December 8, 2007

Achappam (Rose Cookies)

e are Hindu and don’t celebrate Christmas. I have, however, spent a large part of my childhood and adulthood living in places where Christmas is celebrated. Now, my next door neighbour also celebrates Christmas and we look forward to the variety of food, cake and chocolates they always bring over.

Our daughter has this little tree (artificial) she loves to decorate and put up in our living room. In fact, for a long time she used to believe in Santa Claus and would be thrilled by the presents he brought for her. She used to be very worried that Santa would give her a miss as we didn’t have a chimney ( her books told her this was how he came) so I used to tell her he would come through the open window!
So, in tune with the spirit of the season, I thought I should do a post about some food typical of Christmas in Kerala.

Christmas in Kerala is celebrated as in other parts of the world, with families getting together and putting up Christmas cribs, attending special masses and eating good food. Christmas trees are not a tradition (probably because they don’t grow here) though stars are put up in Christian homes in December. While I am not sure about the details of the traditional fare served for Christmas, I know it is mostly non-vegetarian. Traditionally foods prepared for Christmas include plum or fruit cake, vattayappam, palappam, kozhalappam and achappam.

Of these, achappam is a favourite with us, whatever the season. “Achu” refers to the mould used to make this and “appam” is a general name for a batter, usually of rice flour, that is deep-fried or steamed.
One of my cookie books has a recipe for rosette cookies from Europe (made using a mould) which is made from all purpose flour and deep-fried. This might be the origin of the achappam. GIven the the Dutch and the Portuguese have influenced Christian cuisine in Kerala especially of those foods connected to important celebrations like Easter and Christmas, it is logical to assume that the Achappam in Kerala is an adpatation of the Dutch "Rose Koekje".

To make an achappam you need a special iron mould which is dipped in the batter and then lowered into the oil. The achappam leaves the mould and is fried till cooked. This technique is what has to be learnt. This comes only with practice. I should know. I finally got it right today. Earlier, the batter would stick to the mould and refuse to come off.

The best moulds are the ones made of iron (not stainless steel) and the heavier the mould the better.The moulds need to be seasoned by immersing them in oil in a wok and then heating them with the oil. Once the Achappam have been made, let the mould cool and then wash it well but without removing the oily completely.
Otherwise, make sure a very thin layer of oil is applied on it before you put it away. This ensures that the mould stays seasoned and also does not develop rust spots.

This video from a television show is a good demonstration of how Achappam is made in Kerala.
Achappam (Rose Cookies)


1 cup fine rice flour

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup thick coconut milk (120ml, this would be from 1 coconut)
(I used 25g coconut milk powder dissolved in 120ml water)

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp black sesame seeds

oil for deep frying

(Traditional recipes use only rice flour and no baking powder)


Mix all the ingredients to make a slightly thick batter (like for dosas or pancakes).

Heat the oil with the mould in it because the metal of the mould needs to heat up for the batter to coat it. If the mould is not hot enough, or too hot the batter will not coat it properly.

Turn the heat to medium, dip the mould into the batter making sure that the batter comes only upto just below the top edge of the mould, and then lower into the oil.If the mould is dipped completely into the batter, the Achappam will not come off the mould into the oil.

Agitate the mould very slightly and the achappam will slide into the oil. Fry till light brown on both sides and allow to drain on a paper towel. Use up the batter this way. Store in airtight containers.

Note: Natural fresh pressed coconut milk is the best. In a pinch the packaged coconut milk, whether liquid or dehydrated (powdered), also works well.

I am sending these to Susan at Food Blogga for her Christmas Cookies from Around the World


VegeYum @ A Life (Time) of Cooking said...

Xmas is an interesting time of year if you are not christian, isn't it? How wonderful it is to learn about others, celebrate our differences and love our own (native or adopted) cultures. In the short time that I have been blogging, I have learned so much more than I expected. Even tho i have travelled a lot and experienced many things, it is so very wonderful and different to hear directly from people about their own ways, traditions, thoughts, festivals and so forth.

