Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ottada - Three different Styles..

Warning: Long Post.

....that charred smell of fresh banana leaves along with the tempting fragrance of rice flour dough and grated coconut roasting on a mann-chatti (clay pot).......

I wrote that line almost 20 minutes back and I am stuck there unable to capture the true essence of the I-R-R-E-S-I-S-T-I-B-L-E smell that wrapped me up when we cooked Ottada last week. I realise I do not possess the vocabulary to really translate the smell sensation I experienced through my words……….., it is something to be experienced…… something to be tasted.....and it is really difficult to capture the feeling in words and that's what I conclude especially when I go back and read a line from Nikhil Narayanan's mail ".......ottada in vazhaila, the cooking done on a dosa thatt.Trust mee,the taste of left over pieces of karinja vazha ila on them is :-) " That smiley says it all!

It all started almost a month ago on a late afternoon when I received a surprise mail from Nikhil saying, "Shn, I was searching for ottada and landed on this pdf. May be you can try this if u haven't written about Ottada already. http://krpcds.org/publication/downloads/62.pdf " As I finished reading his mail, my immediate reaction was "Isn't it same as Ela Ada with coconut and sugar filling and roasted on mannchatti , instead of steaming and why should I take the effort to blog about it just to showcase a different technique? ". But as I started browsing through the article , especially the "Cultural Heritage and Lifestyle" section that gave a very brief account of the local food habits of the people of Kalliasseri panchayat, Kannur district, Kerala, I realised one more time in my food blogging experience, the significance and existence of regional variations in food and food habits, even in the category of simple food.

In this work, the author, Mr.T.P Sreedhanan described Ottada as follows: “Rice is ground into paste. Coconut and jaggery are added. It is then pastened on the inner side of plantain leaf, folded, and placed on a cloth tied over the mouth of an earthen pot containing boiling water. The paste is boiled in steam into a delicacy.

Well, that was completely different from my idea of Ottada I had gathered from my mother.I could feel my curiosity barometer rising minute by minute especially when a web search on "Ottada" threw results that were intriguing, conflicting and confusing at the same time. At that point in time I wished I was in Kerala , researching about Ottada, considering the number of variations the web search revealed!!! Yes, the curiosity barometer was really at its high point!

That's when I noticed a comment from Renu Ramanath on one of the blogs where she had written, "....making ada-s in manchatti sounds interesting. may be this is what we refer to as 'ottada,' as ada is otherwise prepared by steaming." Renu's blogs have always been of interest to me because of the trivia she provides on certain traditional food and customs that are becoming extinct and to an extent, her articles satiated my appetite to learn about the socio-cultural background of our traditional cuisine. Noticing that her idea of Ottada matched with the information I had gathered from my family, I contacted her that evening itself and she promptly replied to my mail saying , “well, i haven't exactly eaten 'ottada,' only heard about it. to my knowledge, it has the same batter as that of steamed ela ada, i mean, jaggery and coconut filling, in rice batter spread on the banana leaf. but, ottada is made by roasting in a chatti, or even by placing over embers, like pappadam. i'm sure it will haev a distinct flavour. even my google search revealed different recipes. i think the one i saw in the site called 'pachakam,' comes closer to my idea of 'ottada.'.

I wrote back to Nikhil with the information I had collected and the little piece of info my mother shared that Ottada was originally done in an “Ottu-paathram” and that’s how perhaps it got its name. Nikhil reverted to my mail confirming the same stories and later sent me a very value adding piece of info that “the ott in ottada refers to od(tile) and not brass“ Learning that Ottu –patthram that I had earlier perceived (wrongly ) to be a bell-metal griddle was being referred , in this context, to a mann-chatti made of clay, the same material used for making an old fashioned roof tile/’Odu used in Kerala- I was getting more clarity as to the general use of mann-chatti/clay pot for roasting this rice flour parcels filled with sweet fillings.

Meanwhile, I had also contacted my aunt and brother –in-law who hails from Kannur and my aunt shared the recipe followed in her family, with my mother. I must note that though from Kannur itself, my aunt’s recipe for Ottada and the one listed in Mr. T. P . Sreedharan’s article are entirely different except for the fact that in both these recipes rice is ground to a paste. I have given my aunt’s recipe with pictures towards the end of this post. I have also added a technique my maternal grandmother uses to get a slightly different/soft texture for Ottada. You can also find some links at the end of this post to have an idea about the regional variations.
Before I move on to the recipe, let me write this point very clearly that neither me nor the people I have contacted are an authority on the subject to establish this as the original version or a particular regional style. None of us have done any research on this topic to have a final word on this dish or the variations available out there. This post is only an attempt to compile the information -coming under the category of hearsay- I have collected from here and there and hence please do forgive me if I am unknowingly making the blasphemy of putting out any misleading information here. Please DO correct me if I have generalised any data or given out any wrong information here.

