So pleased to have begun the new year with this new dish in my breakfast and lunch-box repertoire !
For brunch today I made paniyaram (more correctly, Kuzhi Paniyaram, which is the formal name of this dish in Tamilnadu), a sort of idli but one that is different to the latter in three or four chief ways. The former are much smaller in size; are cooked by stove-top baking instead of by steaming -as idlis are; and they have a lot more flavor because of the addition of a variety of things – grated ginger, a tempering with mustard seeds and curry leaves, and sautéed onions – to regular idli batter. Of course, the shapes are quite different too. Paniarams look quite like muffins, unlike the distinctive, flying saucer-like shape of idlis.
I re-discovered paniyaram at breakfast one day during our recent trip to Nasik, and was glad to see that Noor and Shri seemed to like them quite a bit. In fact both the girls said they knew these from their friends’ lunch boxes. So I wasted no time in picking up a paniyaram pan on my first trip to Dorabjee after we got back, so pleased was I to find another possibility for a healthy snack!
Paniyarams are so simple to make too. Here’s how I made them this morning, after browsing through some recipes I found online –
Masala Kuzhi Paniaram
(makes about 18)
14-16 tablespoons of idli batter (of a cake-batter-like consistency, and to which enough salt has been added already)
3/4 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
2 quite small onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of skinless urad daal
1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander leaves
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil, for tempering
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
a few finely chopped curry leaves
1 or 2 finely chopped green chillies (optional but will add a great zing)
some oil to coat the holes in the paniaram pan
In a small pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When these begin to splutter, add the daal and as its grains start to turn pink, add the onion and sauté till the daal is a golden brown and the onions are soft. Add this mixture, the ginger and the coriander to the batter and mix everything well.
Heat the paniyaram pan over medium heat, after drizzling just a little oil (2-3 drops will do) in to each indentation so that it’s sides are coated. Now add a tablespoon (and perhaps a little more, depending on the size of the indentations) of batter to each slot in the pan and then cover the pan to allow the batter to cook. Each paniyaram will rise like a cupcake as it happens. When the sides start to look done (this will take just a few minutes) – tip out one or two of these little beauties to check for a slightly crispy, golden color all over the sides at this point – flip over each one to cook the other side till it is a very light golden color too.
Et voila. In just a few, un-messy minutes- for I LOVE how easily these close cousins to the idli come out of the cooking pan – you have the makings of a great breakfast. Some piping hot sambhaar and a tangy coconut chutney – and it’s good to go !
Interesting trivia that I gathered on this one from googling for the recipe – the pan used for these little idlis is of the exact same kind that they use in Denmark for a particular kind of pancake. Because these pancakes were traditionally made with bits of apple, the pan is called an “ebleskiver” (Danish for apple slices) pan. So basically you could make paniyarams anywhere in the world, as long as you’ve bought yourself an ebeleskiver pan ! Really neat, I thought, this serendipitous sameness of cooking forms/gizmos in two parts of the world so distant and different from each other.