in name could be the cooking method....and as u said, appam in any form is pure bliss :))

    Vidya, oh Mutta roast is normal dish at home when this is made on a regular day.....i think it is tasty as well as convenient you made me crave for my mother;s egg roast :)) I have used that mix once but didnt like it much , from the ready to mix option, I preferred a brand called double Horse....but here where I am staying, no such thing is avaialble!

    Poonam ,thanks :)

    Vegetable Platter, Appam with laced edges is the short for Paalappam and Velleppam....whether one makes it by the grinding method or this one here, we call it appam and it is always a heavenly treat :)

    Shilpa, Am sure you would fall in love with this....holes come out of the fermentaion process......this is deft'ly worth giving a try :)

    Cynthia, thank you dear :) Take your time...relax....I just wanted to know if you re doing well :)

    Jayashree, do let me know your paalappam visheshams :)

    notyet100, yes, as I wrote for vegetable platter, Appam with laced edges is the short for Paalappam and Velleppam....whether one makes it by the grinding method or this one here, we call it appam and it is always a heavenly treat :)

    Cham, :) yeah me too love paalappam with sweetened sugar...oh...I want it now :P

    Jayashree, thank you...:) but mine is just at the ok level, I know :)


  18. dear mishmash,
    we call it paalappam too...yes i love it....urs look yummy!!!btw love the "kuzhis" in it...and tht shows ur appam is not just "ok ok"...:)...
    hmmm i love the brown laces...i dont have appachatti...i make it in "cheena chatti" n it comes out somewat ok..
    wil definitely try ur recipe shn...

  19. Nice post.My Srilankan friends here make it and call it appam.My sons love it and call it shaped dosa!!

  20. Yummy paalappams Shn,we call it vellayappam!!and yeah,we follow the raw rice-coconut grinding method.Your recipe sounds quite easy and where I stay,will make the fermentation process much easier(Madras!!!).Shall try out your method for this sunday breakfast!!So true about the ol' story of..kazhinja pravashyathe pole seem to know the pulse of paalappam makers!!

  21. hehehe...i mom actually gets slightly upset when the appam she makes doesnt turn out as good as last time(though she doesnt show that she is sad about it ;-P)..

  22. yummy mish !! Cleopatra (1 st runner up!)looks greaat !! Even i didnt find any difference in palappam/vellayappam.But read somewhere that milk has been used to dilute the dough.and thats why its paalappam.Vellayappam,as we put it,use grated coconut+raw rice+cooked rice+yeast,sugar for making.I use semolina mix too.its mind's choice simply.I think most important is the yeast rising.Oh,even the rice selection is..ha ha ..again we ladies..

  23. This was an awesome read with great details ... Appams in any form are a favorite and I love any vegetarian Keralite food.. they are so delicious..
    will try this out sometime..

  24. my first visit to ur blog and it is too nice! an award is waiting for u in my blog!

  25. rice and coconut....sounds like a pretty good combination...loved your jackfruit and mango curry...will be trying it out soon.

  26. appams look so great, and It reminds me of Pattisapta we make , except with Rice flour and little bit of milk, but we dont ferment the batter ..
    will try making this way some times .
    hugs and smiles

  27. an event for icecreams and milkshakes is going in my blog! participate in it!

  28. beautiful!
    will have to wait for your pictorial to even think about attempting them..

  29. Which one should I appreciate more ?Appams or that caption? Making perfect appams is like winning lotteries,elle....Tho myself an achayathi,my MIL makes the best palappams...sarikkum asooya thonnum.....

  30. Hi Mishmash, I love to eat apams. Yum..... looks very delish. Thanks 4 the recipe.

  31. hi fantastic post - as always. such a pleasure to come here, you never disappoint me! i love paalappam/vellayappam... heard of kallappam?? same thing 'cept they use thénkallu to ferment! also yummy and great for a kick. again i swear by double horse easy palappam mix, they are the yummiest in instant appam mixes, but the real thing is always the best. thanks for the recipe, I think I'am going to try it from scratch!

  32. Hi mishmash...
    iam a great fan of ur work!! and wud like to pass on an award to you...plese visit the below link:

  33. Divya, I should show your comment to my mother......thank you :)

    Poornima, hmm...appam seems to be the widely accepted name ...shaped sweet :)

    Divya, yeah in that madras weather, fermentation is just a half day job.....can imagine :) try and let me know....

    Mathew, once you wear the cap of a paalappam maker, its a prestige issue from the next moment :D

    Ann, :)) some dont use yeast...they either use tender coconut water or toddy for fermentation.....end result is awesome :)

    Swati, if you like vegetarian fare, then try the potato stew with this...they are a match made in heaven :)

    Srilekha, thank you...that was very nice of you :)

    Priyanka,hey...its long ve u been?

    Jaya, Isnt Pattishapta a snack with a sweet filling? if yes, then Keralites have an equivalent....that is different from this recipe...we use maida for that one..will blog soon.

