Patra Bajia (stuffed arbi/colocasia/taro leaves) begins the quadrille

April 30, 2007 at 2:37 PM (dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, fusion, Gujerati, India, Jihva entries, legumes/pulses- whole or split, moong, various greens, various nuts like me, vegetables/ fruits)

    “…the leaves contain needle-shaped oxylate crystals that can cause a stinging sensation in the mouth and throat when not properly prepared… ” How nice….that makes me want to dive right in to a plateful….

    The truth is, I’ve already eaten arbi leaves…

    A few years ago, as I was wandering through the aisles of the nearest Indian grocer, I happened upon a can of them, already seasoned, rolled, cooked and sliced, and, as I had no idea what they were, I naturally placed the can in my basket. Upon arriving home, I tucked it away in a corner of the cabinet. When an inquisitive moment paired with a driving need to exoticly-impress a date finally came, I was pleasantly suprised to see whorls of green layered with gold! I removed them as carefully as I could, but as some of you may already know, it is inevitable that a fair portion of these canned goodies will break. However, whole or broken, the taste was unforgettable: rich, dark greens layered with besan, roasted and infused with an unfamiliar formula of spices, fragrant from re-heating in the microwave oven… for Umrikans this will more-than-suffice for exotic. The date? Well… I could tell by the way his mouth fearfully avoided the morsels as he chewed and swallowed that he was far from feeling fond affection; still, he inspected each piece carefully, turning them this way and that with his fork, his head cocked first one way and then the other in a not-so-subtle attempt to understand and unravel their mysterious aesthetic. I had no explanation to offer, just: “…more chutney?”.

    Sometimes, that’s the only way to taste new things in Umrika-land… I looked for them on my next curry leaf run, but it appeared that there was a greater demand for bags of dry, crunchy chaat mixes as these now hung off the corners on clips, filling the entire section, obviously having overgrown their former territory like potted mint will try to do if left unchecked.  I passed up the frozen parathas, the pathetic kerelas and left the store with my new stash of kari-patta.  Instead of cash, I should have searched my trunk and produced a pair of pruning shears for trade…add another hefty item to my expanding list of “things that I must buy online…” (I grumble much more about the sudden, much-more-local loss of Jyoti karhi and dhal makhani, but I’m keeping my chin up, and mouth open for things to come).

    Luckily, recipes for these exquisite, intricate-looking rolls abound in food-blog land. And it isn’t just besan finding its way between the leaves: rice, coconut, and Aunt Karisma’s undies show up in recipes that stretch like crackled elastic from Uttar to Andhra Pradesh. I, however, decided to start my tasting taut and twangy in the sweet-sour state of Gujerat, and collected nine different recipes of similar sort to contrast, compare, calculate and finally arrive at a recipe indicative of the Gujerati opus but without any particular credit in owe.

    Unfortunately I was missing just one, perhaps important, ingredient for my recipe: the arbi leaves. I don’t expect to see them for sale anytime soon, or anywhere nearby. That very nice man from Delhi has a hard-enough time stocking usable tendli, let alone leaves that would never make the menu of the restaurant next door. This summer I’ll grow my own, and post the results if I’m able to speak after the first bite. Collard greens are plentiful here and make a fair substitute.

    Oh, and just for trivial thrills, there are dishes made from the leaves which do not contain a souring agent; apparantly the taro plant(the accepted Umrikani apellation) is crucial to the cuisine of Hawaii, and other Pacific island cultures; for now though, I’d  like to play it safe.* (A tip from Vee of Past, Present and Me: break the stem of an arbi leaf you intend to use, rub the juice on your inner wrist and count to ten; if it stings, the oxylate concentration is too high. Don’t use them. Take it as an omen that you’ve been cooking too much and take the afternoon off from the kitchen. Order out for pizza.)**

Patra Bajia

The multiple steps involved in preparing these may seem daunting, but actually it’s quite easy; you can even do as I did and start a day ahead of serving, casually doing each step when you have time. 

patra-bajia.gif

18 arbi leaves

2 1/2 C besan

2 t ground dry red chiles (more or less to taste; I used more)

1 t turmeric

3 t sugar or gur

salt to taste

3 T oil

1/2 C tamarind paste/extract

3 t ginger paste

water

1 bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped

1)Trim stems from arbi leaves, wash well and pat dry. Carefully slice off the thick center rib of each leaf, taking care that you don’t split them in the process (it happens though- hide these in the middle of the rolls; know one will be the wiser). Place each leaf on a board and gently roll it over with a rolling pin, again being careful not to split the leaves.

