Even though there are many, I guess, unniyappam and ilayada are two things that can be considered as Kerala's sweet delicacies.. For me, 'Ada' is something that I always relate with onam...
For every onam, at mom's place we used to keep 'Mathevar' or as some people call it 'Thrikaakkarayappan' , which idolizes the great King of Kerala, 'The Mahabali'... Mathevar is made using mud into cone shape and there will be three different sizes of them and are placed under an umbrella made of dried palm leaves(patta kuda).. And for the last three days of onam, morning and evening there will be some rituals or poojas that are performed for Maathevar.. And as an offering to Him, 'Ada' is made...
First two days the 'Ada' will be just plain and for the last pooja before removing Him, on 'Avittam' day, the sweet ada is made.. all the adas are made by roasting in a heavy pan usually cast iron with closed lid and flipping it once the roasted smell of banana leaf starts to come and not the usual way of steaming them.. They are also called as ottada... After the pooja, ada is broken to small pieces and are served to everyone as 'prasadam'.... My grand mother makes these adas and all the time I will be the one eagerly waiting for the pooja to finish and get the biggest piece.. especially for the sweet ada... because there will be only one ada to be served among lots of people and that is the only time it is made like that way in a pan... so, if somebody asks me what I miss the most about onam I would say that sweet piece of pan roasted 'Ada' by my grandmom...
As the onam days of this year were getting over, I was left with some plantain leaves and what else is the best way to use them other than making ada... So as it happened, I got myself into making them Sunday morning for breakfast... Sunday and breakfast... hmm, ok some can call it as brunch.. :) But I made the adas the usual way, that is, steamed.. even though I craved for the ottada... because its just not the ada that I miss, I miss her too.. so next time I go to Kerala I will surely get her to make some for me.. till then my poor steam adas will do okay... :)
Rice flour - 1 1/2 cups
Warm water - 1 cup and as needed
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
Plantain leaves - Cut into small rectangular/square shapes
For the filling:
Coconut - 1 cup grated
Jaggery - 4-5 pieces or more if you want to make the filling more sweet.
Cardamom powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Make the rice dough by mixing rice flour, water and salt. The dough should be looser than the 'chappathi' dough.
For the filling, the jaggery is melted in a saucepan with a little water and when it is done, it is filtered and allowed to cool... Once the jaggery is cool enough, the grated coconut and cardamom powder are added and mixed well.
Take one piece of plantain leaf and show it over a burning stove just to warm it up, for a second or two at each side. The green color of the leaf will turn into slightly darker color("vaattiyedukuka"). Don't allow it to burn or turn to black. Repeat the same for the other leaf pieces. This is done so that the leaves when folded won't get torn.
For making ada, take one piece of leaf, brush it with one or two drops of oil. Place one big spoon of dough in the middle and spread it across the leaf using finger tips and flatten into a thin layer. If the dough starts to get sticky, just dip the finger tips in water or oil. The filling is placed in one half (or, if you are someone with a real sweet tooth, you can keep the filling on both sides) and then folded. Repeat the process for making more of them.
In a steamer place these folded adas carefully. Don't over crowd them. I used a pressure cooker without keeping the weight and placed the adas in one of the plates of 'Idli maker'. Fill the steamer with some water and close the lid and once you see the steam coming, turn the heat to medium-low and steam for 5 - 7 more minutes. Carefully open the steamer and transfer those wonderfully smelling adas into serving plate.
The filling can be made with a lot of variations,by adding bananas to them, or using sugar instead of jaggery or using just coconut and adding a little more salt to the dough or with whatever you can com up with, from sweet to savory to spicy... Let the imagination begin..:)