The humble pappadam was the star of the evening news debates and media reports a few weeks ago when it was revealed that the pappadam in the Onam kit, supplied by the government, was of substandard quality. However, it didn't affect Malayalis' love for pappadam and its perfect crunchiness. Moreover, sadya, or the traditional feast isn't complete without the round and crispy pappadam on the side of the plantain leaf.
Urad dal powder, pappada karam (sodium bicarbonate), sesame oil, and salt are the main ingredients in pappadam. Rice flour is sprinkled on the surface to make it smooth and non-sticky. Earlier, pappadams were made in houses as a cottage industry. But, making pappadams at houses stopped after the price of the raw materials skyrocketed. Now, machine-made pappadams produced on an industrial basis are mostly sold in the markets.
Pappadams are also made using cheaper ingredients like all-purpose flour, corn flour and bajji batter or gram flour. These pappadams are of low quality and may cause many health problems as well. Besides, making pappdams using poor quality oil and bicarbonate can be harmful too. At times, harsh chemicals like sodium carbonate and sodium benzoate are added in pappadams for flavour and texture.
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To check whether the pappadam is of high quality and is made using proper ingredients, soak the pappadams for half an hour in water. If the dough separates and dissolves, then the pappdam is original; or else it is adulterated.
Viswanathan, owner of Karuna Pappadam who has been working in this industry for the last 40 years says that if the pappadam is made using clean urad dal alone, then it would completely dissolve in water. The pappadams that are expired would lose its flavour, smell and colour as well. Old and expired pappadams would get a light red colour in the beginning and then slowly turn black.
"The urad dal in pappadam can aid digestion. Besides, the protein is amazing for health. Pappadams become dangerous when preservatives are added in more amounts and poor quality flours are used. As it has high salt content, people with kidney ailments should stay away from pappadam.
Moreover, people with high blood pressure and heart ailments, too, shouldn't consume too many pappadams. Cholesterol patients could eat pappdams that are roasted over flame instead of the ones that are fried in oil," says Dr Sujetha Abraham, senior dietician (retd), Kottayam Medical College.
Expires pappadams are dangerous and can affect health. Pappadams are vulnerable to fungal attacks.
The presence of urad dal in pappadam could aid digestion.
It is better to avoid consuming pappadams if you have acidity.
Varieties of pappadams like the tiny kutti pappadam, flavoursome masala pappadam and spicy pepper pappadam are available in the market.
In the North Indian states, pappadam is called papad. Meanwhile, it is happala in Karnataka, appadam in Andhra Pradesh, and appalam in Tamil Nadu.