Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Appam with crisp edges from The Ceylonese Affair

Pal appam (above) and egg appam sprinkled with black pepper.
Pal appam (above) and egg appam sprinkled with black pepper. ST PHOTO: ANJALI RAGURAMAN

Sri Lankan food is still not as readily available as other South Asian cuisines here, but The Ceylonese Affair champions a few standout dishes from the island.

The stall is located in the upscale foodcourt that is Wild Market, a series of stalls that has taken over what used to be a large Chinese seafood restaurant in Shaw Towers. The stalls sell everything from ramen and French cuisine to burgers and truffle fries.

The highlight for me at The Ceylonese Affair is the appam (laced, fermented rice pancakes), a relatively hard-to-find dish here that is a staple in parts of South India and Sri Lanka.

It is slightly pricey, with the plain, "pal" or coconut milk appam costing $3 a piece or $4.50 for a set of two. An egg appam is priced at $3.80, as are all the special flavoured appam. Newfangled flavours include chocolate, butterscotch, strawberry, chilli flakes and peanut, but the real test is how well the cooks make the original milk and egg versions.

The curved pancakes are made to order in special appam woks that sit on the side of the counter.

What is even more amazing is that instead of the usual Indian or Sri Lankan cooks, the appam is made by Chinese staff, something I have never seen before.

While the egg in the appam's thick, spongy centre is more overcooked than I would like, it is beautifully presented with a sprinkling of black pepper across the top.

  • THE CEYLONESE AFFAIR


    Wild Market, 01-27 Shaw Towers, 100 Beach Road, open: 10am to 10pm (Mondays to Thursdays and Sundays), 10am to 11pm (Fridays and Saturdays), tel: 9247-5319

    Rating: 3.5/5

It looks and tastes authentic. The lacy edge of the appam is also a sight to behold and perfectly crisp.

The stall also provides red sugar and jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) on the side to dip torn pieces of appam in.

However, the appam is doused in coconut milk before serving. Perhaps they should consider serving the coconut milk separately, since the appam ends up soggy after a while.

At most other establishments that sell the dish, it is usually available only at breakfast or tea time, since the appam flour runs out quickly, so I appreciate that it is available all day at the stall.

Also available is Ceylonese dum biryani, based on the recipe by the stall owner's grandmother. Diners can pick from chicken or vegetarian versions ($10.90), or mutton or fish ($11.90).

I order the chicken biryani, which comes in a silver pot, with pappadum and achar on the side, and it is clear that the generous portion is big enough for two to share.

The fall-off-the-bone tender and flavourful chicken comes buried in the fragrant rice, along with a hardboiled egg.

There is also idiyappam (also known as putu mayam or string hoppers), priced at $3.50 for a set of two, that comes with sugar or sothy (a coconut gravy).

The range of dishes is limited, but the decision to focus on a few dishes means that they can do them well. Also, it is a treat to be able to find appam in the heart of the Beach Road area.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'Authentic appam with perfectly crisp edges'. Print Edition | Subscribe