Colocassia is popularly known as Elephant ear plant, Taro, Arvi, Arbi, or Alu (in Marathi). It is a tropical herbaceous perennial. It is a gardener’s delight – needs rich fertile soil and plenty of water, it is used in landscaping too as well as the leaves, stem and roots are edible. The Romans used to cook it with celery and pork, the Sindhi community deep fry the boiled roots and use it in Sindhi curry. In India and the subcontinent various communities have their own versions of cooking and use. In Nagaland fish is steamed in the leaves, in Maharahstra and Gujrat the leaves are coated with spiced gram flour Besan to make delicious Patra. In Sri Lanka the boiled roots are made into chips or a fried curry with fish.
To learn more about the immense goodness in nutrition ( iron, folate, magnesium, vitamins) see here: https://foodfacts.mercola.com/taro.html
With such a rich volume of nutrition in just the leaves, we decided to definitely grow this plant in our vegetable garden. Look at the pretty, large triangular leaves. Today, I share a traditional Maharashtrian recipe using the delicate greenish purple leaves. Isnt’ that a treat?
Alu Chi Patal Bhaji ( Colocassia leaf curry)
6-8 leaves (preferably tender with stems)
half cup gram flour (Besan)
1 inch jaggery ( brown sugar)
1 spoon tamarind or tamarind paste (as desired)
salt and red chillies to taste
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (optional) or cashews(optional)
water as necessary
1-2 cups of buttermilk/lassi/ Aiir/ liquid yoghurt
1-3 tbsp. cooking oil
few seeds of mustard and jeera for the splutter
The tamarind juice helps negate the itchy feeling when consuming the leaves, this is due to the oxalate content in them.
Wash the leaves and stems – notice how the water runs off the surface. ( Spiritually it reminds me not to get entangled with our possessions…just let go of moods and anger).
Cut the leaves finely, pare the stems gently to remove the tough,non-edible outer layer of stem. Chop finely, discard any tough bits.
Place all the above in a large pot of water (1-2 cups) and boil. Keep aside to cool, do not throw the nutritious water, use to adjust the curry consistency. Soak the tamarind and jaggery in little water to soften well.
In a large bottom pan /wok heat some oil and add seeds, red or green chilli, peanuts, asafoetida (hing), and let it splutter, lightly toss the oil mixture for even heat. Add the boiled leaves, coat them with gram flour (adjust required thickness), add salt to taste. Add tamarind and jaggery juice. Keep stirring the mixture as it begins to thicken. Add buttermilk and left over boiled water, adjust the thickness to a pouring curry consistency. DO NOT let the mixture boil – keep stirring. The tamarind juice helps negate the itchy feeling when consuming the leaves, this is due to the oxalate content in them.
Adjust the taste – a tangy, sweet, spicy, leafy taste. Serve warm with millet Roti, wheat roti or just plain rice.
No traditional Maharastrian wedding is complete without this delicately sour, sweet and nut filled nutritious curry! Yumm…i can remember my childhood as we sat down in a Pangat ( sitting cross legged on mats, laid in rows) waiting to be served the steaming hot rice and patal bhaji, along with other Maharastrian food like koshimbeer, batata bhaji, usaal and Shrikhand. Mouth watering colourful and aromatic food.
As they say in Marathi – ‘Savakash Jeva…Anna he poorna Brahman’ which translates as – Eat slowly, for food is revered as Poorna Brahman.
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