Alu vadi, pathori or patra are colocasia or taro leaves, and these are most popularly used in the making of patrode, a rolled snack made with the elephant ear leaves smeared with a mixture of either rice flour or chickpea flour and various fillings. You can find this savoury snack roll sitting on the countertops of almost every Gujarati farsan shop in the city and it is also used to make the delicious Turiya Patra Nu Shaak, a ridge gourd curry that uses chopped pieces of this patra in it. I too, made a version of the patra or colocasia leaf roll in the Bohri mash-up dish Patveliya Nu Gosht last year which brings together Patra with a spicy mutton mince gravy.
Restricting this leaf to just rolling and wrapping though would be wrong, because it really shines when added to soups, stews and casseroles. Colocasia leaves thicken gravies that they are added to, so go ahead and try swapping out spinach in your next palak paneer. Other interesting ways that taro leaf is used is to make Kontomire stew in Ghanian cuisine with tomatoes, melon seeds, fish, capsicum and plantains. Dried colocasia leaves are used as an ingredient in curries in Nagaland along with dried fish and bamboo shoots. Similar dishes are also cooked in the Philippines.
While I’ve always been very fond of the leaf, one of my favourite recipes using it came from the Dharavi Biennale cookbook titled ‘The Indecisive Chicken’. I’ve made this curry one too many times for lunch, and nothing beats its sweet-sour taste, especially when paired with piping hot rotis. I’ve also modified the recipe to suit my family’s dietary requirements. It’s currently unavailable on Amazon, but you can request a copy from the author Prajna Desai. Follow the link here. Trust me, this one’s a classic.
Colocasia Leaf Stew With Peanuts
The original recipe for this stew comes from Rajani Borse, one of eight Dharavi cooks who are featured in the cookbook 'The Indecisive Chicken' part of the Dharavi Biennale. A very simple preparation, everything is cooked in the pressure cooker and this sweet-sour stew is delicious served with rotis.
Colocasia Leaves 14-15, medium to large sized ones
Besan or chickpea flour 3 tbsp
Chilli powder 2 tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida 1/8 tsp
Jaggery 3-4 tbsp
Kokum 4 pieces (you can swap this for Tamarind instead. A golf-ball sized piece of soaked tamarind should work here)
Peanuts 3 tbsp
Water 1 1/2 cup
Oil 2 tbsp
Start by washing the colocasia leaves and cutting the stems off. Don't discard the stems and instead, chop them up and add them to a mixed vegetable sabzi you make next.
Cut up the leaves fine and in a medium-sized pressure cooker, add the leaves, whole peanuts, pieces of kokum (if using), coriander, chilli, cumin and turmeric powders and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Release the pressure from the cooker immediately after.
Heat oil in a kadai till shimmering and tip in the besan. Reduce the heat to low and toast the chickpea flour for three whole minutes at least. Next up, make a paste of the chickpea flour with some water till it becomes a homoegnous paste, then add the paste to the greens and spices mixture. Slowly begin adding cold water to the cooker, mixing as you go.
Make sure that the flour is incorporated well. You don't want chunks of flour in your mouth. Add in the jaggery next (plus the tamarind water if you opted for tamarind instead of kokum) and check for a balanced sweet-sour taste. Return the cooker to the stove without the lid and bring it up to a boil over medium heat, stirring it all the while. Take it off the heat once it is thick enough as per your preference and serve.