Elai Adai or Patolyo are steamed rice packets stuffed with a coconut jaggery filling. Both are more or less the same dish but from different cuisines. Elai Adai/ Ela Ada is a traditional sweet preparation from Kerala, while Patolyo is from Goa. Both Kerala and Goa are on the Western coast of India. Also, Elai Adai is steam cooked wrapped in banana leaves while Patolyo is cooked in tender turmeric leaves. This small difference is a big difference in flavour between the otherwise similar two preparations. Banana leaves lend a nice sweet and earthy flavour to the Elai Adai. Patolyo gets a mild flavour and aroma reminiscent of turmeric from the leaves.
The “Elai” (meaning leaf in Tamil) in the Elai Adai, is the leaf of the banana plant in which the “Adai”s are wrapped before steaming. When you open the steamed leafy packet, you find is a thin envelope of rice bursting with the promise of a cardamom flavoured sweet and juicy filling. These sweet Adai are an anytime snack in Kerala. They’re also called Ela Appam or Chakka Ela Appam if Jackfruit Jam is added. Patolyo (also Patoleo or Patoli) is made in Goan Hindus usually for Nagpanchami and the eve of Ganesh Chathurthi. Roman Catholics in Goa make Patolyo for local feasts including the Feast of Our Lady of Assumption (on August 15th), Sao Joao Feast or Konsachem Fest (a harvest festival). Patolyo is also made for the groom’s family as part of the “vojem” (trousseau), in both communities.
Jackfruits (Chakka in Malayalam), like mangoes, are summertime fruit in both Kerala and Goa. They are much loved fruit, and in Kerala, are cooked while raw in many ways. Raw jackfruit is also deep fried into salted and crisp chips. Even the seeds make for some very tasty curries. The ripe fruit is sweet and mostly eaten as it is. Most houses, in the olden days, would have at least one Jackfruit tree (known as “Plavu” in Malayalam) in the backyard. The excess sweet fruit would be preserved as a ghee-flavoured, jaggery-sweetened jam called “Chakkavaratti”. Making Chakkavarati is a laborious process but worth the effort.
There is also one more small difference between Elai Adai and Patolyo. Jack fruit jam/ Chakkavaratti or ripe jackfruit pieces are added to Elai Adai made in summer. The rest of the year Elai Adai is often made without it. Goan Patholyo is rarely made with jackfruit. When they do use jackfruit, I understand the pulp is mixed in the rice batter. Patolyo is also a seasonal preparation in Goa because tender turmeric leaves typically grow after the monsoon rains have fallen. This is also the festive season there when this delicacy is cooked.
The method for making Elai Adai or Patolyo is much the same. The difference is in how the leaves are wrapped before steam cooking the parcels. I understand some families in Goa use wheat flour for the outer covering instead of rice. Others use cane jaggery or palm jaggery in the filling. Sometimes, even chopped cashewnuts or raisins are added to the rice batter. Such variations exist depending which family cooks it and the part of the Konkan coast they belong to.
Typically, raw white rice (unprocessed) is used to make these Elai Adai or Patolyo. You can also use unpolished or red rice. You might notice that I have used Rajamudi rice, a red and white grained heritage Indian rice.
Elai Adai or Patolyo
- 8 to 10 tender turmeric leaves or banana leaf pieces
For the outer covering:
- 1 cup raw rice
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated coconut
- 1/2 cup powdered jaggery
- 1/2 cup chakkavaratti (jackfruit jam)
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 5 pods powdered cardamom
- Note : If you don't use the Chakkavaratti or jackfruit jam) please increase the jaggery used from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup.
- Soak the rice in water for about 4 hours, drain the water and then grind to a smooth paste using enough water to have a somewhat thick batter (like for pancakes). Add the salt and keep aside.
- Put all the ingredients in a pan on the stove, adding a couple of tbsps of water. Over medium heat, keep stirring the mixture for about 2 minutes, till the jaggery has dissolved and the mixture is moist and comes together. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
- If you are not using the Jackfruit jam, use 3/4 cup of powdered jaggery and proceed with the recipe. You may need to use less if the jaggery you're using is on the sweeter side.
- If you are using banana leaves, cut the large leaves into roughly 6" by 6" pieces. Then place each piece over the flame of your gas stove (a few seconds) so that the leaf just wilts. This will make the banana leaf flexible enough to fold without tearing.
- Then proceed as for the turmeric leaves. After folding once, you may fold the open ends and the sides to form a sealed packet, which cannot be done with the turmeric leaves.
Instructions for making Elai Adais or Patolyos :
- Using a spoon, pour a small quantity of the batter on the centre of the turmeric leaf and spread it into a somewhat thin circle (see the picture). Place some filling in the centre of the batter and carefully fold the leaf along its centre such that the leaf folds over itself. Place carefully in the steamer, taking care the batter does not leak. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling.
- Place the Elai Adais/ Patolyos in a steamer and steam cook for about 12 minutes, till the rice layer is well cooked. Take out and allow to cool till just warm. Serve.
- When you peel off the leaf, the rice covering should be thin enough to see the dark coloured filling. It is important that the rice batter is not applied very thick or your Elai Adai/ Patolyo will taste more of the rice than the filling. This recipe makes about 8 to 10 Elai Adais or Patolyos.