August 15, 2011

Daring Cooks’ Challenge: Appam and Chicken Kerala

curry 5

Can you believe it?! I’m finally back into the groove with the Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers challenges. After hit-and-miss spring and nonexistent summer attempts, I’ve kicked things back in gear and I’m ready to get cooking.

This month’s challenge was hosted by Mary, a lovely blogger and longtime member of the Daring Kitchen challenges. Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is. She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

coconut milk

When I saw that our entire challenge revolved around Indian food, I knew things were going to get fun. Despite my love of almost all foods and all cuisines, I’m especially fanatical about Indian food. Whether it’s the complex mixtures of aromatic spices, the satisfyingly hearty array of flat breads, or the incredible diversity of dishes and cultures spreading across the subcontinent, India and its food have always held a special place in my heart.

With this challenge, the Daring Cooks were assigned to make Appams, a type of South Indian flat bread consisting mostly of rice, yeast, and coconut milk. Along with that, we also had to make any type of South Indian or Sri Lankan dish to serve with the appams. For me, this dish was the delicious Chicken Kerala.

appam spatula

However, before I go off skipping through the fields, singing songs of curry-love, we first need to discuss the process of making appams. As much as I hate to generalize this tasty form of flat bread, I have to say that it actually tastes very similar to hot grits—except in thin, crepe-like form, made with rice instead of cornmeal. What definitely does make appams completely unique is the method of preparation, which proved to be both easy and daunting.

First, it’s a question of soaking about 1 1/2 cups of uncooked rice overnight. The next day, that rice gets drained and whirled through a blender or food processor until smooth. To that pureed rice, one adds a mixture of yeast, sugar, and water—giving it all another quick buzz through the blender/food processor/Magic Bullet until smooth. Yet again, this mixture sits overnight at room temperature, allowing the yeast to do its work and allowing the mixture to slightly ferment. The next day, this concoction is combined with coconut milk and salt, then cooked in a pan much in the way you’d cook crepes—pour, swirl, etc. After that, it’s simply a question of how many can you eat with how much Chicken Kerala before you’re too full to move.

appam 3

Now, I can’t gloss over things and avoid telling you about the few mishaps I encountered on my way to appam-licious glory. At first, it was challenge enough to muster the patience to take the 48+ hours to bring this dish to fruition. In my previous skimming of the challenge recipe earlier in the month, I neglected to spot the second overnight resting/rising time for the dough—an unhappy surprise, but one that was overcome.

Also, I think I’ve led you to believe that it’s easy to perfect that whole “pour, swirl, cook” technique for cooking the appams. Truly, it took me almost the whole bowl of batter before I hit my stride with the process. Initially, I would pour a small ladle of batter into the pan and it would immediately solidify and stick, foiling all of my attempts at graceful batter-swirling. Buzzing it with an immersion blender solved that problem quite nicely, helping to further liquefy the rice bits. I also discovered that it worked better for me to cook them over medium-low heat, rather than over medium-high heat. As far as quick cooking goes, I don’t have those kind of reflexes.

curry 2

If the task of making appams now suddenly sounds scary and insurmountable to you, please take heart. Eating a savory and subtly sweet appam with a bowl of spicy chicken and potato curry is more than enough reward. Seriously, this Chicken Kerala, with its familiar blend of ginger, garlic, and chili, along with the creaminess of coconut milk and the bright punch of fresh cilantro, was the perfect accompaniment for this challenge’s appams.

It was also the perfect accompaniment for my lunch, snack, and dinner all in one day.

curry 6

If you’d like to give the appam recipe a try or learn more about the challenge, take a peek at the info packet from the Daring Kitchen website.

If you’d like to make a tasty pot of Chicken Kerala, look no further…

Chicken Kerala

Recipe adapted from “Chicken Kerala” by Manju Malhi

Printable Recipe

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 serrano peppers, seeds removed from one; all finely chopped

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garam masala

pinch curry powder

1 pound, 2 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 large white potatoes, cut into small cubes

1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk, divided

1/4 to 1/3 cup water, as needed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat the canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and serrano peppers for three minutes. Toss in the ginger, garlic, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, salt, garam masala, and curry powder, stirring to combine.

