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.