    Delhibelle, will update at the earliest...i just got back my camera repaired this morning...will photograph next time, i make this :)

    Liz, title eshtapettu alle....dankyu :)

    Sweetbites, try and let me know. Thanks for dropping by :)

    Rajani, thank you :)Kallappam is my aunts at the paternal side make it often as they have easy access to mother gets it very rarely....sometimes, when I add more yeast, it gives that kallappam smell...thats my shortcut to making kallappam in US :D

    Divz, thank you , divya.....honour to get such appreciation....:)


  34. Cleopatrayude katha Egypthil irikkyatte. Namal aarum avare kandittillallo.
    But this paalappam here is perfect. One of our favourite breakfasts. My daughter used to call it "lace dosa with the idli in the middle"!

  35. thanks for the appachatti link, shn.

  36. hey, could not stop commenting while just passing by ur blog. so many delicious recipes. I miss blogging and you guyz

  37. hi shn,
    Ur appams look lovely. And ur little litlle comments are ery useful for beginners. I have posted Appam in my blog as well. Just have a look, its very different from urs. Its my moms recipe and its very tasty. you can give it a try wen u have time.

  38. thanks for all your authentic kerala recipes that inspire even novices like me to cook ! Just a small doubt, what type of rice flour is used to make paalappam ? Is it par boiled rice or raw rice?

  39. hi,

    great recipe! i wanted to know how to keep the palappams warm if i have to prepare them slightly earlier for my guests. making it then and there wuold be waiting time for them and so i was thinking of making it earlier. any ideas on how to keep them warm?

  40. nice paalappam..i had a doubt..can we use rice flour itself to make tari kurukku and also are we using roasted rice flour or freshly ground rice flour??

  41. Liz, You can keep them in any casseroles /heat bowls....or place an aluminum foil on top of the appam to lock in the heat and then close it with another lid.....I make it maximum 1-2 hours in advance only.

    Anon, if you re grinding rice, then i take thr ground rice to make thari kurukku...else I follow the method prescribed here in this recipe...and i dont roast flour for gives a different texture...

  42. Wish I'd found ur site first! Thanks for the details...:)

    It's called Appom in Singapore. And we eat it with red sugar...yum! But I can't find the sugar in US so I've settled for brown sugar.

  43. Hi.... this is Jay, the appams look great! I am planning on preparing appams for 12 guests and i want to make them a little before they arrive instead of having to make it then and there as it takes time and dont want them to wait. How do I keep it warm if prepared earlier? they tend to stick a lot to each other when kept one on top and it gets cold if kept for long. any ideas on how to keep them warm?

    Please reply to

  44. Anon/Jay- if have already replied to such a query in the comment section itself...pls check u may reheat the appam using microwave too, one or two at a time

  45. Hey Shn,

    I used your recipes for Paalappam & Potato Stew today. Came out really well :)
    If you'd like to take a's the link to my post about it

  46. HI

    i used to make palappam when i was in kerala what i used to do is grind soaked basmathi rice, grated coconut, yeast,sugar salt,cooked basmathi rice together in sumith mixer and keep it for fermentation you dont believe ,excellent appam and all my friends and colleagues love it .just give a try.

  47. hey mishmash..ur site is really helpful..and you r doing a great job..CONGRATS!!

  48. very good Palappam recipe although if you soak the rice and grind it instead of using the flour it will give the original flavor. You know we use freshly ground rice flour in Kerala.
    Vellayappam - same ingredients but grind coconut and add to the batter instead of coconut milk, lesser sugar and some add onion ground or jeera ground - its personal choice.Make the appam like a pancake on a griddle or a dosakkallu.
    Vattayappam - same batter , more sugar and elakkaipodi, some vanilla essence if you like- steam it. raisins and cashews to garnish.

  49. Hey Shn,
    1 cup = how many ounces?

    Just to make sure we both are on same page in measurements :)


  50. Hi Mishmash,
    Could you please post the recipe for VELLAYAPPAM/KALLAPPAM?

  51. We enjoy your posts. we loved your description of the co-existence of different religious institutions -- something i absolute can relate to in the are where i come from. several yrs ago I used your recipe for x'mas cake; the taste was close enough to my childhood memory!!

    Re: your post on appam: there are both palappam and vellayappam in our area. palappam is more of a speciality requiring much more attention, and the recipe is as you describe above. Vella appam is made with more coarsely ground rice, made with grated coconut rather than with coconut milk (onnam paal randam paal etc. when I was younger, vella appam was commonly called appam, and also used to be part of nercha in churches. These days with its popularity outsie kerala as well, it appears that palappam is more popularly referred to as appam.

  52. Hii Shn,
    am a fresher in the field of cooking.2 months back one of my aunt reccomended me your blog.i must tell u "u r simply awesome".the way of presentation is great.i have tried almost all your recipes n came out very getting appreciation from my husband too.Today i made palappam n it forced me to leave a comment .Now am suggesting ur site to my friends also...
    you are doing a wonderful job n thank u soo much for these wonderful not only a fan of urs but also a "shishya".

    Luv Thush


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.