Taro leaves (also called not to be confused with Elephant’s Ears) from the garden
This blog has become a ready reckoner for the family and myself where I record family recipes and favourites. You will not find any disaster stories here (who can tell the future though? 😀 ).
We are quite a mixed bunch in the family, and now spread all over the world. There are mostly Hindus, one Muslim, a few Christians, and a couple of atheists thrown in for good measure 🙂 , with skin tones varying from white to black through all the gold tones, in my extended family which now counts Kashmir, Maharashtra, USA, Gujarat, UK, Punjab, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Bihar, West Bengal, and Kerala as represented. I am talking first cousins and Aunts and Uncles only. Since marrying into a Maharahstrian household there is much that has been added to my repertoire which is unfamiliar to some of the rest of the family (you’d think!). Over the years they too have developed a taste for this cuisine and enjoy cooking some of their favourites in their own kitchens. Maharashtrian banana koshimbir (a left-side item) getting mistaken occasionally for dessert by the Kashmiri relatives notwithstanding 😀 . And, I might add, some Maharashtrians have lunged for the mujj chatin expecting kheer! 😆 And this is not the half of it.
Every family has their own versions of traditional fare. This blog is a record of what is traditional to my home, and the variations I try. I have already featured the bharleli mirchi which is an all time favourite and was much requested by my younger sister.
Today I write about another traditional Marathi preparation served ‘on the left side’. There are plenty of alu wadi recipes on the blogosphere, but I know some in the family would like to have this recipe which is based on my MIL’s. Besides, I have been wanting to participate in Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables, and here is my chance – P is for…Patode/Patra Bhajia/Pathrado/Alu Wadi. Even if Pel just blogged about them the other day. He chose to not use my recipe. 😉
Kashmiris know nothing about the taro or its leaves. I got my first taste of taro leaves after marriage. Preparing alu wadi (wadis made with taro leaves) is somewhat labour-intensive, but not hard. The leaves are layered with a spicy chickpea flour paste, rolled, and steamed. They are then sliced and either stir-fried or deep fried. I have heard of taro leaves being prepared similarly in the Northern Plains region but have never had an opportunity to taste that version. It is obviously not on restaurant menus here.
10-12 Alu (arbi/taro/colocasia) leaves
For the spice paste:
1 ¼ C besan (chickpea flour)
1 t red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)
½ t turmeric powder
¼ t mild heeng
tamarind juice (soak a 1″ ball of tamarind in half cup of hot water for half hour; rub and extract the juice)
1 T sesame seeds
1″ chunk of jaggery, grated or mushed (or sugar)
1 t oil
Mix all the above ingredients using a little water to prepare a spreadable paste – neither too thick, nor too thin.
Wash and trim the stems off of the leaves. Remove a thin layer off the central rib of the leaves to make them more pliable for rolling. I forgot this step this time. Next time, I’ll remember to refer the blog. 🙂
For the layering I prefer to use an upturned thali which makes clean-up easier. Place an upturned leaf (rib-side up) on your work surface and apply a thin layer of the spice paste. Put another leaf on top of this and more paste. Use 3-4 leaves to get a good sized roll in the end. Fold over the sides, paste them down, and roll, as tightly as possible, to form a log. Place the logs in a steamer, seam side down. Prepare all the leaves in this manner and steam, in a single later, for 30-40 min. I steamed mine for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker without weighing down the vent. Thorough cooking neutralizes the oxalic acid present in the leaves which can irritate the upper digestive tract.
Slice into 1/3 inch thick rounds after the logs have cooled. Deep fry in hot peanut oil till medium brown in colour. Drain on paper towels. (Don’t the specks of sesame look pretty?) Serve with coconut chutney or good-old ketchup. Makes a great accompaniment to the simplest of Maharashtrian meals, the varan-bhat.
As a healthier alternative, you may stir fry the steamed wadis in a tempering of mustard seeds, heeng, and turmeric, and garnish with grated fresh coconut and coriander leaves. But the fried wadis are, oh, so good! Highly recommended.
Note: Be careful when handling fresh cut taro leaves. The clear sap stains clothes a dark grey (becomes visible after a wash) permanently!