Monday 7 January 2013

Palappam: A Venture into the Unknown

Food bloggers are a creative bunch of people. Which means they try new things, just to tickle their fancies. They also do dares, which stretches the imagination some more. So, this happened to me as well.

A fellow food blogger, +Dionne Baldwin , dared our Google+community to do something outside the box, to stretch yourself in public, so to speak. No quiet experimentation in the back room, everything up front. And here is the result.

I am a great lover of Asian cooking. The spices being one of the reasons. There is much to say about the use of spices and I have more than a vague suspicion that one needs some more of those spices in your diet in order to stay healthy. That is, barring the exquisite taste.

But there is a more compelling and obvious reason to look at Asian cooking. All of the traditional foods are home-cooked and done in short time. The mother of the house does not have time to dilly-dally around cooking the main dish for the family dinner. Therefore most of the recipes are quite easy and quick to make. Which translates to simple utensils and equipment and simple procedures.

Which, of course, suits me, as a dyed in the wool yachtie, down to the ground. This one I would classify as a flat bread made with fermented rice and coconut milk. It resembles a light coloured pancake or crepe. For us commoners, you may call it rice and coconut pancakes. The term lies easy on the palate.

This recipe stems from a recipe by fellow food blogger Niya. It looked delicious and, being a lover of curries, I thought to make some as a side dish to one of our curries.

Recipes for palappam abound on the internet and all of them use yeast or a toddy for fermentation. So, as part of the dare, I decided to use baking powder instead. This one may be made on board a yacht even in relatively stormy conditions. That is, if you have some sort of blender on board to make flour from raw rice. A coffee grinder will work wonders, starting with the dry, raw rice and blitzing it to a fine powder, then soaking it. I have done this with crushed rye flour to get a fine flour for catching a wild yeast, but that is another story.

Most of the recipes, including Niya's one, call for raw rice soaked for three to four hours, then mashed or blitzed in the blender to get it into fine mash. Some add a little flour or semolina to assist in the fermentation, others add an egg to make it keep fresh for longer. Some add a spoon or two of cooked rice to make the end result softer. There are many regional variations, all of them looking ever so delicious.

You need to get the batter about the same as for normal pancakes, maybe a bit more runny, as you want these pancakes thin. Perhaps akin to crepes. I am following Niya's recipe, sort of. Bar the chef’s licence, if you will. Instead of the fermentation. I am using baking soda. Also, I have coconut powder in a 60g (2 oz) envelope. I am using this and adjusting the batter to the required consistency using water. And I am using an egg. If the first palappams are too brittle, add another egg to the mix.

I am making half the recipe, so it is easier to use coconut powder. I am basically cooking for two people, but I have this suspicion that you will need double the quantity if you have the family around. Bear in mind that a cup of rice will easily serve a family of four and there is additional coconut flour or -milk in there, making it substantially richer. The standard recipe calls for 200 ml (1 cup) of water. Depending on your mixture and how much water you can drain from the soaked rice at the start, you may need a lot less water. These palappams are baked after warming up the main dish, or while it is resting for flavour to develop, just prior to serving. The preparation can be prior to the preparation of the main dish.


1 cup raw long grain rice
1 packet 60 gram coconut powder or 50 thick plus 50 ml thin coconut milk.
2 cups of water (Remember, I am using dry coconut powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder \
1 teaspoon salt
2 small eggs


Soak the raw rice for three to four hours. Drain the excess water and then blitz in the blender until you have a very fine mush. Don't lose any fluid from this stage, as the starch is needed in the end product. Add an egg, the salt, the coconut powder and the baking powder and mix thoroughly. Add water as required until you have a nice runny mix. In the case that you are using coconut milk or cream, you will use less water to adjust the batter to a nice runny consistency.

Heat a non stick pan like the one from Le Creuset, then pour a soup ladle of the batter into the pan, swirl the batter around and bake until the palappam turns slightly brown. Cover the pan during cooking with the lid  or a suitable cover.These palappams are not turned like crepes, hence the requirement for a thinnish batter. The standard recipe calls for a lid and no turnig. Sunny side up, so to speak. I don't have a lid for my frying pan, so I just imagined normal pancake/crepe procedure and turned them. Saves on dish-washing effort.

Bake palappams  until the batter is depleted, then serve warm as a side dish to your favourite curry.
This has been a great experiment, courtesy of the dare and invite from Dionne. It is certainly worth the effort. The whole neigbourhood smells of baking and coconut. Proper psychological torture for those who slap food together, methinks.

I have never eaten anything like this, let alone making it. And I shall treasure this as a special treat for occasions when curry and rice on the menu sounds a bit passe.

Or when I have an intimate dinner in mind...

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-01-09


  1. Wow, jou blog is great! Ken jy Food24 se blogs? Hoekom begin jy nie 'n blog daar ook nie, om meer exposure te kry? Gaan kyk 'n bietjie - die meeste bloggers skryf 'n stukkie op hulle food24 blog met 'n link na hulle ander blog. Dit werk baie goed! Ek hou van die resep!

  2. Dankie Zirkie, dis mooi woorde. Ek sal 'n plan maak met die ander blog-dinge.