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Friday, 15 May 2015

Turmeric: health giving ingredient of curry

Turmeric, one of the staple ingredients of curry, has been found to have amazing health giving properties.

These stem from turmeric’s magic property of curcumin, an anti-inflammatory, active ingredient that can treat a range of diseases such as Alzheimers, diabetes, allergies and arthritis. Studies have found curcumin to be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome and, more recently, in preventing bowel cancer.

In India and China, however, the miraculous power of turmeric has been known for over 5,000 years where it has been used first as a dye and then in traditional medicine to treat a variety of complaints including jaundice, haemorrhage, toothache, bruises, and even flatulence (parp!).

Although Arab traders introduced turmeric to Europe in the 13th century it has only recently become common in the west – mainly because of the growing popularity of curry and Indian restaurants.

With a warm, peppery and bitter flavour, the spice comes from a very beautiful plant, Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family. This perennial grows wild, mainly in the forests of southern India, and reaches around one metre in height with ribbed leaves, white flowers and cylindrical, aromatic rhizomes.

The spice comes from the rhizomes which are gathered annually, boiled for about 30-45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens. They are then ground into the deep yellow powder commonly used in curries, to give mustard its distinctive colour or used to make chicken soups golden. However, the whole plant is edible – even the flowers can be eaten as an exotic lettuce and the leaves can be used as a flavour imparting wrap.

Historically, turmeric was thought to have spiritual properties because of its yellow-orange colouring which was associated with the sun. Hindu monks were traditionally coloured with a yellow dye made from turmeric. It is also used throughout India in weddings and religious ceremonies. In Bangladesh the Gaye holud (literally,‘yellow on the body’) is a ceremony which takes place one or two days before a wedding. The turmeric paste is applied to the bodies of the couple by (presumably by very good friends) and is said to soften the skin as well as colouring the bride and groom yellow.

The ingredient is especially common in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking: Iranian fried dishes consist of oil, onions and turmeric followed by other dishes. In Nepal it is widely used in vegetable and meat dishes and in Indonesia flavours the curry base of dishes such as rendang, sate padang. In Maharashtra and Goa, turmeric leaves are used to wrap and cook food, imparting a distinctive taste. The root can also be used fresh, like ginger in pickle. Although turmeric is used mainly to flavour savoury dishes it can also be used to prepare special sweets.

Photos by Peter Renfrew

The Executive Chef at the Hotel Hindustan International in Kolkata, Utpal Mondal, shares some of his favourite Nawabi recipes:  

Murgh Badami Tikka

Boneless Chicken Leg - 280 gms
Ginger Garlic Paste - 15 gms
Cashew Nut - 25gms
Almond -  25 gms
Pista - 15 gms
Amul Cheese - 25gms
Ginger Green Chilli Chopped -5 gms
Salt – To Taste
Double Cream - 25 ml
Sour Curd - 50 gms
Raw Papaya Paste - 15 gms
Butter- 25 gms
Chat Masala - 10 gms
Lemon - 2
Egg - 1


Take boneless chicken leg, slit it half, flatten. Sprinkle with salt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic paste & raw papaya paste for first marination. Keep in cool place for 1 hour.

Chop half of all nuts, mix this with grated amul cheese & chopped ginger, green chilli . Make 6 small portions, now add each portion into flattened tikka. Roll it make small cylindrical shape, keep it aside.

Now make a smooth paste of remaining nut, cheese & sour curd. Mix cream & egg white with this paste. Add this paste into nut stuffed chicken.

Keep in fridge for 15 minutes. Cook the roll in tandoor till it becomes light brown in colour. Baste with butter. Again put in tandoor for 2-3 minutes, take it out. Sprinkle chat masala on it. Serve with mint chutney.

Dahi Ke Kabab

Hung Curd - 150 gms
Grated Paneer - 50 gms
Ginger Green Chilli Chopped - 15 gms
Roasted Chana Powder - 20 gms
Salt - To Taste
Cardamom  Powder - 5 gms
Saffron - 5 gms
Amul Cheese - 5 gms
Ghee - 25 gms
Chat Masala - 5 gms


Take a flat container, mix hung curd, paneer, ginger green chilli chop & roasted chana powder together.

Now add salt, cardamom powder, mix well and transfer the mixture to fridge. Take the amul cheese, rub into a smooth paste, add saffron, make 4 small balls for stuffing.

