Ela Ada (leaf parcels) is a Kerala delicacy traditionally made using a banana leaf (ela) to wrap the rice parcels (ada) that are stuffed with sweet coconut and lentils and are steam cooked.
Ela is Malayalam for banana leaf and Ada translates to parcels. The dough for Ada or parcels is made with rice flour. The filling for Ela Ada is made with grated coconut and channa dal that is sweetened with either sugar or jaggery and flavoured with cardamom and shallots. I know for many onions or shallots in the sweet dish is totally new and weird, but we love it.
The stuffed parcels are steam cooked wrapped in a banana leaf but we can skip the leaf and still make these parcels. The ela or banana leaf imparts a flavour to the parcel that is impossible to mimic. So, an ela ada without ela is never the same but it surely will help in feeding your homesickness.
Not everyone has access to banana leaf and even if we do they are not worth the price. I have tried making ela ada or elayappam using ziplock bags or baking parchment papers. The paper doesn't go into the steamer but is just used to roll, wrap and seal the parcels.
Normal water or Boiling water
I had one big dilemma - should I use normal water or boiling water to make the rice flour dough. My mom said amis podi does not need hot water but no one seems to know the reason. So, I too never tried any other brand other than amis podi.
But after we moved to UAE, this brand is not always available. So I did some research about rice flour dough and found this article that explains when to use hot water and when to use normal water. Based on this article, ela ada dough can be made with normal water.
I went to Lulu to pick up a pack of Aripodi and like always stood looking at the numerous options - like what is the difference between aripodi and idiyappam podi? Anyways, I saw Nirapara's Rice Powder pack that has an ela ada image on it. There was no instruction but their idiyappam pack instruction mentions hot water.
Back on that website, I found Patoleo’s recipe which is very similar to ela ada except they use turmeric leaves or jackfruit leaves instead of banana leaves. Patoleo dough is made with rice flour and normal water, so I will stick with normal water for Ela ada. And, you do what you are used to or comfortable with or what your rice flour pack states.
- channa dal: aka split chickpea or Bengal gram.
- coconut: It is best to use freshly grated but you can easily use desiccated coconut too. Use water to hydrate the desiccated coconut.
- sugar: I have used sugar but you can replace it with jaggery which is the traditional choice.
- ghee: we use ghee in making the filling for the parcels but you may use butter.
- mini shallots: a small amount of shallot or onion gives this sweet dish the Moplah touch.
- cardamom: adds aromatic flavour
- rice flour: I have used the brand amis aripodi which roasted rice flour and never required hot water to prepare the dough.
- water: hot or coldas per the rice flour pack instructions. I have always used normal water to make the dough.
- salt to taste
- oil to grease the pan and palms
Updated on 19th June 2017. - Used Baking paper this time and felt this is a lot easier to handle than a ziplock bag. The written content of this post was updated on 7th April 2021.
Prepare the filling and let it cool before you can stuff into the rice flour parcels. The filling can be made ahead. Prepare the dough and start wrapping.
Making ela ada without ela.
Ela Ada | Sweet Coconut Parcels
For the Filling:
- ¼ cup channa dal soaked for couple of hours
- ¾ cup grated coconut
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- 1 mini shallots sliced
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
- salt to taste
For the Dough:
- 1¼ cup rice flour
- 1¼ cup water approx
- salt to taste
- Oil to grease the pan and palms
Prepare the ada filling:
- Pressure cook the chana dal with salt and water until done. It should retain its shape. Once pressure cools, open and drain the cooked lentils. (You can use the liquid in soups or curries)¼ cup channa dal
- Heat ghee in a pan and saute the sliced shallot on a low flame until translucent.1 teaspoon ghee, 1 mini shallots
- Add the grated coconut and sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar is completely melted.¾ cup grated coconut, 6 tablespoons sugar
- Once the sugar is melted, add the lentils and stir well until the mixture comes together. Stir in some salt and ground cardamom. Adjust salt, sugar, and cardamom as per your taste and keep this aside to cool completely.¼ teaspoon cardamom powder, salt to taste
Prepare the dough:
- In a large bowl, combine the rice flour and salt and gradually add water and mix it until it forms a dough that is easy to handle. It should not be sticky or watery, you should be able to make balls. The number of balls depends on the size of the parcel that you are planning to make. Smaller balls, a little stuffing, or bigger balls and more stuffing.1¼ cup rice flour, 1¼ cup water, salt to taste
Prepare the Ela Ada:
- Tear a baking paper into four squares and use two. You may use a zip lock bag or freezer bag or any plastic sheets like milk packets etc.
- Divide the dough into equal-sized balls. Take one dough ball and make it smooth by rolling it between your greased palms.Oil to grease
- Place it in the centre of a baking paper square and cover this with another piece.
- Use a rolling pin to carefully roll the dough into a round shape (you can move the stack to get the shape)
- Remove the top sheet and place some filling on one side of the rolled dough (leave space around the border) and bring the other corner of the sheet to close the parcel. Now you will have a semicircle, half-moon-shaped ada. Refer to the pictures.
- Press along the edges to seal the parcel and ensure there is no opening.
- Open the sheet and carefully release the parcel and place it on the steamer. Repeat to make as many parcels as your steamer can hold.
- Steam for 10 minutes or until cooked. You can check for the firmness of the dough to ensure it is cooked.
- Store in a hot pack and serve warm with a cup of chai. To reheat, you have to steam for a few minutes only, other ways of reheating will make it dry.