Elai Adais (called Ela Ada in Malayalam) are steamed rice packets usually filled with a coconut jaggery filling and a traditional sweet preparation from Kerala. 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, what you find is a thin envelope of rice almost bursting with the promise of a sweet cardamom flavoured coconut and jackfruit filling.
As far as I am aware, in Kerala, these sweet preparations are not made to be served at any particular festival or occasion. This is another Kerala preparation which has been adopted and has become a part of Palakkad Iyer cuisine.
Jackfruits (Chakka in Malayalam), like mangoes, are very common during the summer months in Kerala. They are a much loved fruit there and cooked in their raw form in a variety of ways. The raw fruit is also deep fried into delicious and crisp chips and even the seeds make for some very tasty food. 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 their backyard. The excess of the sweet fruit would be converted into a ghee-flavoured, jaggery-sweetened jam called “Chakkavaratti”. Making Chakkavarati is a laborious process which requires much stirring to ensure the jam reaches its correct consistency.
You must be wondering why I started with Elai Adais and moved off to Jackfruit jam! Well, during the Jackfruit season, the Chakkavaratti/ jam is also added to the usual jaggery coconut filling while making the Elai Adai. I can assure you that this makes this delicious sweet absolutely wonderful. I was lucky to find some home-made Chakkavaratti on my last trip to Kerala in July. I had stored this in the freezer for some special occasion.
The perfect occasion turned out to be late last month because, in Goa, this is when the tender, parrot green and aromatic leaves of the turmeric plant are available in plenty. And people in Goa use it to make Patolyos (or Patoleo or Patoli). Patolyos are also steamed rice sweet filled with a coconut jaggery mixture and made for special occasions. The only difference is that they are steamed in turmeric leaves. This lends it a unique taste and flavour which is different from those steamed in banana leaves.
Hindus in Goa make Patolyos usually for Nagpanchami and the eve of Ganesh Chathurthi, while Roman Catholics here make these for local feasts such as the Feast of Our Lady of Assumption (on August 15th), Sao Joao Feast or Konsachem Fest (a harvest festival). In both communities, Patholyos are also sent with the groom’s family as part of the “vojem” (trousseau).
The method for making Elai Adai or Patholyo is generally the same and the difference is in the leaves used for wrapping them before steaming. I understand some families here use wheat flour for the outer covering instead of rice. Some use cane jaggery for the filling while others use palm jaggery. When Jackfruits are available in Goa, it seems that the pulp of the fruit is added to rice batter. Sometimes, even chopped cashewnuts or raisins are added to the rice batter. Such variations exist depending on the family and the part of the Konkan coast they belong to.
So this time I made Elai Adai, Goan style, by using turmeric leaves as banana leaves are not easy to come by where I live. I used my usual recipe for making Elai Adai and that is what is given below.