2)Divide the leaves by similar size into groups of three.

3)Mix the besan, ground chiles, turmeric, sugar and salt. Add the oil and mix well by hand until the mixture resembles crumbs.

4)Add the tamarind paste, ginger paste and enough water to form a thick, but easily spreadable paste (like peanut butter or yoghurt cheese). Add the coriander leaves and mix well. Check for salt.

5)Taking the groups of leaves in turn, ribbed sides facing up, spread the paste thinly( if you think of it more as an adhesive than a substantial filling, you’ll do fine…in fact, you should be able to adhere them securely to the walls of your kitchen, should you be so moved…) on each of them, placing the next leaf on top of the previous one before spreading the next layer of paste. So, you will have the following configuration: leaf, paste, leaf, paste, leaf, paste. When three have been layered and pasted, and with the tip of the leaves toward you, fold 1-2″ of the  sides toward the center, and then roll firmly starting from the leaf tips to the stem end. Secure the rolls with cotton string (if you wish, or just place it seam-side down) and place in the container of a steaming apparatus. Steam for 40 minutes. Allow the rolls to cool before handling.

6)Now, take each roll, remove the string, and slice crossways carefully, using a sharp knife, into 1/3-1/2″ slices. These may be eaten just as they are with relishes, but most often they are finished with a tempering, such as the following, or deep-fried. I decided to take the middle road:

For the tempering:

3 T oil (if you would like to drizzle or toss them with oil, then use this amount, if you would like to shallow-fry them, use 5-6 T, adding more if necessary)

2 t mustard seeds

2 t cumin seeds

2 t sesame seeds

2 pinches of asafoetida/ hing

1a)Heat oil over med-low heat, add mustard, cumin and sesame seeds; when the mustard seeds splutter, add the hing, swirl and then pour over the sliced rolls. Toss gently to coat if you wish.

1b)If you would like to shallow-fry these, then place a cover on the pan when the seeds begin to splutter and allow them to finish. Remove from heat, and then remove the fried seeds with a spoon. Set these aside. Return the oil to heat and fry the slices on each side until golden brown, adding a little more oil if necessary.

2)In either case, sprinkle them with 3-4 T grated coconut and serve.

If you decided to shallow fry them and still have the reserved fried spices, take them and follow me…

Pel’s Quick-and-easy Pistachio Pilaf

oil 

1/2 C grated coconut, fresh or frozen

the fried spices from the previous recipe

a handful of shelled, roasted pistachios (soaked and skinned as well, if desired)

2 C dry, pilaf-making rice, rinsed well and drained (I tried sona masoori- it worked)

3 1/2 C water

3/8 C coriander-mint chutney (coriander and mint leaves, lime juice, salt, ground roasted cumin)

salt to taste

1)Wipe the inner surface of the pan with oil and roast the coconut until very lightly golden over a low flame, add the fried spices, pistachios and a little oil and fry for about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid any scorching; add the drained rice and mix very well- about 2 minutes more.

2)Add the water, chutney and salt to taste (I used 1/2 t, but it depends on the saltiness of the chutney); Bring to boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn heat to low and steam for 20 min. Lift lid and fluff with form, re-cover and let stand for a few minutes.

 I needed a dish made of pulses next, so, going with the green theme and the Gujerati flavour, I took this recipe straight out of Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking:

Moong Dhal Na Poora

1 C moong dhal (I used dhal with skin for extra colour and nutrients)

3/4″ piece of ginger, peeled, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1-2 fresh green chiles, cut into 3 pieces

1 t salt, or to taste

1/4 t baking soda (optional…I didn’t use)

1/4 t turmeric

2 T coriander leaves, minced finely

1 small onion, peeled and minced finely

about 1/2 c oil/ghee (I used peanut oil)

1) Pick over the dhal and rinse well; soak in plenty of water for 5 hours; drain.

2)Make a paste or puree of the ginger, garlic and chiles. Grind it with the dhal, adding 1/2 c of water, the salt, baking soda, and turmeric until you have a thick batter. Stir in the onions and coriander leaves.

