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I first had a really delicious version of this at my friend Padmini Rao’s place. She, being from Andhra Pradesh, makes great South Indian vegetarian food and I keep pestering her for her amazing lemon/mango/tamarind rice which is the best I’ve ever had anywhere. Every time she calls us over for a meal I get a huge container of the stuff back for the next day. However this post is not about the rice but about these super healthy and very tasty appe’s or paniyarams – soft fluffy fermented rice and lentil balls which have been fried (in a teeny weeny bit of oil) in a special pan with little craters in them.
One such meal at Padmini’s place, she had these onion coriander appe (she calls them Punugulus) and a whole lot of stuff as appetisers and my kids, uncle and I had gone on an empty stomach. My appetite is legendary with my family and friends. I can reallllllly pack in the food. But the person who surpassed me that day was my son. He attacked these little balls with such gusto and before we knew it, he’d eaten at least 12, one after the other, grabbing them with his left hand, right hand, chowing them down as if he’s been starved for the past few weeks! And he carried on and on and on! My uncle and I were staring at him in a mixture of shock and awe. Luckily, it was a good friend’s house so there was no embarrassment there, rather a testament to her cooking skills.
The appes were really delicious, and it struck me that this was a super healthy snack one could give the kids after they return from school, a great alternative to the usual sandwiches and bread options one finds it so easy to rustle up. After my son had severe gastric issues, I’ve limited sandwiches to just once a week.
So I decided to make these little idli pockets at home adding a few more vegetables ( I keep trying to get as many veggies into the kids as possible and luckily they’re now used to it and are very good about eating them. Wayyy better than I was as a kid). The great part nowadays is that in most Indian cities, idli batter is readily available in most grocery stores, so one doesn’t need to soak the rice and lentils for a few hours, then grind them and leave to ferment for another 8 hours. You can just buy it readymade.
But where I stay, it’s even better. We have these ladies who’re making their specialty food at home available to us. This time I got fresh homemade idli batter for these. You will see a difference in the texture of the appes of store bought and homemade idli batter. The store bought one will make fluffier and more rounded appes and the homemade ones are more grainy and won’t fluff up so much on the other side, but they will be much tastier. These ones came out great and as usual the son ate almost half the appes made. Even the husband, who normally runs the opposite direction when he sees vegetables ate these happily (although didn’t get as many many as he would have liked thanks to the son).
You would need a special appe or paniyaram pan for this. It’s a good investment. I got lucky as I kept borrowing a friend’s pan to make these and she ended up gifting me one! There’s lots one can make with this. The appes can be eaten with any kind of chutney, coriander/mint or tomato, or coconut, or ginger tamarind, or even ketchup, though I’d avoid that. So here we go with my version of this healthy yummy dish.
Ingredients (makes 36)
500 gms idli batter (fermented rice and lentil batter)
1 thin carrot (approx 60gms) finely diced
1 medium onion (approx 80gms) diced
1/2 cup packed coriander leaves (approx 10 gms) roughly chopped
1 tbsp ginger (approx 6 gms) very finely diced
2 long green chillies de-seeded and very finely diced
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp oil in a bowl
Get Started (Pictorial Steps Below)
- Mix all the ingredients except the oil, together.
- Heat an appe pan on medium-low. Dip a cooking brush into the oil and brush the craters of the appe/paniyaram pan with the oil. I use this method to keep my oil use to the minimum, but you can also just pour a couple of drops of oil into each of the craters with a spoon or a bottle with an oil pourer.
- Put a tablespoon of batter into each of the craters and fill to the top. Keep it on medium-low heat for 5 minutes till the edges of the batter start firming up a bit. Then with a knife, loosen the edges and gently roll over till the raw part is completely under. Keep it on the heat for another five minutes and remove onto a plate. Repeat this process till you finish all your batter.
Important Notes: Keep the pan on medium-low heat at all times. Don’t want the batter to burn.