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Unni appam, which is also known as karthikai appam, is a sweet rice cake that is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside; unni means small and appam means cake in the Malayalam language of South India. The unni appam rice cake is part of the South Indian cuisine of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where it is usually prepared for the festive occasions of Janmashatami and Karthikai; these are Hindu religious festivals honoring the Hindu gods Krishna and Ganesh, respectively. Unni appam is similar to another festive rice cake called neyyappam, and is also rather like the Danish pastry aebleskiver. Aside from being served as religious offerings, these Indian desserts are also eaten as snack foods.
Traditionally, unni appam is made from kerala kuthari or rosematta rice; these rice varieties have a nice fragrance, but any other type of rice can be used. The rice is soaked for several hours and then ground into flour; unni appam can also be made using wheat flour. Aside from flour, unni appam ingredients include jaggery, coconut, banana, cardamon, ghee and baking powder.
It is quick and easy to make this dish. The jaggery is dissolved in boiling water and then the syrup is set aside to cool. The coconut pieces are fried in oil until they turn brown, and the ripe banana is mashed. The fried coconut, the mashed banana, the rice flour and the baking powder are added to the jaggery syrup, and cardamon is added to the resulting batter. The unni appam batter should be of a semi-liquid consistency, and it is best to keep it overnight before it is used.
It will help to have appam molds for making the rice cakes; these molds may be available in South Indian food stores, but, if not, a regular pan can be used just as well. A little ghee is poured into the pan or the mold and then the batter is poured in and fried. The rice cakes should be turned over when they start to brown on one side. A toothpick can be poked into the rice cake to check if it is done; if the batter doesn't stick to the toothpick, the cake is done.
The unni appam cakes should then be removed from the pan or mold and placed on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. The cakes may be eaten as they are, or with tea or coffee. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.