Papadams are thin disc-shaped flatbread-like sides originating in South India. Its main ingredient is peeled black gram (vigna mungo) – made into flour, kneaded into dough, rolled out into thin round discs, and sun-dried until it is a dry yet pliable consistency meaning it will not crack when you fold the papadam disc.
The best way to cook papadams is to fry them. It yields the crunchiest and crispiest papadams. Alternatively, you can also roast them in a skillet on medium heat. Papadams cook up very fast; you need to watch them, or they will burn. I have personally burnt them at times when multitasking in the kitchen. Therefore, it is essential to patiently stay by the side and remove them from the heat as soon as they puff up and turn golden brown.
Papadams, traditionally served in South Indian restaurants as appetizers or snacks, have now become famous not only in India but across the world. They add a great crunchy texture to rice, dal, or even salads and vegetable curries. But the potential of papadams should not be limited to just a side dish. Texturally and flavor-wise, papadams are great for serving, along with dips, sauces, and chutneys. I enjoy papadam as a solo snack with pestos and salsas. Once, a didi added pieces of raw papadam to tomato chutney and cooked the papadam. It tasted delicious! After that, I tried it several times, and they tasted yummylicious – like giant sheets of spaghetti!
Papadams are known in different places by different names. For example, in Tamil Nadu, they’re called Appalam. In Kerala, they are known as papadum (with a U). In most parts of North India, they are known as papad, and in the west, papadams are sometimes referred to as fried bread. Interestingly, papadams have a rich history and culinary past and are associated with women’s empowerment in India.
Making papad at home from scratch is an unbelievably time-consuming and tedious process. The easiest option is to buy a packet from an Indian grocery store. However, cooking papadam is easy, simple, and quick and requires just 5 to 10 minutes to get through a batch of 10 papadams, and the outcome is a yummy, crispy side dish or appetizer.
- 1 packet urad dal papadam
- 1 cup coconut oil or ghee (for frying)
To toast the papadam, place it in a toaster and cook until it is crispy and baked.
Heat the oil in a skillet or pan over medium-high heat.
Add the papadams one at a time and cook for 2 to 5 seconds, when you deep fry till golden brown. When you pan over medium heat on very little surface oil it will few seconds more. Once cooked, the papadams will enlarge and become almost twice their original size.
Rest the fried papadams on a wired rack to drain out excess oil for 5 minutes, and serve.