Unniyappam! The traditional Kerala snack made of rice flour and jaggery is also a popular Prasad given at the Ganesh temples of the region. There is barely any Keralite who doesn’t like this mildly sweet and comforting rice fritters.
When made at home for immediate consumption it is usually made with bananas (Dwarf Cavendish variety) for an added flavour and softness to it. But if it is made to keep for a few days or even for the temples, banana is avoided as it could get spoiled in a couple of days. Also, during the jackfruit season, some prefer to replace the bananas with jackfruit preserve which gives a sweeter and distinctive flavour to the fritters. Maybe later when I get some jack fruit preserve which my mom makes every year I can feature that version too.
Now, what gives it that round on the top and flat at the bottom shape is the special cast iron pan called Unniyappam Kara which is used to make these fritters. There is another similar in taste and texture snack called Neyyappam which is deep fried in ghee in a normal deep kadai preferably made of cast iron itself. Although the cast iron pan is heavy, I insist on using this instead of the modern light weight & non-stick pan because this helps the fritters to get cooked evenly without over browning it.
To do the preps and frying takes a little time but all that effort is totally worth its taste and if you are trying it for the first time I am sure it will get you hooked.
Broken rose rice (Unakkalari) – 2 cups
Jaggery crushed/powdered – 1 cup
Banana (Dwarf Cavendish/Palayankodan) pureed– 2 or 3
Coconut bits – ¼ cup
Freshly ground Cardamom – ½ tsp
Salt – a pinch
Ghee – 1tbsp
Coconut oil – for frying
- Wash and soak the rice preferably overnight in water or for 4-5 hours.
- Drain and spread the rice on a clean cotton cloth or parchment paper to remove the excess moisture.
- Once the water is dried out grind the rice in a mixer into a coarse powder and keep it aside.
- In a saucepan, melt the crushed jaggery with ¼th cup of water and strain the melted jaggery to remove the impurities if any.
- Fry the coconut bits in 1 tbsp. of ghee till golden brown and keep aside.
- Pour the melted jaggery, banana puree, and salt into the rice flour and mix it well to form a pourable consistency batter without any lumps.
- Add the coconut bits and cardamom powder to the batter mix it well and keep the batter covered for 60 minutes.
- Keep the Unniyappam kara on the stove and pour coconut oil into the holes in the pan to fill half way up and let it become hot but not smoking hot.
- Pour spoonful of batter into the oil to fill the holes and fry it on both the sides till its cooked and make sure the color doesn’t get darker beyond golden brown.
- Using readymade rice flour is not preferred as it will affect the texture and taste of the unniyappam.
- Dark brown jaggery should be used for best results.
- When using cast iron appa kara make sure you keep it seasoned with oil for smooth cooking.
- For authentic taste try not to substitute coconut oil with any other variety unless you don’t like the taste of it. Some people fry it in ghee but that is traditionally used to make neyyappam.
- Oil temperature is very crucial while making this as low temp. could get the unniyappam soggy and high could get it burnt soon. Also, do not keep adding oil into the pan while uniyappam is getting fried as this will make them soggy. Make sure you have enough oil heated up before pouring the batter.
- Flipping the unniyappam to the other side needs some practice but not that difficult. You can flip it with the help of a skewer.