Ottada : Recipe followed in my ancestral families

The texture of Ottada, rice flour parcels filled with sweetened grated coconut , flavored with a hint of cardamom is totally different from the steamed Ela Ada. Ottada is not as soft as the steamed ones; roasting gives it a slightly hard texture with distinct flavours of banana leaf and mann-chatti/clay pot and the charred spots add more to the taste. If you don’t havemann-chatti/clay pot, use a cast iron or non stick griddle and can attain the same effect while cooking but I must add that the flavor and aroma that a mann-chatti gives is beyond description.

  • 1 ½ cups rice flour, roasted
  • 1- 1 ¾ cup hot boiling water ( varies depending on the rice flour; add just enough to make a soft dough)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 ¼ cup freshly grated coconut
  • ¼ cup sugar or to taste
  • 6 cardamom, crushed ( adjust depending on the strength of cardamom)
  • Banana leaves for wrapping
  • Using your hands, blend sugar and crushed cardamom with freshly grated coconut.
  • 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 10 balls (Note: the dough should be looser than the chappathi/roti dough but as soft as the Idiayappam/string-hoppers dough)
  • Take a piece of banana leaf in rectangular shape, as shown in the pictorial HERE; 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.
  • Heat a shallow mann-chatti/clay pot and when it is really hot, place 1-2 folded banana leaf parcels and let it cook for about 5-10 mts; now flip the parcels, reduce the heat and let the other side cook; you will notice the banana leaves drying up and browning and at this point you will be able to lift the banana leaf gently and see the Ada changing its colour as it gets cooked. Flip both the sides one more time and cook for some more minutes until Ada is cooked/roasted well with a golden shade on top , with charred spots here and there as in the pictures given above.
  • Ottada can be served as either a snack or breakfast along with tea/coffee
Ottada: My maternal grandma’s method.

My maternal grandma had a technique to bring in the softness of steamed Ada in Ottada. She sprinkled some water on the banana leaf parcels, after placing them on mann-chatti/clay pot and then closed it with a lid. This helps to lock in some moisture and maintain a soft texture while roasting . There is no need to sprinkle water when you flip the third and fourth time. The pictures below will give you an idea about the same.

Ottada : My aunt’s family recipe from Kannur
As I wrote in the introduction, though from Kannur itself, my aunt’s recipe for Ottada and the one listed in Mr. T. P . Sreedharan’s article are entirely different except for the fact that in both these recipes rice is ground to a paste. My aunt’s recipe for Ottada is more like rustic flat bread, roasted on a non stick or cast iron griddle. The taste of Kuthari and grated coconut gives that simple flavors of the old world.

  • ¾ cup Kerala rosematta rice/Kuthari ,soaked overnight
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • Salt to taste

  • In a mixer, grind all the ingredients together into a thick paste, adding just enough water to operate the mixer to make a thick paste. The batter need not be as smooth and fine as that of dosa/idli batter; it should be thick,so you can spread with your hand.
  • Heat a non-stick or cast iron griddle; pour one or two ladles of batter and using your hand, spread them gently on the griddle in a round shape. Cover with a lid and cook both the sides , by flipping three or four times , until Ada is cooked well and a golden hue appears on top. Those who prefer a bit more browned and charred spots on Ada, can continue to cook for some more time until you get the desired results.
Here’s some more variations available on the web for Ottada:

Before I call it a wrap, let me thank Renu for her prompt responses and helping me clear out some of my doubts ………..many thanks to my family especially my aunt and my mother who helped me with the recipes and instructions ……and a special thanks to Nikhil Narayanan for firing up my curiosity to explore this simple and tasty delicacy of the old world, to understand the existence of the numerous variations available for such a simple one which I would have overlooked , had he not mailed me in the first place………Thank YOU :)

UPDATE : Continuation of this post HERE with more on regional variations and food habits.


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 Kitchenmishmash.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.