3)Heat a tava or griddle over medium-low heat; for each poora: drop a teaspoon of oil on the cooking surface, tilt to spread; place 1/3 c of the batter in the center, count to 4, and then with a small ladle or spoon spread the batter by swirling it outward from the center in a spiral, aiming for a 5-6″ circumference; drizzle 1/2 t of oil over the poora surface, and another 1/2 t at the edges; cover and allow to cook for about 2 minutes, or until the underside has a reddish tinge. Flip the poora to the other side, and allow to cook uncovered for about 1 1/2 minutes, until it develops reddish spots.

4)Make all of them this way, stacking them on top of each other. Be sure to stir the batter in the bowl well before each one is made.

 Then, I really needed something special to moisten all of this dryness. Anita’s very delicious and very versatile Walnut and Mint Chutney(of A Mad Tea Party) seemed like the answer -and it was!…. except I used pistachios… which she said is just fine….

I know that you might have an urge to add a bit of garlic or ginger or temper-of-hing to this, but don’t! The Kashmiri Pandit Chutney Patrol (KPCP)will come after you if you do!!!!

patra-bajia3.gif

If you are feeling really fancy, you can make little spoons of celery-sticks, like I did!! :-D

(Ooops! It looks like a Marathi specialty wanted to sneak into the post too… oh well!)

I had a few of the patra bajia left over a fter a few days, and as I was making sweet-cassava pakoras for some company and had hot oil at the ready, I decided to deep-fry some of them as well…. Although I was at first dismayed watching my hard-earned spirals unravel in the oil, the final effect is astoundingly beautiful: a bit like mini-galaxies….

patra-bajia-4.gif

(that’s a lousy photo… make them and see for yourself! They are very crispy… and remain crispy for a looooong time…)

    This is my entry to Jihva for Ingredients- Greens, May 2007, hosted by Indira of Mahanandi, co-hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail. This month’s JFI marks the one-year anniversary of this Indian food-blogging event. May it continue for a hundred more!

 

Oxalic acid may be present in the corm and especially in the leaf, and these foods should be eaten with milk or other foods rich in calcium so as to remove the risks posed by ingesting the free oxalic radical especially for people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis. Calcium reacts with the oxalate to form calcium oxalate which is very insoluble.” (Wikipedia, the full entry can be read here)

**Pel may have added that last part… :-) But in consolation, a concisely-written page about taro may be found here.

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21 Comments

  1. bee said,

    that is a glorious spread. those patras look just like my mom’s.

    what up with ‘aunt karisma’s undies’?

    I was in a silly mood… and just “went with it”… :-D Yeah…the patras were popular while they lasted around here- thanks! Do you have your mother’s recipe? ;-)

  2. bee said,

    forgot to mention, i get the canned ones, and eat them with yogurt like a raita, with a seasoning of mustard and curry leaves. they’re greasy already, so i don’t bother to fry them again.

    Are those the ones that taste of cinnamon and black elaichi? Yoghurt seems like the perfect mate for them- is that traditional?

  3. Anita said,

    Wow, Pel! That is some spread! Do you eat like this every day? It would have to be a very special day when I cover from Kashmir to Maharashtra-Gujerat!

    I think the best bit above is the detail – in the 3/8 C coriander mint chutney! :-)

    I made the taro/ aLu wadi from my home-grown leaves last week. Deep fried them – everyone was soooo satisfied :-D The recipe is similar to yours – I also add sesame to the besan paste.

    You should have seen the pics from without-the-celery-spoon – they were pathetic. I took pictures afresh the next day. Those I liked, and it did make a nice dip for the celery sticks. My celery is very intensely flavoured and salty – the mint was perfect with it.