Now, take out the mixture, make 4 equal portions, put cheese saffron stuffing into each portion, make flat patty, shallow fry with ghee in a non stick pan fry till golden brown. Serve hot with mint chutney.

The Poetic Cuisine of Chef Utpal Mondal

A conversation with the corporate executive chef of the HHI group of hotels, Utpal Mondal, is an uplifting experience. He’s a man who is many things – poet, philosopher, chocolatier, polyglot, Hilsa fish aficionado, highly skilled chef and above all, proud Indian citizen, and he exudes a positive energy that’s highly infectious.

I spoke to him in Mythh restaurant at the 5-star Hotel Hindusthan International in Kolkata where, quite frankly, the day would not be the the same without the chef’s beaming presence as he offers a friendly handshake and a warm welcome to customers.  

Chef Mondal’s pioneering creativity has overseen the opening of several iconic venues at HHI including the award-winning Mythh, the banqueting hall Topaz, the famous Underground, and more recently, a many accoladed Italian restaurant, Valentino. He has also introduced a highly popular pastry shop and has even developed a chocolate bar.

At the Taste of Britain Curry Festival with Curry Life team

Described by the influential writer Rajen Bali as “one of the best three chefs in Kolkata”, chef Mondal has been likened to one of the “rare and dwindling breed of hands-on thinking chefs who, though thoroughly steeped in tradition, has the courage, knowledge and expertise to create stunning new dishes.”

Creativity and originality are important concepts to him. Married, with one daughter, Utpal is fluent in four languages and has an abiding interest in literature and the arts. In his childhood he was a poet “because it was a creative thing,” he says. Now in his forties, he still writes poetry - when he gets the time.

When deciding on a career however, cooking offered a more lucrative outlet for his skills. After graduating from the National Council of Hotel Management in Kolkata with a BSc, Utpal was selected for the prestigious Taj group of hotels and assigned to his home city, working with such luminaries as Chef Durgaerasad, Dennis Lambard and Curry Life Consultant Chef Partha Mittra.

“I grew up with the Taj because it opened in 1989 which was when I first went there,” he explained, “ I always say that the Taj is my second home; it taught me what cuisine is all about; I am what I am because of that experience”

For two years Chef Mondal trained in Indian and French cuisine, specialising in steak and fish. He worked within the famous Esplanade coffee shop and Indian restaurant Sonargon, before being transferred to the banquet kitchen serving eight banqueting halls. Busy from morning till night, he often prepared over 90 covers a day.  

He became proficient in Lebanese, Mexican and Italian cuisine under the famous chef Dennis Lambard; “He was the best Italian chef I ever worked with. He was tremendously innovative and gave me ideas that I still use now. My recipe for Italian mud pie is based on his ideas. I started learning my skills in the Indian cuisine but my second favourite is Italian – I’m a great fan of Italian cuisine. ”

Banqueting cuisine offered an outlet for his unusual creativity and innovation: “In banquets the menu is not fixed,” he says, “So I could use new ideas to make dishes inspired by international cuisine.

“But in these parts most clients are Marwaris and vegetarian. To make Marwari vegetarian dishes without using garlic or onion was (and is), a huge challenge. It’s a tough job! Here in Kolkata Bengalis and Marwaris love food. They don’t eat to live, they live to eat!”

He went on to develop two cuisines within the hotel and scored maximum points in staff evaluations, becoming the Taj’s highest achiever over two years. After 15 years and one month he was headhunted by the HHI in 2004. Now he is very happy in his work where he is permitted to give full rein to his creativity, actively encouraged to do something “a little different.”

HHI Kolkata
He says his creative skills were tested to the limits at the recent festival devoted entirely to the Hilsa fish. The Hilsa is about two feet long and has 2,000 bones – Chef Mondal knows –he has counted them! Although Bengalis don’t have the same squeamish attitude towards bony fish as many westerners believing the improvement in flavour is well worth the minor inconvenience of getting a bone stuck in the throat, chef Mondal was set the task of creating 12 different dishes featuring the Hilsa, making sure that each one was filleted to perfection. “I took it as a challenge. I did the dishes, baked, poached, roasted or smoked and served with Hilsa oil as an accompaniment – it’s the most beautiful fish the world has produced, with a tremendous flavour and the festival was a great success; I was so happy.” 

