- Karandi Appam being served with Sambar and Chutney is something I'd easily die for, hands down.

Pranav's Palakkad Iyer Culinary Diaries, Part 1: The Karandi Appam

A South Indian dish you probably never knew existed, here's all you need to know about the Karandi Appam.

6w ago

Hold up. What exactly is going on here?

If you couldn't probably tell by now, yes - I am an Indian. But I'm not from "India". You see, I'm not from that part of India where Bollywood reigns over everything, and Hindi is the most spoken language - you know, the part of India where a kurta-pyjama is the preferred dress of choice for fancy occasions. As a matter of fact, all the chicken and lamb curries, and the seekh kababs that you see here - I'd hate to break it to you buddy, but that's not us. That's the northern side of the country. And I'm from the South, so there are a lot of dishes that you probably never knew existed, simply because you wouldn't find a restaurant, or a cookery show that would make them/show you how to make them for you.

Another thing I'd like to add is that I'm someone who originates from a "Palakkad Iyer" family. Palakkad Iyers are people who originally moved to the area of Palakkad, Kerala (hence the name), from areas like Thanjavur (Tanjore), Madurai (Madura), and Chennai (Madras) - places that are situated in the modern-day state of Tamil Nadu. The beauty of this is that my family, in effect, is a melting pot of two similar, yet distinctly different cultures, and as we further traverse into more culinary adventures, you'll see why it's a melting pot.

Anyway, when I was wondering what to start off with when it came to this series, the Karandi Appam was one of the first things that came to mind.

On that note, moving on.

Interesting. So what's a Karandi Appam?

The word "Karandi-Appam" (Tamil: கரண்டி அப்பம்) is a combination of two words - Karandi and Appam. From a literal standpoint, the word "karandi" means spoon, or ladle in Tamil. While this is an acceptable definition, the word "karandi" is also used to describe a certain type of pan that looks extremely similar to a spoon (which is what the dish is cooked in), while appams are essentially rice pancakes, made out of a fermented rice batter. In other regions, this is also called a "Karandi Paniyaram" (Paniyarams are rice dumplings, kinda like our own spin on Takoyaki, if you're wondering).

At first, you might confuse this for a ladle, but this is what a karandi looks like. Not sure what exactly the word for it in English exactly is, but there you go.

At first, you might confuse this for a ladle, but this is what a karandi looks like. Not sure what exactly the word for it in English exactly is, but there you go.

While Karandi Appams use regular dosa batter, its beauty lies in its texture - incredibly crunchy on the outside, and incredibly soft on the inside. Think of it like a soft rice pancake with an incredibly crunchy and dense outer layer - and this stark textural contrast makes it something incredibly tasty to have with coconut-based curries in general. And even though technically speaking, we don't eat this with a chicken tikka masala, or a lamb curry (we're vegetarians, so we have it with sambar and a chutney of some sorts), trust me, it'll go well.

My Memories

The first ever time I had Karandi Appams was actually at my cousin's house. My grandaunt was pretty fond of making them, and every time my mother went to her place, she'd always try to get her aunt to cook her some Karandi Appams. Since it was a pretty common dish to make back then, my mother once confessed to me that her and my uncle used to despise eating it as children. Now, however, it's eaten every once in a while at home as something to bond over and relive memories. What we'd usually do is either take some leftover coconut chutney/make new chutney, and have it.

Truth be told, it's one of my favourite dishes. Sometimes, whenever I'm not hungry, there are four words that change my mind - "konthe, karandi appam vaakatta?" (child, should I make karandi appam?) And whether I liked it or not, my answer was a solid yes, simply because in my mind, it was that good. After all, who wouldn't want a hot, crunchy, soft, fluffy rice pancake with a good curry for a little bit of comfort on a bad day? Well I do.

The smell of karandi appams being cooked in hot oil was an amazing smell that made an otherwise dull kitchen feel alive, and I truly feel grateful that my parents have preserved this dish for me, so that I can pass it on to the next generation.

To me, this is is a dish that, whether I knew it or not, played a significant part in the childhoods of the generations before me, and if I'm being honest, understanding the cultural significance of certain dishes makes them taste just that much better, and to me, I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, food goes beyond the wonderful aromas on your plate, and the wonderful sensations of taste that linger in one's mouth - it's a symbol of one's culture, an enduring memory, and a reminder of our past, while at the same time, transcending time and taking us back to when times were different, and yet gives us a fresh take on the modern era and its relevance.

And to me, the humble Karandi Appam does just that.

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Comments (10)

  • This is great Pranav!

      1 month ago
  • I appreciate the explanation of origins, translations and sharing of memories. Good article!

      1 month ago
  • Very interesting post. I would love to try it.

    Welcome to FoodTribe!

      1 month ago
    • Thanks! I guess it's not bad for a first post, huh ;)

        1 month ago
    • You're welcome. Definitely not bad for a first post 😁 let me know if you need anything.

        1 month ago