Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ela Ada –Sweet Rice-flour Parcels in Banana Leaf

Mother lovingly plates some leafy thin steamed Adas, carefully unfolding from the banana leaf parcel, and serves her teenager daughter with a glass of warm milk mixed with her favourite Bournvita……

Teenager makes a face…..and says.."…mm…I'm bored of this…..cant you make something else…you should have asked Acha to get some Meat rolls or burger on his way back…:( "

Years later……..the same teenager now grown up , sitting in Uncle Tom's land, far-far away from her family, missing the smells from her mother's kitchen ,clinking of the steel plates, and craving for those for those steamed sweet delicacies, she picks up the phone and dials a long distance number and asks," Mummy……how do you make those ela adas ….? I cant remember the last time I had 'em…. feel like having some of 'em now…!!!"

Irony of life? Part of growing up? Lord's way of teaching us to appreciate the simplicities of life? Or just a nostalgia of a non resident Indian? Whatever that might be….there is a part of me that yearns to run to my parent's place and grab those simple pleasures of life, those simple delicacies of my homeland…….Sigh!!

Ela Ada, a traditional Kerala delicacy, is rice-flour parcels, encased in a dough made of rice flour, with sweet fillings, steamed in banana leaf and served as an evening snack or as part of breakfast. Grated coconut and rice flour are the two main ingredients. The simplicity and taste of this dish is accentuated by that distinct flavour and subtle aroma emanating from the fresh banana leaves while it is steamed.

  • 1 ½ cups rice flour, mildly roasted
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 - 1 ½ cups hot boiling water or enough to make a smooth dough
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • ¼ cup melted and filtered jaggery/sharkkara - medium consistency
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 ½ tbsp coarsely chopped cashew nuts
  • 1 ½ tbsp coarsely chopped raisins
  • 2 cardamoms crushed.
  • Banana leaves for wrapping
  • Make the filling: In a small pan heat ghee and fry coarsely chopped nuts and raisins until the nuts turn golden brown and raisins turn plump. In another small saucepan, pour the melted jaggery/sharkkara and add the grated coconut and let it cook for 1-2 mins in medium heat; to this add the fried nuts, raisins and also the leftover ghee as well the crushed cardamoms and blend well and keep aside.
  • Make the rice flour dough by first mixing rice flour and salt; to this add the boiling hot water, just enough to make a soft and smooth dough; use a spoon to blend everything well and when it is warm enough to touch, knead gently and make the dough and divide them into 6 balls (Note: the dough should be looser than the chappathi/roti dough but as soft as the Idiayappam/string-hoppers dough)
  • Making the Ada: Take a piece of banana leaf in rectangular shape, as shown in the pictorial; place one rice dough ball and flatten it gently; then with fingertips, stretch the dough onto the leaf, flattening it very thin . Dipping the finger in water, once in a while, will make this process easier, especially if the dough is a bit sticky or dry. Once the dough is stretched out, keep some sweet filling on one half and fold the other half and press the edges gently, making sure that it is sealed well, else the filling might come out.

  • Steaming the Ada: Place these prepared Ada in banana leaves, in a steamer or Idly –steamer or in a pressure cooker without keeping the weight, filled with enough water, and steam for 7-12 minutes, or till it is fully cooked, in medium heat.
  • Once the Adas are cooked, transfer it to a plate and leave it aside for 10 minutes for all the steam to settle. Serve warm, either taking the adas out of its wraps or in the banana leaf itself. I prefer the latter for that distinct aroma and flavour coming from the banana leaves.


  • You mad add some chopped pieces of ripe bananas aka Aethappazham, to the coconut- jaggery mixture which gives a fresh fruit flavour to the filling.
  • You may also use Chakka-varatti/Jackfruit preserves as filling.
  • Another variation is using a simple filling of grated coconut, sugar and crushed cardamoms; there is no need for stove-top cooking for this filling.
  • Instead of steaming, you may cook the prepared ada in banana wraps, on a flat non-stick pan, by flipping each sides, until it is cooked. This is tastier and different from the steamed ones. UPDATE : The roasted ones are called Ottada. You can check my post on Ottada HERE.
Note: If banana leaf is not available, you can use parchment papers, you will get tasty steamed Adas, sans the aroma and flavor of banana leaves.

For Kozhukatta: You can follow the same cooking method and list of ingredients for the dough and filling. The only difference is that, instead of flattening the rice balls on the leaf, you can directly fill them, as in the pictorial given at the end of this paragraph, and while steaming, you need not use banana leaf for covering these sweet balls; you can steam them placing directly on an idli steamer or placing them in a flat plate on a regular steamer pressure cooker without keeping the weight, filled with enough water, and steam for 7-12 minutes, or till it is fully cooked, in medium heat. The steamed balls may turn out sticky sometime and that depends on the quality of the rice flour. For a step by step pictorial, click here.


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  1. I want to bang my fist on the table and say I want ela ada just now!!! I totally understand when you say we miss simple delicacies we grew up with! Btw, I thought the rice flour had to be cooked a bit, if that how I remember ... I'll check with my ammuma - maybe her version is a bit different.

  2. Shn, hw true- those pangs of cravings to eat mom-made, which all of us typically refused! Ada looks yummy!!Pics r great!

  3. Ela Ada looks so lovely...yummmm...
    yes Mish....i feel the same too...i never used to have more than quarter of an ela am miss all those mom made dishes...sigh!!
    thanks for the post..

