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What Is Uttapam?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sometimes written as uttappa, uttapam is a type of flat bread originating from south India. Similar in creation to the crepe-like dosa, the dough is made from rice and lentils, then allowed to ferment. Uttapam is thicker than dosa, however, and is often made with chopped vegetables.

Dough for making Uttapam is made from approximately two portions rice, often basmati, and one portion black or white gram dal, a type of lentil. Both are ground, either by hand or using a food processor, and then salt, sugar, and baking soda may be added before the mixture is left to fermet for 4 to 15 hours. Fermentation is evident by a change in texture and a rising level of batter in the bowl. Properly made batter will be thick but flowing.

Once the batter is prepared, it is poured on a griddle or frying pan like pancakes. Generally each uttapam is about 4 inches (10 cm) across. A spoon may be used to spread and even out the batter once on the griddle. Uttapam should be relatively thick, however, so spreading the batter too thin will result in poorly made bread.

An alternative to grinding the rice and lentils is to use rice flour and urid flour. Often referred to as instant batter, using flour is not said to change the taste and eliminates the need for a lot of grinding. A ratio of two parts rice flour to one part urid flour is recommended.

As the uttapam cooks, chopped vegetables are placed on each piece. Onions and tomatoes are the most common vegetables used, but chiles, corn, or carrots are also sometimes included. Spices, such as cilantro, may be added as well.

During cooking, olive oil is sprinkled over the edges of the flat bread and the vegetables. The uttapam is allowed to cook until the surface is bubbling, and then each piece is flipped to allow cooking on the other side. Alternatively, the bread may be broiled for one or two minutes after it begins to bubble. If desired, salt may be added to the finished dish for taste.

Uttapam is often served with sambhar, a lentil curry also originating in southern India. In addition to lentils, sambhar contains onions, coconut, and eggplant, as well as some spices that are common to Indian food, such as curry, turmeric, and tamarind pulp. A simple coconut chutney may also be paired with uttapam.

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