There is much to love about Kerala cuisine. And there is one special item that lends itself to multiple versions — the humble appam. A breakfast staple, usually had with a vegetable or chicken stew, it has also morphed into being a lunch or dinner accompaniment that can be had in place of rice or rotis.
Having said that, the creativity of chefs never ceases to amaze me. Executive Chef Rishi Manucha, of the Taj Deccan, has expanded the range of the appam admirably, by making this traditionally-made-with-rice-flour pancake with different flours and vegetables included. Not only does this give the appam a different taste and flavour, but some come in delicious colours too.
If that wasn’t enough, he and his team have created curries to go with these varied appams that move away from the traditional stew. Other than Meen Moilee, a coconut based fish curry that goes exceptionally well with appams, the other dishes were not what you would conventionally serve with them.
Moving on, the appams that are usually made with rice flour and coconut, now have varying flavours including a beetroot one that showed up in a delectable pink colour; one made with wheat flour that had a lovely golden hue; a green one made with spinach, and one made with oats and millets. On the menu, each kind of appam has a curry as an accompaniment, and is served with a generous portion of coconut milk.
For the adventurous foodies, the combinations include a Chettinad flavoured Beetroot Appam served with Manglorean Chicken Curry; Keerai Appam, flavoured with spinach and served with Asian style prawns; Gothambu Appam, made with wheat flour and served with Baingan ka Bharta; Five spice Oats Appam, made with oats and five spice powder, served with Chilli Paneeer among others.
A promotion is being held at its pan-Indian restaurant, Spice Junxion, till the 26th of this month, where you have a choice of plated veg or non veg curries served with two appams. The vegetarian options are priced at Rs 450 plus taxes and the non vegetarian ones at Rs 500 plus taxes.
One appam that grabbed all the attention was the Mutta or Egg Appam. Made with an egg cracked over the batter after it is placed in the pan and swirled around, this style of appams are very popular in Sri Lanka. This was served with Bhuna Gosht, a mutton curry made with whole spices and ground meat.
The other star of the promotion was the Nei Appam — served with a generous dollop of pure ghee was served with sweetened coconut milk. Perhaps the simplest combination of all the concoctions served up, to my mind, it was also the tastiest. But you cannot make a meal of it as it becomes too heavy.
While some of the curries didn’t quite gel with the appams they were served with, the others were a match made in food heaven. The Bhuna Gosht which I tried with the whole wheat appam; Palappam, the traditional one that was served with Meen Moilee; and the beetroot appam that I tried with the Manglorean Chicken Curry — were the best of the lot. Besides the one with the sweetened coconut milk that is.
On the whole, Chef Rishi and his team had excelled with their creative experimentation. The appams are a light and refreshing alternative to the boring rice and rotis. Since the festival isn’t on for much longer, I can only hope, that some of the appam innovations find their way to the menu to stay on permanently. Need I say more?