  1. Shn,
    I want the one in Recipe 1, but with jaggery :)

    Thanks a ton for the research.
    A little bit of Wheat flour does help reduce the brittleness that mayarise in some cases.
    Adding wheat flour can't be authentic,still.


  2. I am yet to eat this....better still I shall make it from your blog and taste it :)

  3. Hi Shn,
    im a regular visitor f ur blog.ur post of Ottada ws really sweet..brought bk lot f memories :)
    ur style f writing n presentation r grt.. looking fwd to more yummy recipes frm u. :) :)
    i'l b very grateful if u cud help me out with some gud mushroom recipes..im bored f my version :)
    byeeeeeeee tk care...

  4. hi shn,
    thank you for mentioning me and my blog in this post. this is a wonderful post that covers a lot about the subtle differences in flavour and taste brought about by the regional variations in our traditional cuisine. and, your description about the contents of my post - 'socio-cultural background of traditional cuisine,' - really fits the bill ! this is exactly my fascination and obsession. and, the more i learn, the more my wonder grows !
    and,for your referance, i recently came across a similar 'palaharam,' in Shilpa's blog, Aayi's Recipes, (http://www.aayisrecipes.com/2006/09/23/rice-rotti-on-banana-leafmumbri-or-cholkya-vayli-bhakri/). she describes a snack called Mumbri or Cholkya vayli Bhakri, which means a bakri or rotti prepared on banana leaf. the only difference here is that there is no filling. the rice batter is spread on the banana leaf, folded and cooked on a tawa and served with chutneys or chutney powders. check it out.
    well, your comment seems to have inspired me to continue po sting in my blog. for a long time, i havent posted anything in it !

  5. Love adas, especially with the filing, reminds me of the 4 colock tiffin time after school. Every time i go back home onethis i ask mom to make his ela ada, but then with jagerry and coconut filling.

  6. My mother makes Ottada as per recipe no.1.....recipe no.3 is also made at my grandma's house bt thts nt clld Ottada....i cnt recollect the name....
    Its usually made with kareek (tender coconut - thick malai of tender coconut) and nt thenga (coconut)....it goes well with green peas curry...I recommend u try with green peas curry once...
    It is usually made just after seasons coconuts are taken off from the palm....few unripen coconut are taken off from palm only for this purpose...
    I guess over the ages malayalees have learnt to create multiple layers of taste using humble rice and coconut....

  7. i have tried the chatti version but the it turned up a bit dry. I haven't tried it again so didn't figure out what went wrong.

  8. Your post made an interesting read.. I knew about steamed adas only with different fillings. I make with both rice flour and ground paste. But this way of making is new to me. Thanks for all that effort to bring out this post.

  9. Shn,

    The last few posts on this blog has been quite spl, as it reminds me of my paternal grandmother who belonged to kannur. The recipe of ottada from kannur you posted is much authentic, I'd say. But these days Amma uses rice flour for the ease of it and makes it into a dough, nt as thick as chapathi dough, but not as watery as the one in the pic. Spreads it on plaintain leaf and roast it on tava. We usually have it with some spicy meat curry. Tastes hmmm... the same"hmmmmmmmmmmmmm" from the mc donalds ad which was aired few months back! :)


  10. Hi Shn,

    I have been visiting ur blog regularly for quite few months now. Though I haven’t commented b4, I have tried out quite a many recipes of urs, and they were all a vey Biggg Hit!! :-) The biggest hits were the Malabar Chicken Biriyani and the Meen Pollichathu (i prepared it for our frnds twice!) Even my hubby is a great fan of ur blog. The other day, ur blog was open on my laptop and that eveng itself he brought liver & made me cook liver fry for him!! The photos and write-ups are so fabulous that I cannot resist myself from trying them out. The taste matches that at our home as we hail from Syrian Christian fly.

    Last day, our cousin was telling about how his amma makes ada in curry chatti and i told him it must be ottada. Was surprised to see same on ur blog today!! :-) Will surely try it out.

    Keep up the great work Shn... Waiting to see more of our "Naadan recipes"


  11. Wow! Lovely variation of ottada that we make in Calicut. Gotta try this one. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hi Shn, nice post...sounds like another interesting recipe for me to try :-)

  13. that was one awesome read...am hearing this name for the first time..ottada...sounds funny though..;-P

    well..well..respect for recreating the naadan delicacies in a distant land...when people back rarely make it anymore!!!

    appealing write and picture as always.