Add the chicken cubes and cook for about 8 minutes, until browned. Add the tomatoes and potatoes, cooking for another 2 minutes.

Pour in 3 1/2 ounces of the coconut milk and simmer for 6 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk and 1/4 cup water. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked. Note: If the sauce looks too thick, add 1/3 cup water instead of 1/4 cup.

Check the seasonings, stir in the cilantro, and serve warm with rice or flatbread.


  1. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous and I'm glad you enjoyed it, once it was finally ready! Thanks so much for participating!

  2. Great job, Koci! My computer was in the shop, so I had to pull out of this month's challenge. BTW, I'm hosting a fun recipe contest on my blog, and I think you should enter!!

  3. Well. I know what I'm making for dinner tomorrow.}:P

  4. How perfect are your appams?! Seriously, I can't stop scrolling back up to look at them. I should have persevered, like you, but your tips are very helpful for next time. Thanks! Also, that Chicken Kerala has me craving curry at 1am.

  5. Love the way you presented the appam, very nice. The chicken kerala looks so delicious, gorgeous color! Reading your post has made me crave for Indian food again :)excellent job for this month's challenge!

  6. The appams look perfect and the chicken sounds great.

  7. Amazing photography! The chiken Kerala looks and sounds delicious, and the appams look perfect! Great job on the challenge.

  8. Love the sound of that appam recipe, although tediously long it looks really great! But back to the star of the show, this curry, uh...GORGEOUS! I love curries and this looks so delcious, lovely photos too :)

  9. the photographs are really! great appams and kerala chicken!

  10. I made the beef, but does you're chicken recipe sounds/reads/looks delicious. I'm going to put it in my archive and definitely going to try it out.

  11. This looks just incredible. How fun to do an Indian food cooking challenge. I want to start cooking more indian dishes. I just love 'em.

  12. Your photos are amazing! and you appams look delicious!

  13. i just book mark this link:) i cant wait to make this for my family. thank you for sharing. i have missed your blog. your photos are stunning!!

  14. @Mary: Thank you! I had so much fun trying this new challenge. You were a great host!

    @Wendy: Thanks! Cool! I'll check it out!

    @Wolf: hehehe :D

    @Suzler: haha Thanks! I'm always happy to share any tips with my fellow Daring Cooks. :D

    @chef_d: Thank you!

    @Heather: Thanks!

    @Todd M: Thank you!

    @Renata: Thanks!

    @The Procrastobaker: Aren't curries the yummiest?

    @Purabi: Thank you!

    @4pure: That beef sounded delicious, too! Hope you like the chicken!

    @Kristen: I love them, too! It's always fun to learn more about Indian food.

    @My name is Andy: Thank you!

    @blackbookkitchendiaries: Thank you so much! Hope you like it!

  15. These look wonderful - white like snow and perfect comfort food. Great job. It's definitely a challenge to me.

  16. Oh my goodness, I open your site to pure unadulterated food porn - stunning perfect photos to go with stunning, perfect appams and chicken kerala. That can of coconut milk dripping is killer! Made me realize I forgot to add the coconut milk to my appam ingredients photo lol No matter..never would have looked liked yours! lol

  17. Hmmm, I've never had grits - not even completely sure what they are! Interesting that you find them similar to appams... Anyway, I love your pics, and you did a fabulous job! Everything looks so appetizing!

  18. Absolutely stunning!!!!!!! That is all I have to say.

  19. You're appam look great! Glad you had such success with the DK challenge ;)

  20. AnonymousJuly 01, 2013

    I will totally try this next time I make kozhi kari! Looks amazing and so tasty!
    I absolutely love Indian food, that's basically what I eat at home along with occasional Italian, Middle Eastern, or Asian dish...I am so glad I found your blog! It's a treasure chest of recipes.
    It took me months to figure out Appam...though for those months I didn't have an appam chutti to cook them in. Instead a stainless steel pan which every time I put the appam batter in it would stick and come out ruined!

    1. I agree, Indian food is super awesome. And I'm so glad that you're enjoying the blog--I love getting comments like this! :D


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