    Oh lordy no I don’t eat like that every day… today, let’s see: Pad Thai with tofu for breakfast… cottage cheese and Thai mango salad for lunch… some rhubarb-cranberry-oatmeal cake for tea-time without the tea….lobia with tomatoes and mushrooms, a paratha, pudina-dhania chatni, yoghurt and a couple of bharleli mirchis for dinner….

    the deep-freeze helps… pad thai is a quick meal if you set the noodles to soak the night before, and have chile-garlic paste and bean sprouts at the ready… I made the cake yesterday to give away to the neighbors….lobia I made two months ago and froze… I admit to buying frozen parathas- you got me there!…. I’m doing the green ice-cube thing…..the bharleli mirchis I need to get away from…. :-D

    As to the ethnic mix in the post, well…. it looks like I just came in from out of the garden after smoking gopium… :-D

    yes…3/8 cup….no more, no less! :-)

    Yours was the only recipe with sesame seeds in the besan paste, so it had to go….! lol They are very crispy when deep-fried…. I can’t believe you go through all the work of rolling them just to watch them de-spiral when you deep-fry them! :-) And so much oil Anita! You should start eating healthier foods… :-D

    The celery compliments it very well…although I know few things that it wouldn’t! It ought to be renamed “Bagavath Doon Pudna Chatin”…

  4. bee said,

    sorry, pel, lost all her recipes – the book she wrote them in fell apart with water damage in the attic. but the ingredeints are very much like yours. cinnamon and black elaichi? not really. i get the frozen packets of colocasia patra from the indian grocery store. there are two brands – i love one and don’t like the other. i think the one i like is ‘deep’ brand. have to check.

    I didn’t even think to check the freezers! Still, I don’t know… one contains only frozen breads, the other packets of ready-made dishes- it’s not a large store by any means… he seems to be paring it down to four main sections in the aisles: pulses and grains, dry snack foods, spices, and pickles and canned/instant sweets… I think a lot of Indian cuisine devotees just make a monthly trek to Milwaukee or Chicago- I had a blast on Devon St. last time I was there!

    I’m so sorry about the loss of your mother’s recipes, even so, I imagine that you follow your memory as much as possible? And the food-blogs are definitely a way of retracing lost paths…

  5. Anita said,

    I wish I lived in your neighbourhood…Lucky neighbours. I would take away any of those things you make to give away – as also the bharleli mirchis you need to stay away from. I won’t be able to make them until next year when it will be time for the Bhavnagri mirchis to appear again.

    The patrode will unspiral much less if you make the rolls real ‘tight’, pressing down as you roll. Yes, it is nice how they stay soooo crisp right till the last one.

    We do the ultimate in bagavat – we have them with ketchup!

    Pad Thai for breakfast!!…Now I really wish you lived my neighbourhood!

    You like pad thai Anita? It’s such a wonderful combination of flavours… you eat pathrode with ketchup?!! You should slit, seed and freeze a few of the bavnagri chilleeze :-) for the off-season…. aren’t there other ones you could use? I tried them with serranos too…. but it doesn’t work well with larger chiles as I found out: the center doesn’t get cooked before the walls disintegrate… chiles the size of bhindi works best..

  6. shilpa said,

    I love these. We call it pathrode. Last time when I didn’t find the colocasia leaves, I used collard greens and it came out really good. This was my fav from my childhood. I haven’t yet read your entire post, couldn’t stop commenting :). Will come back again later.

    That is quite a tempting number of dishes for this Jihva, is it not? I don’t know where to begin!! I want to try them all.

  7. Vee said,

    Pel, That looks great. Food on the rocks! Literally! :lol: You should have skipped the plate and put it directly on the rock slab. That would have looked real earthy, you know, like the hungry cavemen are going to spring any moment. :D

    btw, to find out if the patra leaves are itchy, you don’t have to wait 10 minutes, count to ten and you will know…

    Count to ten…I’ll update that! Thanks!
    That’s my dining room….. spacious eh? ;-) Right on the rocks huh? I’ll keep that in mind! ;-) That’s actually a chunk of marble from a big broken slab that I found while curb-lootin’…. I broke off all the finished edges and use the pieces in landscaping; that one I set out for diyas last fall…

  8. Manisha said,

    Indian Food Rocks? Someone use a variation of that? Bam! Royalty and copyright fees!

    Haven’t dared to make patra or aLu wadi as we call them. Never seen the leaves at my grocers. Maybe he has them and I just don’t know what that pile of wilted stuff is? :lol: But if both you and Shilpa recommend collard greens, I guess I could try it with those. We all love them and to cut down on the yumminess, we just add a phodni like you did.

