A papadum is a thin, crisp, disc-shaped food from the Indian subcontinent; typically based on a seasoned dough usually made from peeled black gram flour (urad flour), either fried or cooked with dry heat (usually flipping it over an open flame). Flours made from other sources such as lentils, chickpeas, rice, tapioca, or potato can be used.
Papadums are typically served as an accompaniment to a meal in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka or as an appetizer or snack, sometimes with toppings such as chopped onions, chopped carrots, chutneys or other dips, and condiments. In Pakistan, these are made of rice and often used as a snack vs meal accompaniment. In certain parts of India, papadums which have been dried but not cooked are used in curries and vegetable dishes.
Papadums are called appalam in Tamil Nadu, pappadum in Kerala, appadam in Andhra/Telangana, happala in Karnataka, and papad in other parts of India.
Papadums are mainly made in Rajasthan and Maharastra in the north. In the south, Kerala, Madurai district in Tamil Nadu, Kanchipuram, and Chennai are major pappad or appalam manufacturers.
Papadum recipes vary from region to region and from family to family. They are typically made from flour or paste derived from either lentils, chickpeas, black gram (urad flour), rice, or potato.
Salt and peanut oil are added to make a dough, which can be flavored with seasonings such as chili, cumin, garlic, or black pepper. Sometimes, baking soda or slaked lime is also added. The dough is shaped into a thin, round flatbread and then dried (traditionally in the sun), and can be cooked by deep frying, roasting over an open flame, toasting, or microwaving, depending on the desired texture.
There are different varieties of papadam like chickpeas, green grams, black grams, Potato, Rice, etc. Bikaner is the hub of chickpea and green gram papadam manufacturing. Potato Papadam is made in Varanasi. Most sweets and snack selling national companies are also involved in this business like Haldiram, Bikanerwala, Mishrambu, Lijjat, Shri Shyam Papad, etc.
Papadam can be prepared from different ingredients and methods. Arguably, the most popular recipe uses flour ground from hulled split black grams (urad dal). Black gram flour is mixed with black pepper, salt, and a small amount of vegetable oil and a food-grade alkalai, and the mixture is kneaded. A well-kneaded dough is then flattened into very thin rounds and then dried and stored for later preparation and consumption. Papadam may also contain rice, jackfruit, sabudana, etc., as main ingredients. Cracked black pepper, red chilli powder, asafoetida, or cumin or sesame seeds are often used as flavouring agents.
Papadam is often associated with the empowerment of women in India. Many individual and organized businesses run by women produce papad, pickles, and other snacks. This provides them regular income from minimal financial investments. Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad is an organization (owned and run solely by women) which produces large quantities of papadums on the open market which started as a small business in the late 1950s, with an annual income in 2005 of about ₹650 crore (US$100 million). However, with the recent growth of modern trade in India and the growing consumer awareness, other brands have been gaining in popularity within this category.
Some divergence of transliteration may be noted in the third consonant in the Hindi/Urdu word pāpaṛ. The sound is the retroflex flap [ɽ], which is written in Hindi with the Devanagari letter ड़, and in Urdu script with the Perso-Arabic letter ڑ. Although in IAST the Hindi letter ड़ is transliterated as <ṛ>, popular or nonstandard transliterations of Hindi use <d> for this sound, because etymologically it derives from ड /ɖ/. The occurrence of this consonant in the word pāpaṛ has given rise to two alternative spellings in English: papad, which reflects its etymology, and papar (anglicized as "popper"), which reflects its phonology.