He believes in innovation and invents in the world of poetry and cooking. I sampled a delicious Chocolate pan; essentially pan wrapped in chocolate - a curious combination but one that was delicious and distinctly memorable. Constantly experimenting with different cuisines and ingredients, Chef Utpal has also developed an interesting sorbet made with a liqueur and Betel leaf to aid the digestion.

Has he ever been tempted to take his talents further afield?

“I had many opportunities to go to England or Australia,” he says, “I might earn more money which can give me comfort but I am not happy about whether I could get peace.

“To me, peace is much more important than comfort and other countries may not give me that. In India I am a first-class citizen, even if I just eat bread and potatoes. As a human being and as a chef, I’m recognised within my society and industry. If I’m not respected, how can I live elsewhere?

“Ever since childhood I haven’t had much faith in God; to me mankind is the last word. After I die I want to be brought to mind for something that I have created and leave a legacy for another generation of chefs. Being a chef is a bit like being a film director – he does not act, but ultimately, a great film is known and remembered by its director.”

Hotel Hindustan International, Circus Avenue, Bhawanipur, Kolkata, West Bengal, India Tel: 033 22802323

Monday, 6 April 2015

In search of the tiger

Photo by Hannah Bailey

We recently took a trip to Ranthamboure to search for the famous Bengal tiger, the national animal of Bangladesh 

“Ssssh...be quiet... the tiger is coming...”. Jaget, our guide was nothing if not theatrical. Holding one finger to his lips whilst striking a dramatic pose against the front of the safari truck, he craned his neck to get a better view.

Twenty passengers in the open-top jeep immediately shushed and froze in their seats as one in the silence of the forest. Then, suddenly... mayhem!  There was a cacophony of terrible screeches as monkeys scrambled to the tops of the trees. Wrapping their arms round spindly branches chattering nervously, they gazed across the lake.  “They’re sounding the alarm,” Jaget explained. “They know the tiger is near.”

We knew that we would be lucky to catch a glimpse of a tiger. This was no drive through safari: it was Ranthambore National Park in northwestern India – 400 miles of forests, lakes and mountains, the last great hunting ground of the maharajahs of Jaipur. Nowadays, the park is home to around 22 Bengal tigers increasing in recent years thanks to the conservation scheme Project Tiger and the area presents a chance to see the great predators in their natural habitat.

 We had travelled to our hotel through Rajasthan the day before along the single track road where dust was so thick it created a dense fog.  Accommodation was clean, but basic. In the evening we had a buffet in the lawned gardens, dining on watery curries at long bench tables. Entertainment was provided by a boy with a false handlebar moustache who jiggled about in a rather disturbing way before treating us to a spot of (even more disturbing) fire eating.  The fuels used in the mouth to create the “dragon’s breath” flame, we later heard, contained carcinogenic properties.

We sat next to a Danish couple who had been at the resort all week. They had gone out every day on the jeeps in search of the tiger and had not seen one yet – tomorrow would be their last chance. Our hearts dropped - just a little.

Tickets for the safari could be bought at the hotels to save queuing at the entrance. Next morning, we rose at the crack of dawn to join a crowd of fellow tiger spotters in hotel reception to be divided into three separate jeeps. The number of vehicles and people allowed daily entry to the park is limited. Each jeep seated around 20 people and was equipped with a guide. Ours was Jaget, a Freddie Mercury look alike without the teeth. We soon discovered that Jaget must have missed his breakfast - his grumbling stomach could have frightened away a whole den of lions.

Off we went, grateful for the advice from our Danish friends to wear warm clothes in the freezing morning air, rattling through the slowly lightening streets, past a stray elephant gently swaying his trunk and past the tourist hotels to Ranthamboure Park three kilometres distant.

We drove at a rapid pace, regardless of the growing number of people who were trailing along the road on pilgrimage to the Ganesha temple which lies within the ancient Ranthambore fort. As we arrived an incredible scene greeted us - teeming hordes of visitors, motorbikes and assorted vehicles. Hanuman Langur monkeys who live there perched on top of sandstone temple ruins looking as if they were in a set from an Indiana Jones movie. Trucks jam packed into us on all sides as the driver inched his way through forwards within a hairsbreadth of other vehicles, under the huge banyan tree through the stone entrance to the National Park.

Inside the park, the contrast could not have been more marked.  A peaceful, deciduous forest, dotted with lakes and mountain ranges, we tracked through jungle which sometimes opened out into savannas. Each of the three trucks took a different route through the forest in search of the tiger. Evidently some friendly competition was ongoing as to which team could spot a tiger first. We were told to keep quiet in case we frightened them away and our excitement began to mount.