    Love the spread. Makes me wish I had known you when we lived closer. :D

    Well, take heart in that you are at a safe distance! :-D However, it’s nice to hear you talk about the weather so I know what’ll be coming my way fairly soon…I didn’t see the leaves at my Indian grocer either; I think there are different grades of Indian grocers… I used to go twice a year to one in Las Vegas off of Sahara, such a nice lady too- she gave me free fried cashews dusted with chaat masala. :-D Flirting comes in handy! ;-) The collard greens work beautifully- different flavour of course, but I like collard greens; did someone say something about haak?

    Indian food rocks? Royalties? Oh….I think we were talking about my last batch of cookies- I’ll send you one! :-D

  9. Vee said,

    Rocks, Plates, plates on rocks, plates on the (rock) head, too much of that going around.But, if we are talking royalties and copyrights, y’all owe me

    I’ve heard somewhere that the size of the colocassia rolls that a man’s wife makes is directly related to… :-o

  10. Vee said,

    Lets just say, I have no complaints… ;)

    I think I’ll try out your recipe, just to see if it….uh…..works. :-D

  11. trupti said,

    ;) well, well…..aren’t you the fab. cook?? I do love those stones that you’ve rested your plate on…they look like kneaded dough.. :)

    …and they practically are! :-)

  12. Manisha said,

    Yeow! Yeow! Yeow! But boy are those alu wadis humongous! :lol:

    Pel, spicy cookies? Dipped in tea? The ones that were soooo spicy that your modem couldn’t handle it? I’ll take ‘em.

    And I’ll take those humongous pathrados as well. Thank you, Vee!

    I don’t wish a plate on the head on even my worst enemy. It hurts I tell you! I am still suffering and my sis told me it could take up to a week for the pain to go away completely.

    Well, maybe a couple of plates at that darned family of blackbirds. Chiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp! At freaking 4:30 am every day.

    Now, now…. no murders! :-) they are divine creatures too…. all you really have to do is…..you ready for this? ….go out, yell at them (if you can imitate their “song” all the better) and wave your arms around; they’ll understand that they are invading your territory…and should fly away..after a day or two a couple scouts might come back to test you…. do the same thing to them and you shouldn’t have any problems. Then you may enjoy your alu wadi in peace…. :-o

  13. sharmi said,

    thanks you so much for the lovely compliments. I am happy that you tried out the pakodis.
    and you liked it.
    BTW I have never tried out taro leaves. I have seen this recipe in lot of blogs, but don’t know how a raw taro leaf looks like. nicely presented dish.

    Thank you Sharmi :-) You can see photos of taro leaves here. It suprises me that you have not made them yet, as your talent for intricate work and splendid presentation is fast becoming your reputation!

    Oh… I am still enjoying your wonderful pakodis… I am more used to the turmeric, chile, garam masala and anardana or amchoor combination, so this was a most pleasant change… I tacked up the recipe inside a cupboard-door (I do that for things I make often and eventually memorize recipes that way). :-)

  14. Patode/Alu Wadi (Taro Leaf Spirals) « A Mad Tea Party said,

    [...] 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 [...]

    Awwww……thanks Anitalu! aren’tcha glad I didn’t use up your posting potential?

  15. Manisha said,

    No pink version on the horizon?

    There is always a pink version on the horizon! :-)

  16. Cauliflower Leaves - three ways » jugalbandi said,

    [...] See Pel’s Gingery version Shilpa’s Coconutty [...]

  17. anju said,

    hi. its really nice to see the arbi patta dish here. basically i belong to a gharwali family and there we call it patyod. in that we roll 4-5 arbi patta with basan paste and then we cut in small size and prepare fry it as a pakoda . it is very rich in calcium and iron. and a good source of fibre .

    And do not forget delicious! Thanks for stopping by.

  18. Gauri Raghav said,

    very tasty n crispy

    • Elaichi et Cetera said,

      So true!

  19. Suvajra said,

    Patra/arbi … great recipe…arbi not available in the UK. When I lived in India I found that in Maharashtra, as in many other parts of India the leaves alone were used and the stalks chucked away. However I found the opposite in Manipur – they throw the leaf and cook the stalk! I wonder where they use both?
    Suvajra

    • Elaichi et Cetera said,

      I’ve seen recipes for both, but I can’t find recipes to support that statement at this moment. Perhaps one of my other readers might be of assistance?

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