‘Ela Ada’ also called ‘Vazha ila Ada’ is a kind of sweet steamed rice dumpling , filled with coconut ,and jaggery. It is a traditional dish from South India , which has been prepared from many years ,and passed on from generations .’Vazha Ela’ means banana leaf , and the ‘Ada’ means dumpling in the native language.
Growing up , I have seen ‘Ela Ada’ prepared at home .It was also a special dish prepared when visiting grandparents at my hometown in Kerala . This is also considered as a special dish , for offerings in prayers , rituals and occasions as well. It may seem a little difficult to make. In fact, I never tried a hand at it , until the recent years. We enjoy having this dish at home ,so I definitely wanted to learn making it. The joys of perfecting this dish, is something that only ‘Ada’ lovers can vouch for.
How to make ‘Vazha Ela Ada’ ?
The base of this dish , the outer covering is similar to that of the dish Pathiri, that I posted earlier. It’s nothing but dough made of rice flour , salt and boiling hot water . You can use the rice flour ,or the special rice flour called “Pathiri Podi” available in the super market .The rice flour and water is stirred with a wooden spoon, and then combined to form a large ball of dough. Later , small round rice balls are rolled , flattened slightly using the palms and the flat press used in making this dish.
The press is exactly similar to the tortilla press . You can line the press with clingwrap or ziplock sheets cut from sides ,and lubricate with a little oil if required .This prevents the dough from sticking to the press, and easy lifting. The flattened dough is stuffed with a sweet filling of coconut , and jaggery infused with powdered cardamom .The sides are gently pressed to seal completely. It is then carefully wrapped in a banana leaf ,and placed in a steamer and steamed for about 10 to 15 mins .
To make the perfect dough for ‘Ela Ada’
The dough making can be a little tricky for beginners. But once you master it , and with practice, it just comes naturally. In my preparation, the water and flour ratio that I use is 2 1/4 : 2 cups . I boil around 3 cups of water . Start by pouring 2 1/4 cups of water to 2 cups of the flour . Later, add the remaining water if required. The extra water may be necessary, when the flour does not soak up completely.
Since the water is boiling hot, it’s preferable to use a wooden spoon to stir. Wait for it to cool , for about 5 mins .Once cooled ,you can then slowly work your way with your hands . You can add a little oil to smoothen the dough . The dough should neither be too sticky ,that it gets stuck on using the press , nor too dry that you can’t form a neat flat shape . You can see pictures of the dumpling making process, in the collage below for reference.
Filling of the Vazha Ila Ada
The filling of coconut and jaggery , can be made in advance and cooled . The grated coconut and jaggery are heated on a slow flame, with very little water . When the jaggery completely melts wait for the water to evaporate . A little cardamom powder, and a pinch of salt is added to enhance the taste . The consistency should be neither too watery nor dry. The aroma of the filling when cooking is just awesome .
Can Ela Ada be made without a banana leaf
Yes , you can directly place the ‘Ada’ or dumplings in the steamer, and it will still turn out good. If you have the banana leaf available , nothing like it .It will give a nice look and taste even better. Since I had a banana plant growing in the backyard , I was more than happy , and excited to use the leaves .
Benefits of cooking Vazha Ela Ada in a banana leaf
The banana leaf is used in many types of Asian cuisines for wrapping food, grilling, and steaming . It is known to impart a nice aroma, and flavor to the dishes .The moisture of the food cooked in a banana leaf is retained. The leaves are also said to contain polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties .The health benefits of the leaves make it even more appealing. You can read more about the banana leaf uses here .
Can the cooked Ada be stored ?
The cooked ‘Ada’ can be refrigerated for about two to three days. You may want to re- steam again, so that it softens . It can get hard and dry on storing in the refrigerator. It’s best eaten fresh, and as soon as it is cooked for the authentic flavors. I have never tried freezing it ,so cannot comment on that.
A traditional steamed rice dumpling with cardamom infused coconut and jaggery from South India that is made on special occasions , for offerings and festivities
- 2 cups Rice flour or Pathiri powder
- 2 1/4 cups Water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups grated coconut fresh
- 1 1/2 cups jaggery
- 3/4 tsp cardamom powdered
- 1 pinch salt
Boil water and add it to the flour
Stir with a wooden spoon evenly
Wait for the dough to cool for about 10 minutes
Slowly work with your hands to form a big dough ball
Add oil and form a smooth dough
In a pan take the fresh coconut , jaggery and a little water
Heat on medium flame until the jaggery is completely melted
Add the powdered cardamom and a pinch of salt
Stir until the filling has no remaining moisture but not too dry.
Use the dough to make small balls and flatten with your palms
Press it on a Pathiri press to get a nice round shape
Add the filling and gently cover it to form a shape shown in the picture
Seal the sides and wrap it in a banana leaf
Place it in a steamer with boiling water
Steam for about 10 to 15 minutes
The Ada is ready to be served
‘Ela Ada’ is a soul food that brings warm memories of childhood and joyful times. Making , serving and eating this is truly a pleasure .Hope you enjoyed reading about this dish and the photos . Have you tried any recipes that uses banana leaves in cooking , would love to hear in the comments below. Have a wonderful day!