It wasn’t long before Jaget called the jeep to a sudden halt. Leaping over the side, he excitedly pointed out a fresh tiger print in the ground and we all gazed with due reverence at the slight indentation. Jaget warned us that it could be the closest we would come to a tiger that day but never mind –in the meantime we could content ourselves with spotting sloth bears, hyenas, chitals, nilgai, wild boar and sambar – and over 247 species of birds.  Sadly, we didn’t see many sloth bears or hyenas but we did see an awful lot of spotted deer and the occasional water hog.

We continued our roundabout search, turning back on ourselves, reversing in impossible places at Jaget’s instruction before arriving at the largest of the lakes, the beautiful Padam Taleo. As we waited with baited breath, the monkeys sent their alarms around the forest, but the only distant rumble was the sound of Jaget’s stomach and there was no sign of the tiger. Doubling back to the other side of the lake we came across one of the other jeeps and exchanged news – they had spotted the tiger at side of the lake from whence we had come and were on their way over there. Jaget wasn’t so sure. We parked up by the side of the water and waited...

I‘ll never forget my first sight of the tiger, slowly swimming towards us across the looking glass lake from the red sandstone ruins of a hunting lodge, ripples fanning out behind.

For a moment, we were silent; dumbstruck and awed. Then, we remembered that we were tourists; the truck nearly tipped over as we all rushed to one side, cameras at the ready.
Slowly the tiger came in to land and strolled nonchalantly up through the tall grass, seemingly oblivious to the leaning truck and its gawping inhabitants. It was as if we weren’t worth bothering about – not even to eat.

We stayed for a while watching before our three hours was up. On our way back, we encountered he Danish couple – they hadn’t seen a tiger. But for us, the timing was impeccable - it was as if both men and tiger had laid on a show for us tourists, but never mind. At least the tigers are being preserved and cameras are better than guns.

Ranthambore National park is closed to visitors from 1st October to 30th June.  The park is open for morning and evening trips of up to 3.5 hours. Safari tickets are around Rs7-800. The easiest way to get there is to take a train to Sawai Madhopur from Jaipur, Bombay or Delhi. The airports of Jaipur and Kota are nearby.

Recommended hotel:  Hotel Tiger Safari Resort www.tigersafariresort.com

Photo by Hannah Bailey

The amazing photos of the tigers at the beginning and end of this blog post were taken by the photographer Hannah Bailey. You can see more examples of Hannah's photos at flickr.com/photos/130536352@N02/16829503540/

This travel piece was inspired after going to travelwritingworkshop.co.uk/ with Peter Carty, who is the founder of Time Out's travel section and regular contributor to many esteemed publications including The Times and The Telegraph. The workshop which is held in the Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, W1 (where there's an excellent lunchtime buffet of North Indian cuisine), is full of valuable information and thoroughly recommended for any aspiring or published travel writer. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Happy Holi–days with the Curry Life Taste of Britain Festival in Chennai

The Curry Life Taste of Britain Festival got off to a colourful start in Chennai, India this year as chefs and guests celebrated the Indian festival of Holi together.  

Running from 6th to 14th March in the Spice Haat and Focaccia restaurants at the 5-star Hyatt Regency, the festival sees Michelin starred chef Mark Poynton of Alimentum in Cambridge join top curry chefs from the UK to create a spicy smรถrgasbord of British curry dishes.

The team of chefs is headed by the veteran festival performers, Chef Partha Mittra, consultant chef for Curry Life, and Chef Abul Monsur of Taj Cuisine in Chatham Kent, who combine their expertise with Chef Mohammed Awal Miah of Spice Club in Bridgwater, and Chef Syem Uddin of Bengal Spice in Crook, County Durham. The British team is working alongside the chefs at Hyatt Regency headed by Executive Chef Subrata Debnath (see previous post for one of chef Subrata's recipes).

At the launch attended by the British Deputy High Commissioner, Bharat Joshi, festival organisers, Syed Nahas Pasha, Syed Belal Ahmed, and chefs Mark and Subrata Debneth introduced team to members of the press who were also able to sample some of the signature dishes featured on the menu.

Nahas Pasha, Mark Poynton, Bharat Joshi, Subrata Debneth, Belal Ahmed
Afterwards, the chefs were able to let off a bit of steam at the colourful festival of Holi - a Hindu celebration when it's customary to smear your friends with colours.   

