Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Vellai Appam (Savory Indian Pancake Balls)

Whether they are called Vellai appams, Paniyarams, or Mor appams, these little savory pancake balls made from leftover Dosa, Idli, or Adai batters are scrumptious served hot off the pan. They are so good that I often make extra batter when making dosas, idlis, or adais just to make these. These appams make lovely appetizers, breakfast, brunch and tea time treats.

Vellai means "white" in Tamil and Mor means "buttermilk". If the appams are made from Dosa or Idli batter, they are white and hence Vellai as opposed to the plum-colored Neyyappams made with brown sugar. If the batter has not fermented well or is too thick, tart buttermilk is added as remedy and the resulting appams are called Mor appams. Let the batter ferment for a day or two at room temperature depending on the weather. If you are not going to use it right away, refrigerate it until needed; it will last for a few days in the fridge. I have referred you to the freshly ground traditional batters; the quicker versions using flours will work well also - check this or this.

Cooked Mor or Vellai appams will last one day at room temperature; freeze in appropriate containers or resealable freezer bags for longer storage and warm as necessary. Warming in a toaster oven or a hot regular oven will insure that they will retain some of their crispness.

Here is another good use for the special appa karai, Paniyaram, or abelskiver pan; you can also buy a special tool for turning the appams. I absolutely love the pan but since I find that a bamboo skewer works great for turning the appams, decided not add to the clutter of my gadget drawer :D. Besides, my mother, grandmother, and all the aunts always used a thin wooden or metal skewer.

NOTE: If you do not have the special pan, the batter can be cooked using an egg poacher, griddle, or a skillet. Pour small spoonfuls and cook over low/moderate heat with a few drops of ghee/oil; flip over and cook so that both sides are nicely browned. Although these will not have the spherical shape, they will still taste wonderful.

4 Servings


2 cups leftover fermented Dosa, Idli, or Adai batter
1 Red Onion, finely chopped
1 hot green chili, minced
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, minced
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves, minced
4 Tbsp Cilantro, minced
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1 pinch Asafoetida (optional)
1 pinch Cayenne (optional)
A little ghee/oil for cooking


Mix the batter with the veggies, herbs, spices and salt.

Coat the 'appa karai' or abelskiver pan lightly with a little oil or a cooking oil spray and heat over moderate heat.

Test the pan by dropping a tiny bit of batter on the pan; if it sizzles, the pan is ready.

Pour about 1/3 teaspoon of oil/ghee into each indentation, fill each with the batter up to the rim, cover and cook.

Keep the heat low to medium so the batter cooks slowly; adjust the heat as necessary.

When the edges change color and the bottom has browned, loosen edges carefully with a skewer or a small spoon and turn them over to cook the other side; add a few drops of oil/ghee.

When the appams turn a rich golden brown with no uncooked batter inside (check by inserting a skewer through an appam), remove them to a paper towel lined basket or bowl.

Repeat the above steps to cook the rest of the batter.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Although they need no further adornments, they are delicious served with Coconut, Green, Sweet or Tomato chutneys or ketchup. Enjoy!!

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