  14. of course i know u!!!actually wanted to keep it a secret for awhile!!!LOVE ur blog..s told me about it...in fact its inspired me to start one of my owm..though nowhere in ur league its a small whimper in this growing cooking bloggers chorus...awesome to meet u here!!!!r u on facebook?

  15. Last month i had posted normal ada with jaggery n coconut filling..this looks amazing...i dont have that type of chatti/...i have that meen curry chatti, pachadi chatti n all...but this chatti s too beautiful.. :)i m really worried by thinking how i missed this blog..last time when my blog friend Tina Noble of "Kaipunyam" came here, she told about your blog...im so sad that i missed in these days..all recipes are amazing..nammude naadinte oru manam, thante blogilu... :)im following u from today onwards..im a budding bloger of 7month old.. :)..bt i hope u will come and have a look..i was active in blogging till 2months back..but as im pregnent nw its not possible for sit for long time..but i assure u, dat u can see my presence in your blog. :)

  16. dear shn, my mom makes the 3rd type..but its called orotti!

  17. Oh my god!kudos to your patience. Amazing write-up and good to know lot of new stuff.

  18. That was a lovely write up Shn..Thanks for sharing it..

    Ottada is completely a new word to me.. Then I realised it is nothing but 'Ela Ada' with only one difference..We use jaggery instead of Sugar in our part of Kerala.. And we always make it this way.. We never steam it as you mentioned in ur recipe for Ela Ada.. Just a matter of local food culture I guess..

    Then the second picture..We make that too.. But we call it "Orotti".

  19. Hi shn,

    Just to update my previous comment.

    I had enquired with my dad about ottada and he fondly remembers his childhood. He said it used to be served with ghee and sugar and not with non veg curry like I said earlier.

  20. Wow Shn
    This is like a thesis paper, you did so much research. Kudos to you

  21. Shn,

    My mother used to make 3rd version of ottada. I miss now. Your post brought back that memories.


  22. Hi da Ottada nannayitundu...but jaggery cherthundakkiyal nalla taste anu....next time nokkane.....hooooo my all time favourite food anu....

  23. beautiful pic and writeup. i am not a fan of the ada but i remember my mom making the 'ila ada' version on a hot pan and so enjoyed this post.

  24. very nice food photography.


  25. Love ada..this sounds like a documentary though..

  26. Shn, did you aquire a Phd in Ottada-making? :) You did a lot of research here! I made aval nanachathu after seeing it here - more out of nostalgia than the real liking for it... can;t remember actually liking it much as a kid.

  27. oh..kidilam!!!really,kudos to ur hardwork for research & preparing these lovlely ottada..My mom used to it 3rd method and we call it as orotti! as always beatuiful pics and write-ups..Waiting for ur next unique recipes.

  28. lots of good research here!! i love how u get hooked onto something.:) we have a poured version of this in our house and another version which is made in a man chatti but its made as a batter pancake ad it has holes in it..hence the name otta(holes)ada.. we pour coconut milk over it and sugar. maybe i should blog that to complete ur research.

  29. Mish,slightly out of recipe question may be.But this is a request..why dont you give a subscribe in link somewhere so that people like me can subscribe by mail..was searching here for long..Thank you.

  30. Hi, I am late here. I would just love to eat that ottada right away, awesome, you have put in so much of effort for this. Just great.

  31. I love both all the different styles Shn, so interesting that just a little variation makes a big difference in taste. Great post!

  32. tempted me to make ottada
    signing off

  33. tempted me to make ottada
    signing off

  34. I have only heard of this but never eaten one. I shall also see what I can find out about this next trip home. :)

  35. I look at your blogs now and then...The only thing I tried so far was the "ela ada"... For that recipe I got frozen banana leaves from a korean market and thankfully, thought of steaming to check if they are fine if cooked. They smelled sick after I steamed them, and I decided to make ada in aluminium foil instead.. The leaves I see on your blogs tempt me so much...where do you buy them?

  36. Thanks to each and everyone of you out there who took time to read this post and drop your feedback here. Wanted to reply immediately but currently I am pressed for time and a bit disoriented. Sorry for the delay in replying!

    Nikhil, I owe you a big thanks :) I think, in such cases one miay try my grandma's method to get a soft texture .

