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My Most Intriguing Pan

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I brough back from the Spice Coast of Malabar this bronze 'unniappan' pan to cook banana-coconut fritters just like they do inKerala. Heavier than an anvil but a resounding success!

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I visited India over the New Year and as you expected bought more cookware than I could carry. Down the Spice Coast, in the beautiful state of Kerala, I found this intriguing bronze unniappam pan. You can buy some in cast iron or even - God forbids - non-stick pans. But the real thing is in bronze. The pan has a very intriguing shape, with the bottom (picture) looking like a Hindu Goddess breast. This makes you wonder: can you have too much or too many of a good thing?

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Unniappam
Coconut-banana fritters from Kerala
100gr jaggery
1 cup water
1 cup rice flour
0.5 cup coconut fried in ghee
0.5 cup mashed banana
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon same bicarbonate

Unniappam pans are used for a variety of ball-shaped dishes but my favorites are the ping-pong-ball-sized coconut-banana fritters fried in coconut oil. Most people don't have such a special pan at home, so just look at how it's made and then do the alternative deep-fried version I published earlier.

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Start by heating a cup of water with 100gr of jaggery (palm-tree sugar) until the sugar dissolves.

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Scrape the inside of a coconut until you can fill half a cup.

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Fry in ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil until it turns light brown.

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Mix the rice flour with the sugar and bicarbonate of soda (baking powder), then add the banana mashed to a pulp and the fried coconut. Pour the jaggery syrup on top ...

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... and mix thoroughly.

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You can use a plunging mixer to get a really smooth batter.

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Heat the unniappam pan over the fire. I suppose you could do this on an electric stove but gas here is an advantage.

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Fill the pan cavities with coconut oil. How much oil exactly? Some books recommend to fill each cavity to a third, which is what you see on these pictures, but I had success with less oil. Use heat-resistant kitchen brush to oil the entire cavity including the rim.

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Fill with batter up to the rim.

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Fry on a moderate heat. If the heat is too high the crust will burn before the inside is cooked through. Nobody wants raw batter in his mouth.

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You can turn the fritters halfway through the cooking so that they are cooked on both sides. I don't think you can achieve perfectly spherical shapes and I've never seen any so far. Why? If you turn the unniappam when the batter is still runny inside, it will flow out and you'll have two pieces soaked in oil. You can't really glue them back together. If however you wait until the batter is hard, then when you turn it upside down you'll have a flattish bottom. But if you serve them laid on their flat backs people won't mind and all they'll see is perfect hemispherical top (photo).

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Serve as a snack for tea. The caramelized jaggery sugar develops extraordinary flavors, and the inside is fragrant and juicy, warm and conforting. I love India!

