From Syria with love

Food, travel and lifestyle writer Johanna Derry has joined the Kerala Experience to explore the colour and taste of South India’s culinary heartland.

At the start of this adventure, we learned how many different cultures and nationalities, all brought to Kerala by trade, all have had an impact on the food here. For our next masterclass we were focussing on Syrian Christian dishes.

‘What makes it obviously Syrian in origin?’ I asked the chef. ‘It’s not as hot…’ he ventured. I suspect he may have been guessing. Nevertheless, I think I might have found one of my favourite Keralan dishes on his masterclass menu – Suriyani Appam.

Appam is found in the name of most of the breads we’ve been eating here. It’s a kind of pancake batter made from different flours and in different shapes, with different seasonings added, but always Appam.

Suriyani Appam is a Syrian twist on the Keralan savoury pancake. It starts with semolina mixed with warm water into a paste. This is added to rice flour and then with water turned into dough. But unlike batter, which involves eggs, these appam have fast action yeast and a spot of sugar added to make it rise. That’s the basic mix. To add the twist we added coconut, cardamom, and cumin, whizzed up fine in a food processor, mixed it all together, and let the whole thing stand for a couple of hours while the yeast got to work.

Once the yeast has taken effect in the batter, you ladle an amount onto a hot griddle, letting it spread itself out into what looked like a greeny-yellow pikelet. Doesn’t sound so appealing, but bite into one and you’ll see – it’s slightly sweet and coconuty, but with an edge that makes it the perfect complement to a spicy masala roast. God bless the Syrian Christians.


Johanna is a freelance journalist, writing for publications including The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Financial Times.

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