Ela Ada

Sweetened coconut flakes are encased in a layer of rice paste spread on toasted banana leaves and then steam-cooked to make these delicate flat cakes. As it cooks, the Ela Ada absorbs the earthy aroma of the toasted banana leaves.

1 cup long grain rice
1 cup jaggery or brown sugar
2 ½ cups of freshly grated coconut
2 tablespoons ghee
10 to 15 banana leaf pieces cut into 6- to 7-inch squares

Soak rice in cold water for 2 to 3 hours and rinse throughly. Grind it in a blender with just enough water to make a thick batter. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, melt the brown sugar with a tablespoon of water and add the grated coconut. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to thicken, add the ghee and stir well. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

With tongs, pick up one piece of banana leaf at a time and toast it over a medium flame, holding it high, for 10 seconds. The leaf will turn dark and become more pliable. Spread a ladleful of rice batter evenly on the toasted leaf. Place a tablespoon of sweetened coconut over this and spread it evenly. Fold the banana leaf in the middle and press the sides with to close it well. Repeat this process with the remaining leaves and filling. Place the stuffed banana leaves flat in a steamer insert lined with additional banana leaves and steam the packets for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove them from the steamer, peel off the banana leaf wrappers, and serve.

AMMINI RAMACHANDRAN