Now, all chefs are looking forward to showcasing popular dishes from the UK including Chicken Tikka Masala and (aptly, for the city of Chennai which was formerly known as Madras), Madras curry.

Chef Mark looks set to change the commonly held perceptions of bland British food by serving up some Alimentum delights. His signature dishes, inspired by traditional British and European foods, include cod rolled in onion ash with onion salad; roast sea bass with cauliflower textures and Pedro Ximenez sauce, and roast breast of duck, charred and pureed broccoli peanut and lime with crispy black rice.

In between courses the chefs are looking forward to sampling some of the local culture and cuisine. Chennai is home to beautiful beaches, temples and historical sites. From the gastronomic point of view, Tamil Nadu is known for its spicy vegetarian dishes, sizzling street food and lunchtime buffets or canteens featuring fiery sambars and Keralan-influenced foods.  

Young Holi revellers in Chennai

View from Hyatt Regency Chennai

The chefs plan the menu

The team celebrates Holi

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Bangladesh's Beautiful Cox's Bazar

Ask anyone where the world’s longest and, arguably, most beautiful natural beach is located, and the chances are they’d say somewhere in the Caribbean, Australia, Brazil or maybe New Zealand.

They’d be wrong. The world’s longest stretch of sand is, in fact, located in the southernmost tip of Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal at the fishing port of Cox’s Bazaar. Designated as one of the seven new wonders of the world the silvery sands, known as Palongkee or “yellow flower,” slope down from a fringe of forest to a shining sea and stretch for over 93 miles.

In spite of its considerable beauty, Cox’s Bazaar has yet to become an international tourist hotspot. At home, it’s a different story. During the winter months around 10,000 rooms in the hotels remain occupied almost seven days a week due to the huge influx of Bangladeshi natives and visitors from neighbouring countries.

The area is well-equipped to welcome an international market; hotels catering for all budgets are in abundance with the gleaming and sleek 5-star Seagull and Hotel Sea Palace leading the way in terms of luxury, beach front position, cleanliness and cuisine. Night life may not be swinging yet, but there are many restaurants serving Bangladeshi, European Chinese and Thai cuisine and fresh seafood is a major source of revenue.

When we arrived, in early November, it was a week before the start of the high season and the place was all but deserted. From dusty Dhaka, the road trip to Cox’s Bazar had taken 18 hours of hard driving (we’d been warned against taking the rickety planes which operate two or three times a day from Dhaka). Our journey was not for the fainthearted; kamikaze coaches and lorries are par for the course on potholed Bangladeshi roads and our safe arrival was down to the considerable skills of our driver, Selim.

But what an arrival! Through the waving branches of the Tamarik forest, planted after the end of British rule to protect the town from tidal waves, we wandered down to a panoramic, jaw droppingly vast vista of sea, beach and sky that seemed to stretch into infinity.

A neat line of beach loungers topped with umbrellas looked out to a blue sea sprinkled with dhows and boats; the shore dotted with shell painters, fruit and drink vendors, fishermen, a few tourists and the odd horse or two. The only sound was the rise and fall of the waves and the distant phut-phut of quad bikes as they rode back and forth along the crest of the sand.

As we were staying at the Hotel Seagull, we had access to a private beach and the services of a personal guard, who was of more use getting rid of unwanted hawkers than in fighting off more threatening interlopers (fortunately absent). The sea was perfectly warm, clean and shark-free – what more could you want? 

A quick quad bike ride up and down the shore and a fully clothed dip and, having purchased an inordinate amount of shell jewellery, it was time to contemplate the horizon and relax – a little known luxury in Bangladesh.

Cox’s Bazaar is named after Captain Hiram Cox; a philanthropic captain in British India who earned his place in the hearts of locals after helping to rehabilitate Arakan refugees fleeing from the Burma, at the end of the 18th century.  Although the entire stretch from the Bakhali River on the north and the Teknaf peninsula in the south is best known as Cox’s Bazar beach, I learned that there are three beaches to enjoy. Laboni - the main beach closest to town is the busiest in the high season; Himchari - 18km south of Cox’s Bazar, is a wild place with waterfalls, the famous ‘Broken Hills,’ The Himchari National Park rain forest has many species of animals including tigers, leopards, Sloth bears and elephants which inhabit the Himchari National Park rain forest. Finally, Inani beach in the south is known for its more golden sands strewn with rocks and coral, a peaceful lagoon and tall palm trees against a backdrop of lush, green hills.