You may be interested in Pancha Ganapati, a celebration of Ganesha held over five days in December. You can get details at these places:
or my favourite:

Have you heard of it? It is a beautiful contemporary festival that allows us to also partake of gift giving and other activities, but with a Hindu spirit. I love it very much.

Happy Pancha Ganapati!

Happy cook said...

I love achappam, my mom used to make them a lot when we were at home. I have neve made them don't have the achhu to make it. One of my friends have gone to kerala for holiday and have asked her to bring one for me if she finds it other wise have to wait till my sis comes for visiting me in may

aparna said...

Happy Cook, Make sure the acchu that is bought is made of iron and a bit thick and heavy. The simpler the design on the acchu, the better the achappam would turn out. I just realised this and need to get a new one.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Hi Arpana,

Thank you for submitting a unique and beautiful cookie to Eat Christmas Cookies. I really enjoyed reading your post--it's always fun to learn about new cultures and cuisines. -Susan

Rachel said...

We love achapams and always had to wait for some family member from Kerala to bring back some...Those were different looking though probably because of the different achus used..

Red Chillies said...

You have been tagged:

Swaroopa said...

cool...i love these, grew up eating a lot of these...will try it here.

sagari said...

my mom use to make these when i was going to school your looks soooo yummy

aparna said...

Achappams are something I also grew up eating, though mostly during our once-in-two-years vacation to India. This was one of the foods I wanted to make and was happy they finally turned out right. They tasted a lot better than they look.

Laavanya said...

I love these and get them whenever I go to the grocery store.

Cakelaw said...

These are truly beautiful works of art - I have never seen anything like them before.

Shankari said...

OMG! I got the achu from india and was looking for a good recipe..thanks a ton!

aparna said...

Thanks, again and my pleasure, Shankari.

michelle said...

Such beautiful cookies! Best of luck in the finals!

chithra said...

hi aparna,first time in ur a nice recipe of achappam..i will try it very soon..thx for sharing!

solai said...

Thankyou Archana.Has been looking for this recipe for a long time.Lot of good recipes

Aparna said...

Happy to share a recipe that's worked for me.

intlxpatr said...

I posted about making rosettes at Christmas, and one of my commenters referred me to your blog. Oh WOW. I want one of those irons! They make the most gorgeous rosettes!

Ours are simpler in design, and simpler in composition. Yours are truly amazing!

Aparna said...


Thank you. I have seen, in many houses back home, many different patterned cookie irons. These are usually made by ironsmiths and so the pattern would depend on who makes them and where they're made.

Sharmila said...

Hi Aparna! Thanks so much for this recipe. I tried making them following your tips and they came out good. Just one question .. after a while the mould just would not hold the batter any more. Can you please tell me why? I have an aluminium mould.
Thanks again. :-)

Aparna said...

Happy to know they turned out well.
I'm not too sure, but one reason could be that the mould was not hot enough. Then the batter slides off the mould. While you fry the achappam, keep the mould resting in the hot oil.

Sharmila said...

Thanks so much Aparna for the quick reply. Yes, the batter was sliding off the mould. Will keep this in mind the next time. Thanks again :-)

seema said...

hi aparna,I googled for achappam recipe and got me here.Looks very appealing.I have a question,do you beat the egg first (if so how long) and then add all the other ingredients?

Aparna said...

Hi Seema, I hope this recipe works for you too.
You don't really need to beat the egg. Just enough to mix it well and then add to the other ingredients.
At least, that's how I did it.

Malaysian Delicacies said...

Just came across ur blog, ur achappam design is so luvly, we cant get mould like this in Malaysia... the achappam recipe that I do is slightly different, but I will try out ur recipe too...thx for sharing.

Aparna said...

Thank you, MD and happy to share my recipe. I hope it works for you.