Kerala Vegetable Stew / Ishtew and Aapam
Whenever I visit a new city in our out of the country, I make it a point to visit the local supermarkets. Nothing reflects the local culture, food habits and buying preferences of people in that city as much as the local supermarket. You might find that crazy but major of my shopping ends up being from the food section of these stores, be it in London, or my trip to Kuala Lumpur last year...I even enjoyed doing the same during my week's stay in Hyderabad end of last year
In Mumbai, although I regular shop in a couple of stores closer to home, sometimes it is just convenient to stop by a large store if you are on the way from somewhere to save time and fuel. That's how I chanced upon this really huge store that carries almost everything under the sun. It was fun to see them carry a whole range of south Indian 'bhakshanam' (snacks), papads and even interesting mixes like aapam mixes, puttu mixes, instant sevai etc. Being located close to south Indian localities, we find regional variations in what is stocked by these stores
Since I had never tried making aapam before, I decided to try out this pack of Rice Paalaapam mix, which required not much effort to get it right. This packet has been lying in my 'extra groceries' shelf for over 4 months and last night I realised it is high time I brought it out, also since I had run out of aata (doesn't speak much for my housekeeping skills does it?) the aapams were a good substitute for rotis
Kerala cuisine has a variety of aapams, all made with nearly the same basic ingredients - ground rice, coconut, yeast or toddy for fermenting, salt and sugar. The fermentation gives the final product a soft spongy texture that is perfect for mopping up gravies or liquids such as the stew. Although I used a ready mix this time over, I will most surely give the homemade aapam batter a try next time, especially since this combination received a double thumbs up from the husband. He loved every bit of the stew aapam combo and I have another quick dinner idea to cheer him after a hard day at work!
The stew took hardly 15 minutes of effort (I use either powdered or packaged coconut milk, that explains it) and the aapams are made walking around between the dining and kitchen, amidst conversations and TV and it is no effort at all. We both eat as they are getting made, hot off the pan, so this can never be a sit-down dinner for us!
This is the first time I tried something proper Keralite in my kitchen, if you minus the kootans, avials, araicha sambars we make as a part of our Iyer recipes. After going through a few stew recipes online and on the food forum, on a whim I decided to omit the shallots / onions, and use a pinch of turmeric and sambar powder. The sambar powder added a nice flavour without making the stew taste 'sambary' at all. Turmeric was just to turn the stew to a light golden yellow as I am not a big fan of milky white curries. And while we were nearly 3/4 of the way to finishing the stew I remembered reading about RCI Kerala, so managed to take a quick pic of the quickly diminishing stew :)
Vegetable Stew - Kerala style with Aapam
Category - Quick dinner, Stew, Regional Cuisine of India
Time Taken - Under 20 minutes for stew and over a minute per aapam
Stew serves 2-3 people generously
- In a pan, place over 1/2 cup water with the cauliflower florets and green peas. Cover with tight fitting lid and boil for 4-5 minutes, until both veggies are tender yet crisp. Keep aside.
- In a wok, heat the oil. Stir in the whole spices and then the chillies, ginger and curry leaves. After 30 seconds, add the cubed potatoes, peas and cauliflower along with the water used for boiling. Season with salt, turmeric powder and sambar powder. Stir well. Once this comes to a simmer, add a cup of coconut milk. Let this come to a gentle simmer and then remove from flame.
- Keep this covered for over an hour.
- Grease a tsp of oil on a rounded aapam pan or any non stick pan. Wipe with a tissue to spread the oil all over the surface. On a moderately hot pan, pour a ladle of the batter, and rotate the pan around to spread the batter into a circle. Cover and cook on medium flame. Aapams are cooked only on one side unlike dosas that are flipped over and cooked on both sides. Remove and serve hot with stew.
Note:For Aapams - I used the ready Rice Palaapam mix (Fine rice flour with yeast) to be reconstituted with water, salt and a pinch of sugar.
For Variations-You can also break an egg in the center portion of the aapam while its cooking and cover for over 1-2 minutes. The white gets cooked fully and the yellow is slightly jiggly. Crack some pepper and salt into this and you can dip the edges of the lacy aapam into the soft egg before taking a dig into the stew.
This is my submission for RCI Kerala hosted by Jyothsana at Curry Bazaar.