With more time available, there’s also plenty of scope for island hopping. Saint Martins, the most famous of these, lies five miles south of Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf peninsula. It is the only coral island in Bangladesh and home to many turtles. A good centre for snorkelling, scuba diving and fishing, the island is accessible by a three hour ferry trip from Teknaf and there are several hotels and guesthouses for an overnight stay.

On the last day of our visit, we travelled southwards along the spectacular coast towards Teknaf and the borders of Myanmar, stopping en-route to visit Daria Naga where 14-year-old freelance guide, Moyna Akhther led us through a natural gorge, grotto and up to a panoramic view point. From there, the far-reaching vista was one of untamed natural beauty. Cox’s Bazar is a holiday destination, unparalleled anywhere in the world and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world discovers it - make sure you get there first.

Recommended Hotel at Cox’s Bazar: Seagull Hotel, +88 02 8322973-6+88 02 8322973-6

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Recipes from Subrata Debnath, 

Executive Chef Hyatt Regency Chennai

Spice Haat Buffet at Hyatt Regency Chennai
Chef Subrata Debnath, the Executive Chef at Hyatt Regency Chennai, leads a team of around 100 chefs to create amazing culinary experiences across the hotel’s eight restaurants. 
A graduate from the Institute of Hotel Management, chef Subrata hails from the steel city of Jamshedpur. With 22 years' experience in the kitchen, he has been with Hyatt for over a decade working at their hotels in Kolkata, Singapore, Bangkok and Kathmandu. 

As a seasoned gourmand and connoisseur of flavours, Chef Subrata has an adept sense of food styling and presentation. He tries to give both a local and authentic regional taste to each of the specialist restaurants at the Hyatt which include Italian, Chinese and Asian street food.  A self confessed foodie with a passion for perfection, he believes in crafting his dishes with love, passion and an artistic touch.

Here, is Chef Subrata's recipe for Appams and Chicken Stew (Appams are a kind of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk, served with a range of sides such as vegetable stew, chicken stew, kerala egg curry or chutney):

Recipe for Chicken Stew


  • 250gm boneless chicken cubes
  • 0.30ml coconut oil
  • 0.10gm bay leaves
  • 0.10gm cardamom
  • 0.10gm cloves
  • 20 gm sliced onions
  • 2 Slot green chillies
  • 0.10gm ginger juliennes
  • 0.10gm curry leaves
  • 500ml thick coconut milk
  • 0.10gm Fennel seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 0.10gm shallots

Heat oil in a deep pan. Add onion, ginger, green chilli and curry leaves. Saute till onion becomes soft (keep in mind that onions should not brown in this recipe). When the onion becomes soft, add chicken pieces, salt and mix well. Add medium thick coconut milk and cover and cook. Stir when chicken is half done. Continue cooking until chicken is fully done.

Recipe for Appam


  • 1kg raw rice
  • 0.5kg boiled rice
  • 250gm Urdall
  • A few Fenugreek seeds
  • 20ml coconut milk
  • 10gm sugar
  • 10gm cooking soda

Soak raw rice, par boiled rice, fenugreek seeds and urad dal for 10 to 12 hours (I soaked it from 6am to 6pm, then ground it and fermented it overnight).

After 10 hours grind mixture to a fine paste. Add salt, mix well with hands. (I ground it with warm water). The batter should be of thinner consistency than dosa batter. Store it in an airtight container, leave it for another 10 hours or overnight to ferment. In the morning the appam batter will have risen nicely.

Before making appams, add coconut milk, appam soda and mix well. Keep it aside for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes the appam batter can be used to make soft appams.

Traditionally appams are made in an iron skillet called appa chatti. If you do not have and appa chatti or appam pan, you can make it in any other non stick pan with a lid.

First coat the appam pan with oil  using a cloth (add a drop of oil into the pan and wipe it all over with a cloth).

Heat the appam pan, then reduce the heat to low. Now, add a ladle of batter in the centre of the pan (pan should not be too hot).

Holding both the handles of the pan, rotate the pan in such a way that the batter spreads all around in a circle. The remaining batter will come to the centre (that is why the appam is thick in the centre and lacy on the outside). After that close the pan with the lid. The flame should be kept low. Once the appam is cookd and the edges start turning brown, remove the appam from the pan (the appam will come off easily if you lift it with your hands).