    Rachel, you should :)

    Sreeja, Thanks a lot for all the appreciation and encouragement :) As for the recipe request , well I learnt to mushroom from other blogs :)

    Renu, thanks for the link from Shilpa's blog....yeah, it does look similar to the rustic flat breads from our land......and yes, i do hope that u update your blogspot and enlighten some of us :)

    Happy Cook, same story here too :)

    Small Talk, ada with karikku and thenga...wow that sounds intersting...u should teach me that one :) and multiple layers of taste with same set of ingredients is somethin that amazes me as well.

    Nags, i dont how dry it was but roasting does give a bit rough texture.

    Jayasree,glad to know you enjoyed the post.

    Prathibha, what u refer here sounds similar to the Orotti I have mentioned in my latest post..thanks a lot for rechecking and confirming with ur dad :) and thx for being encouraging and supportive :)

    SK,ur feedback made my day....that was so nice of you to leave such a generous feedback...glad to know that this humble space of mine is of some help to u .....and for the taste matching, well i think probably we hail from the same region coz i am neither a syrian nor a x'ian :)

    Food network, thank you.

    kaya, :)

    Mathew, thank you....naattil ninnu maari nikkumbo alle ethokke nashtapedumbo ulla vishamam kooduthal ariyunne.....avide ethokke eppo venamenkilum undakkallo....nammale pole vazha ela chinese shop-il varunna muhurtham nokki erikkendallo :)

    S, will sure mail u soon....was really really tied up.....nope, not on FB.btw,, i loved ur blog , especially ur paintings :)

    Lena, thanks a lot such a sweet and nice comment....glad u left a trail here, so i could find ur beautiful page too...and why bring in this senority thing into blogging....all of us try to do our best...alle? :) u take care and the lil one inside :)

    The green heart, orotti is slightly different for us...i have blogged that one in my latest post. thx for triggering another set of thought process in my lil brain :)

    HB, thank you..

    Shankupushpam, local food culture and orotti...both covered in my latest post...u were one of those who sparked some ideas for my latest post thanks a lot :)

    Sandeepa. hahaha :))

    Swathi, happy to heat that :)

    Sri, Thanks a bunch :)

    Tina, sure aayitum nokkam :)

    Lan, nice to know that...thanks :)

    Thulasi, Was thrilled to see ur name in my mail box...and so happy to receive a compliment from u..thanks a ton !

    RS, hope u didnt get bored :)

    Jyo, no just prepared my synopsis :P happy to know that i tempted u ::)

    Sangeetha, orotti is slightly different for us...check my latest post..thanks :)

    Mallugirl, heheh, u basically like my craziness alle?:) pls pls ...do post ur version...i would love to see how it is cooked at ur place....

    Ann,will try to put it up sometime soon...

    Rekha, pls dont worry about being late et al....no such issue with me....really appreciate u finding time to drop by here and leaving words of encouragement....thanks a bunch!

    Mandira, thanks a lot..:)

    Bindu, thank you

    Sudha, did u make already?

    Aparna, pls do :)

    Neetha, i also buy frozen ones from the asian store and when thawed, they look very fresh....u might have got a spoiled batch....


  37. Hi Shn,
    I am a regular visitor to your blog for the past few months. Really love to read your posts! Inspired by the mouth watering pics i tried to make some of the dishes also. I have been receiving advices from my friends to start a cookery blog coz i have a habit of uploading my daily menu pics in my orkut ;-). As I am new to blogging, it is taking time. But your blog really inspires me to start one.......

  38. dear mishmash i prepared ottada that eve itself &was abig hit thanks for taking me to old time favs.next going to try green pepper fish fry see u sudha

  39. hai i am a regular visitor of your blog...i like u r receipes verymuch.wish u all the best.hope for more and more...jas.

  40. Dear Mishmash

    How are you? How is the little one? I was a great fan of your blog. I have recommended this to so many of my friends.

    Your description of the slightly burnt smell of the plantain leaves is what made me write to you. Your first and second version are same like how we make. But the third version there is slight change. In the third version the ingredients are same. But instead of putting it on a non-stick pan we used to flatten the dough on two or three pieces of plantain leaf. And here we will not fold the plantain leaf. Instead we cover the ada again with two or three pieces of plantain leaves. And cook the ada in the man chatti. I remember the chatti is double the size of the one you showed in your picture. Here also the smell will be the same as of the first version. I remember amma making the ada into small pieces and putting it in the coconut milk with sugar. I like it that way. And this is one of my favourite. This is what we call Ottada at our place.

    Thanks for all your pictures. It remained me of the wonderful aroma of ottada.



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