  4. I think it's human nature, Shn. So many things I didn't like as a child, I adore now.

  5. This post made me very the ela adas amma makes!Nice one as always!

  6. The first (and only) time I have had ada is in pradaman. I still vividly remember my friend sharing it with me in our school bus, while I was in 5th class :)

  7. How beautiful shn! Great photo. My grandmother used to make this sweet with coconut etc too, called it Kotte Idli. My mother never tried it. I guess I can use Mexican Tamale corn husk or foil(sic!), banana leaf gives it a nice aroma, I remember it still!:))

  8. Ahh..our version has less jaggery i guess..this one looks like bliss for someone with a sweet tooth!!;-P

    I share the same sentiments..I used to be fussy about eating veggies at home as a kid..BUt now anything made from home is heaven!!

  9. Wow...That is such an authentic sweet dish. It brings the memories of traditional cusine. Especially when cooked on banana leaves, the flavor & taste is irrestiable.

    Mishmash, you have been tagged by me. Please check my blog

    Hope you will enjoy!!

  10. How come you changed ur sunday edition to wednesday? I love eleada & Kozhikatta. But after marraige kozhikatta was different. My hubby is a fan of kozhikatta. But no this variety but the nadan version. Rice dumplings with cummin seeds and coconut eaten by dipping sugar. I heard about it only after my wedding.

  11. How come you changed ur sunday edition to wednesday? I love eleada & Kozhikatta. But after marraige kozhikatta was different. My hubby is a fan of kozhikatta. But no this variety but the nadan version. Rice dumplings with cummin seeds and coconut eaten by dipping sugar. I heard about it only after my wedding.

  12. There are so many of us that have a version of this story :)

    Will email you soon hon.

  13. we somethings just take things for grated, don't we? Thanks for this lovely post to remind me to give appreciation to loved ones.
    This dessert although I couldn't always find when I lived in Asia, but everytime I tried, it never failed to impress me... so as your wonderful creation!

  14. Jyothsna, pathukke...kai vedanikkum :D rice flour gets cooked when you pour the boiling hot water...go and satisfy your cravings :)

    Purnima, hmm..I wish we were wise then!! thank you :)

    Aparna, thanks :)

    Divya, we need to stay away from home to realise all these things bad ! :)

    Susan, true!!

    Zo-ya, Thank you :)

    Suganya, really? this type of ada in payasam? oh..i never had that ...back home, we use thin tiny flakes of rice flour ada, steamed and then dried, for pradhaman...yummiest of all :)

    Asha,yes , i have mentioned that sugar filling under variations...thats also tasty and simple....better to use parchment paper, if you dont have banana leaves....corn husk might work too but i havent tried that!

    Mathew, remember goergekutty-chaayan's dialogue in last episode of akkara-kaazhchakal..? about frozhen naadan chaayas? athu pole vellathum cheyyendi varumenna thonnunne :D You re lucky,amma is coming soon right :)

    Anitha, yes, you re right...nothing can substitute banana leaves in such preparations...I love that aroma and taste...just fabulous....btw, thanks for tagging :)

    Mocha, yeah i know that home we call it 'pidi'....its very tasty ...we used to dip in sugared coconut milk...:) this is a bonus post to sunday edition :P :))

    Cynthia, yeah i agree....all of us in the same boat :)

    Gattina, this is somewhat similar to your chinese dumplings, method wise....and we usually have it as a snack or breakfast than dessert.....btw, i love chinese dumplings...whenevr you make, you can send me some :)


  15. Beautiful picture.....ela ada is my favourite....esp with jackfruit filling in it

  16. Ummm!
    Shn, this one AND the kozhukatta look yummy!! First tiem I'm seeing the brown version. My ammamma used to make white ones :D

    But, tell me.. WHERE do you get plantain leaves from? My Pattkadu-USA place has no place I can source it from

  17. Jayashree, aww...i love that...unfortunately I dont have access to fresh jackfruit here:(

    Mac, am sure your pattikkadu is wayyyyy better than mine!!! you check your local asian or mexican or oriental stores ..they have banana leaves in the frozen section......atleast one of these stores will carry it for sure....good luck :)


  18. Lol!! No Shn no! Trust me.. this one is SUPER patikkadu :D And I've not tried the Mexican stores... let me check. I LOVE kozhakattas!

    Ivide no Indian store only! I have to go to the next city for that! Bleagh!

    P.S. If you ever have the time, will you send me the English names of fishes I can buy here please? Since I don't know what is what, I usually end up getting only salmon. :(

  19. You so love being nostalgic about life back in kerela dont you? :) I can ruely see your love for that place and all memories of it. :)

  20. Shn,
    I had bookmarked this recipe sometime ago.I finally tried it yesterday..turned out fabulous..thank you so much

  21. Hi,
    I have become a regular raeder of your blog, and I am facinated by your blogs .
    we have a similar recepie in Maharashtra called "patole" we usually make it teh same way with the difference bieng here is that we use turmeric leaves for wrapping instead of banana, which gives them a kind of fragrant smell...Though I ahve heard the banana leaf method as well
    keep posting :)

  22. Hi,

    On this eve of thiruvonam I was craving for ela adai (as truly I have also hated this 'delicacy' in my life with my mom and she used to beg me to eat this. Oh, how I miss those days! and look at me now!)
    But since I am living in a part of the world were ela is a not-known commodity I was just going through recipes and fretting until I saw ur note! God bless you my dear!! I thank you a hundred times for the idea of parchment paper!
    This sure is going to feature in our table on Thiruvonam evening :) I am sure my hubby will be the happier for that.

    Wish you and your family a very very Happy Onam!

  23. no chance of getting plantainl eaf out here. So can i steam it without that or thats gonna be messy? Pls advise. Thanks. Sujitha

  24. pls ignore my prev comment. I noticed the alternative after that. Sorry

  25. That's me - who sat before the ada and the bournvita! Was so surprised to read your words which could have been mine :-)

    Thank you for sharing the fab recipe collection and keeping all of it alive. All the best to you and the site!

  26. can v use appam podi instead of d rice flour u mentioned????


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