These lacy south Indian rice pancakes, thick and spongy in the center, thin and slightly crisp at the edges, are delectable with curries.
But the way I preferred them was with coconut milk--southern coconut milk as sweet as if sugar had been added. I would eat this for breakfast at the Taj Regency in Bangalore, taking a bite of appam, then a spoonful of coconut milk.
The night before I left, I asked to have them for one last breakfast. This required an advance order, because appams can't be whipped up at the last minute, the hotel said. To make them, I was told, a special short grain rice had to be ground into flour and turned into a fermented batter with coconut milk, salt and a little oil.
The next morning, the appams came to my table one at a time, each on a banana leaf. After eating three, I was happily stuffed.
That was years ago, but the other day I had appams again, this time close to home at a restaurant that didn't exist when I was in Bangalore.
The place was Mayura Indian Restaurant in Culver City, which specializes in the cuisine of Kerala, home to the appam.
And to end, Madras coffee, made with south Indian coffee that is cut with chicory to make a foamy brew that is rich tasting without bitterness.
Mayura's food is good because it is freshly seasoned. Co-owner Padmini Aniyan goes to India twice a year to shop for spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. The same spices are available here, she said, but by the time we buy them from an Indian market, they may be months old.
Mayura Indian restaurant, 10406 Venice Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. Tel: (310) 559-9644.