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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Patra/ Alu Wadi - Taro Leaf Rolls

The entire taro plant is edible. The leaves as well as the root bulbs can be convered into delicious preparations. Taro is also known as colocasia. In Hindi it is called "arbi/arvi" and in Marathi "alu". Taro leaves are long and broad and deep green in color, while the taro root looks like a potato with a fibrous covering. Taro leaves cannot be eaten raw but taste great as rolls or in a curry.  Taro leaf rolls are called "Paatra/Patra" in Gujarati and in Marathi these are called "Alu Wadi/Vadi".  Alu wadi is a beautiful, delicious and healthy snack. It is rare that I find taro leaves in the store, so when I do, I buy a bunch. If the leaves are big enough that they can be rolled up, I make taro rolls. If not, I end up making a sweet and sour gravy called "patal bhaaji".


I recently planted taro and am eagerly waiting for the leaves to sprout. This is a low maintenance plant and the only requirement is plenty of water. The easiest way to plant it is to get some taro roots from the grocery store(with the fibrous covering, not the peeled one). After a few days, the root will start forming buds. At this point, you can transfer it to a pot/ground. Make sure that the root is watered regularly and you should see the leaves soon.



Ingredients
For the rolls
4-5 large taro leaves
1 cup besan/chick pea flour/ gram flour
1.5 tsp corn starch/flour or rice flour
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
red chilli powder to taste
1.5 tsp goda masala/kala masala
2 tsp sesame seeds
pinch of asafoetida/hing
2 tsp tamarind paste
2-3 tsp jaggery
1/2 - 1 cup water

For the seasoning
1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
2-3 green chillies, slit
8-10 curry leaves (optional)


Method

Preparing the leaves
Wash and dry the leaves, by patting them with a towel. Chop the stem off and discard. Turn the leaf over and take a rolling pin and roll this over the underside of the leaf so that the stem and the veins in the leaf break. If the veins are very thick, then trim them a little by running the knife blade parallel to the leaf and scraping off the vein. This is needed so that the leaf can be rolled easily. Do this for all the leaves.

Preparing the filling for the roll
Combine the rest of the roll ingredients except water and mix together. Then, add a little water at a time to make a paste/batter. The consistency of the batter should be paste like, so it can be easily spread. It should not be too thin or runny. It should be thick enough so that you can spread it over the leaf to form a thin even layer.


To prepare the roll
Spread this gram flour mixture over the underside of a leaf to coat the entire leaf in an even layer. Then, place the next leaf on top of this layer and spread the next layer of the gram flour mixture. Do this till you have used up about 3-4 leaves. You should have a stack with alternate layer of leaves and the gram flour mixturre. Layer about 3-4 leaves on top of each other at a maximum. Then roll this stack into a tight roll.


To cook the roll
Once all the rolls are rolled up, arrange these in a shallow vessel. Steam cook them for about 15 minutes till cooked completely. This can be steam cooked using a pressure cooker, Instant Pot or a regular pot which is deep enough to hold the vessel. Once the roll is cooked through, the roll will remain tightly rolled and will not unravel. It will take on a brownish color. Once the rolls cool down, slice these rolls into 1/4 -1/2 inch thick slices.

The rolls are ready to eat at this point. However, they taste great if they are crisped up a bit. To do this you can shallow fry or even deep fry them till they are brow and crisp. I prefer to shallow fry. To shallow fry, add a couple of tsps of oil to a pan and heat it. Then add the rolls to the pan and cook them on both sides till the roll slice is nicely browned and crisp.

Add a little seasoning over the roll slices before serving. To make the seasoning, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle add the cumin seeds, hing and sesame seeds. Add the green chillies and curry leaves. Pour the seasoning on the rolls. The seasoning can be added over the steamed rolls as well as the fried ones.

These can be served as appetizers or snacks.


Tips
The leaves can sometimes cause the throat to itch upon eating, so it is important to include tamarind as an ingredient in taro leaf recipes. The acid in tamarind helps counter act this and makes sure that your preparation will be itch-free. Goda masala is a masala used in Maharashtra. It has ingredients like sesame seeds, dessicated coconut. Use dhana-jeera (corriander-cumin) powder if you don't have goda masala.

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