Pancakes for breakfast--that's terrific. I'm not talking about the usual golden pancakes with maple syrup, but about South Indian appams.
These lacy cakes are browned and crisp at the edges, a little thicker at the center. At New Bhimas in Artesia, they come with either vegetable kurmah, which is a mellow vegetarian sauce, or sweetened coconut milk (at top).
Ever since I met up with appams in India, I've eaten them only with the sweet sauce, because they're so delicious that way, like a morning dessert.
You don't throw them together with a mix. In one Indian hotel, I had to place an order the night before so the batter would have time to ferment.
In the book "Flavours of Kerala," author Hena Jacob allots 7 to 8 hours for preparation, with the cooking time additional.
Her recipe includes two types of rice flour, yeast to start the fermentation, coconut milk and sugar. The distinctive shape results from cooking the batter in a shallow iron wok called an appam-chatti.
Jacob calls this type of appam pal-appam as opposed to idiyappam, or string hoppers. "Usually served as a starter dish for formal get-togethers, it is also a popular breakfast dish and is served with vegetable/meat stew," she writes. "It also tastes wonderful with thick coconut milk with a dash of sugar."
New Bhimas puts cardamom in its sweet coconut milk sauce, which makes it doubly delicious. The one flaw was that the restaurant served the sauce cold. When they heated it, it was wonderful. I could have eaten it without the appams, like a dessert soup.
New Bhimas restaurant, 18752 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia, CA 90701. Tel: (562) 880-5678.