A staple at the breakfast tables of Navayaths, a Muslim community of Arab stock settled mainly in and around Bhatkal (Karnataka, India), is the family favourite — appo. Equivalent to pancake/crêpe depending upon the ingredients and methods used, the sheer variety of traditional appo (plural: appey), many of them unique to the community, will amaze you!
Like every other pancake or crêpe, the basic ingredients used for most varieties are flour, egg and water. The uniqueness of appo, both sweet and savoury blends, is the special ingredients used in the batter, which is easy to whip up and fun to get creative with. The simple and most common variety is the ‘pathal appo’, delicately thin and lacy crêpes, and is a hot favourite. The pathal appo can be whipped up in minutes with basic on-hand ingredients. An age-old traditional recipe, this crêpe is usually topped with ghee and sugar; it can also be served with different toppings such as Nutella and slices of banana, peanut butter with brown sugar.
‘Hauka appo’, prepared using only basmati rice and grated coconut, is another popular pancake. Since the Navayath settlement in Bhatkal is on the coast, the use of coconut is widespread in many dishes, including the hauka appo, which is mostly eaten with dal/chicken curry or chutney.
Among a host of varieties found on the Navayath community menu, are urdha appo (boiled rice, half cup of white rice and urad dhal), kazuwa appo (of cashew apple), kela appo (of banana), fansa goda appo (of jackfruit), tariye appo (of semolina), fauwa appo (of beaten rice), to malpuras (savoury and sweet crêpes) and mattappam (maida, cooked rice and egg), and watallo thalla appo. Another favourite is goda appo, a thicker version of the regular dosa, made of two or three varieties of rice and jaggery ground together and fermented overnight with a little salt and baking soda.
But if you are health conscious, go for the shoupana appo (of dill leaves) and naasna appo (of ragi).
Farhiin Mohtisham, a Dubai-based food blogger, says, “The versatile pathal appo can be made a savoury version called teek appo by adding chicken masala to the batter, and can be prepared as malpura appo by adding sooji and sugar to the batter, to make the crêpes crisp.” Mohtisham has a Facebook page ‘Tastes of Bhatkal’ and a YouTube channel dedicated to promoting the cuisine of Navayaths since 2012.
The new gen appo
If you are inclined to be creative, you can tweak the recipe by adding fun elements. It might sound like culinary fusion gone awry, but the result could be surprisingly delectable. Here’s one recipe with a twist by Mohtisham: “Though appo is a staple breakfast/dinner item, many variants of this have evolved. Appo manifests itself into different forms — bafaqqi poli, al absra poli, appa gudio, saath padra nawariyo.” A filling variant of the appo is the ‘appa gudiyo’, where the delicate crêpes are stuffed with either a sweet coconut stuffing or a savoury chicken stuffing.”
Bafaqqi poli, a popular baked dish made with layers of appo stacked together in between layers of a rich sweet filling prepared with lots of eggs, sugar and dried fruits, and then baked to perfection in a circular dish.
Al basra poli is the savoury version of bafaqqi poli, prepared similarly in a round baking tin with multiple layers of appo sandwiched with chicken masala, and baked in the oven like a cake. This variety is prepared mainly on occasions like a wedding or parties. Saath padra nawari is another family favourite prepared for special occasions. The batter is prepared with lots of eggs, coconut milk, rice and sugar, and a dash of cardamom powder. The method of cooking saath padra nawari is to first prepare a single crepe cooked till crisp, then folded into a semi circle, the batter is then poured on the empty side to complete the circle, the thicker half is then flipped on the opposite side or on top of the newly added half crêpe, and this process is repeated on alternate sides, until many layers are added.
Appo with a twist
With the new generation getting creative, various twists have been given to traditional appo recipes. Shoupapana mattappam is a new idea proposed by Farhiin Mohtisham. “Matta, meaning egg in south India, and appam meaning appo in the Navayathi language, this pancake is made with a special ingredient, dill leaves (called shopapaney in Navayathi language) juice, lots of eggs, just the right amount of maida and a little cooked rice,” she says. “This type of appo requires to be fermented overnight, and is prepared the next day like a pancake, and served with coconut milk and sugar. The taste is heavenly.”
The iconic Bhatkal Restaurant in Al Ras, Deira, which specialises in the cuisine of the Navayaths of Bhatkal, has a variety of appo on their menu.
Recipes by Farhiin Mohtisham
Shoupapana Matta Appam
Al Basra Poli
Ingredients for stuffing:
Al basra assembling