Published 21/01/2008
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22 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by cheese_puff
  • on: 21/01/2008
I just got a similar pan for myself! But the label said it's a danish thing, and it's used to make aebleskiver.  No "nipple" at the bottom though. Maybe it's a coincidence?
  • #2
  • Comment by Andrea
  • on: 21/01/2008
Hi!Lovely pan, really! I need to confess that I saw something very similar, but with less noble material, in Germany.
  • #3
  • Comment by TaratheFoodie
  • on: 21/01/2008
Wow, that's interesting.  I've never seen a pan like that before.  At first glance, it looks a little x-rated.  haha...  Those fritters look very tasty, too.  
  • #4
  • Comment by Infoodel
  • on: 21/01/2008
Intriguing pan and delicious looking results!The cooking principle seems similar to making individual yorkshire puddings...minus the baking part.
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 22/01/2008
Thanks a lot Cheese Puff, you made my day with your reference of aebleskiver! This sounds like a gorgeous Danish recipe for my unniappam pan. Apparently I have much to learn with this pan, you can flip the half balls with a knitting needle and obtain crispy spheres.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 22/01/2008
Yes quite an obscene cooking implement, but very heavy and great for frying fritters until they are caramelized!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 22/01/2008
These fritters might end up being even tastier than Yorkshire pudding methink!
  • #8
  • Comment by avital
  • on: 24/01/2008
OMG!! je suis très "jalouse" de ton ustensile. Déjà, à la base, j'adore tout ce qui est ancien et traditionnel, mais là.. en bronze!!! C'est un objet d'art superbe.. Et je trouve aussi qu'il a quelque chose de l'ustensile danois qui sert à faire les aebleskiver.. en beaucoup plus noble.. et sexy!
  • #9
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 26/01/2008
Nice to know you were in india, fx, if I had known you were visting, and had you come up North to Delhi, I would have mailed you the the latest restaraunt list). Your adirshtams ( the tamil word for this sweet from our neighboring state)certainly took me back to the days when my grandmother was alive. I suspect the nipple shape is because the bronze has been cast in the millenia-old "lost wax" method, where you make a wax mould, cover it with clay, bake it hard, pour out the molten wax and pour in the molten bronze. If so, fx you are part of a hoary continuum - south india used to export metalware to Rome two thousand years ago!
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 28/01/2008
Parshu I tried to reach you in December for some restaurants tips but it was too late. Do not worry, I ate my fill in rather extraordinary restaurants all over India and very much look forward to come back and try some more. The Taj hotels certainly have a most impressive collection of restaurants.
  • #11
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 28/01/2008
Avital c'est en effet un poelon magnifique et qui ne coûte qu'une bouchée de pain en Inde! Dommage qu'il ne soit pas vendu à l'étranger, ça ferait un tabac au Danemark. Je vais bientôt essayer les Aebleskiver dans cet instrument intriguant. A bientôt!
  • #12
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 29/01/2008
I'm glad you ate well fx, the Taj group has been in the forefront of promoting India's rich variety of regional cuisines, because Punjabi dhaba (diner) & Tandoori food had come to represent Indian cuisine internationally, and of course it is much more vast and varied  and cutting edge UK restaurants like the Michelin starrerd Quilon (Malabar), portes des Indes ( indian fusion), Veeraswamy's (North Indian) and Chutney Mary (anglo-Indian) are flying the flag for Indian regional cuisines internationally.
  • #13
  • Comment by Jamie Hall
  • on: 04/02/2008
I really liked the recipe for the unniappan banana coconut fritters. I did not have the traditional indian pan, but found that my Danish Æbleskiver pan was similar in design and worked wonder fully.
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/02/2008
An Æbleskiver pan is definitely the perfect tool for this - but have you been able to get ball-shaped unniappans? What did you use to turn them?
  • #15
  • Comment by cheese_puff
  • on: 06/02/2008
I think the trick to get a perfect sphere is to give the batter some support--using whipped egg whites. Otherwise the heavy batter would collapse and go straight to the bottom. I made some perfect aebleskivers(pics in my blog)and the whipped egg whites really helped~ I know it's not the original recipe, but hey..if you want a sphere! Good luck, FX!
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/02/2008
I need to try those aebleskivers! Beaten egg whites are always a nice way to introduce zillion of air bubbles, perhaps it will work to make them round as well.
  • #17
  • Comment by Jim
  • on: 06/04/2008
Unniappams? Nice :) I have fond memories of mom making these for festivals. I think the flavour of the finished product depends a lot on the kind of bananas used. I'm sure you would have noticed the bewildering variety of bananas available in Kerala... too bad there isn't such a variety elsewhere. The kind shown in the second picture seems about right.
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 07/04/2008
Jim, we are fortunate to have many fine immigrants from Sri Lanka here in Lausanne, and there are now half a dozen grocery stores operated by and for Sri Lankans. We find lots of unusual fruits and original bananas. Not Kerala, but not far either!
  • #19
  • Comment by Apu
  • on: 22/04/2008
Chanced upon your site when looking for the perfect Uniappam recipe. Super pan, and the appams brought back memories of festivals in India. I myself use an Æbleskiver pan. Congrats of the site, I loved your introduction - your passion for good food and cooking really shows in this fab site.
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 23/04/2008
Apu, thanks for your comment! Æbleskiver pans are exactly the same as uniappam pans for all I know, so no worry.
  • #21
  • Comment by Ria
  • on: 17/01/2011
Hi...awesome recipe...u can use the same pan for making appams...
  • #22
  • Comment by neethu chacko
  • on: 20/05/2011
WONDERFULL SITE...I always search for sites which picturize the recipe than letterizing. your site is amazing!!! the snaps ..AM SPEECHLESS. GO AHEAD..GLAD U EVEN TRIED My kerala recipe too, unniyappam is a traditional sweet for us Keralites..Looking forward to great recipes...

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