Alu or colocasia , is such an amazing vegetable, beautiful to look at and so versatile to cook.
It has deep green, big, broad leaves and a beautiful purple coloured stem. It’s fleshy root (called arbi or alkudi in Marathi ) is delicious too and is used to make various savoury dishes.
The plant grows easily in damp soil and is relatively easy and non fussy to grow .
There are two varieties in this particular plant. One has darker, thicker , broader leaves while the other had smaller, softer and lighter coloured leaves.
The broad leaves are used to make Alu vadi ( colocasia rolls).
See the recipe here.
For the ‘patal bhaji’ (loosely translated as gravy vegetable), usually the smaller variety of leaves is chosen because for this preparation, the leaves have to be chopped finely.
Colocasia has calcium oxalate crystals in its leaves, that could cause irritation in the throat when consumed. The good news is that these crystals can be dissolved and rendered harmless, when we add an acidic content (something sour) while cooking.
It is extremely important to take a note of this while making any dish that uses colocasia leaves as an ingredient.
Ambat chukka or Green sorrel thus becomes a crucial element of this preparation.
Ambat chukka is a leafy vegetable that has extremely sour leaves and acts as the supporting hero to colocasia leaves.
The liberal use of tamarind pulp (to neutralise the crystals) and the equally liberal use of jaggery (to counter the sourness of tamarind), gives this unique preparation a sweet – sour – spicy – tangy taste.
The white radish (mooli) adds a distinctive flavour to the bhaji while the peanuts , cashews and chana daal add a nice crunch , texture and nutrition to it.
in order to really understand what I am saying, just have a spoonful of this bhaaji, and experience a burst of flavours in your mouth.
You will be amazed how beautifully the ingredients pair together, each one not only complementing each other but also retaining it’s own special flavour.
It is this taste that makes this preparation hugely popular in the maharashtrian cuisine.
Aluchi patal bhaji is one of the main features in the menu of maharashtrian wedding pangat (sit down meal). This special bhaaji is made during most festivals or during traditional meals.
It pairs very well with varan – bhaat, batatyachi bhaaji, papad and chutney.
The recipe that I am sharing is the one that my mother in law has taught me. Its an amazing method, she had simplified the recipe so creatively, that making it is a dream.
- 5 cups chopped colocasia leaves, along with their stems
- 1 cup chopped Ambat chukka ( green sorrel)
- 1 medium sized white radish, sliced finely
- 1/2 cup Fresh coconut, sliced
- 1/2 cup soaked groundnuts
- 1/4 cup soaked chana dal
- 1/2 cup cashews, halved
- 8-10 green chillies (ground coarsely) . Quantity can be adjusted according to personal preference.
- 1/2 cup jaggery
- 1/4 cup thick tamarind pulp
- 2-3 table spoons besan ( this is used to thicken the curry, can be adjusted to personal preference)
- 2 table spoons oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp Hing
- 1 tsp haldi
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- Put ingredients (item 1 to 8) in a pressure cooker.
- Add 3-4 cups of water and pressure cook.
- Open the lid of the cooker after the pressure drops.
- Using an wooden spoon, blend the vegetables, taking care not to crush the nuts and daal.
- Mix the besan in 1/2 cup of water.
- Put the cooker on the flame, and add the jaggery, tamarind, and besan.
- Add about 2-3 cups of water and cook till the bhaaji thickens.
- Adjust the besan and water to desired consistency.
- Add salt
- When cooked, turn off the flame.
- In a small Kadhai , heat oil and make the tadka.
- Pour the hot tadka on the prepared curry and serve hot.
I always like to taste the vegetable before I add my tadka. The balance of the flavours can be adjusted to the one that you are familiar with.
Some households prefer it to be sweeter while others prefer it spicier.
With practice, you will be able to make this bhaji and perfect the flavours.
Here are a few suggestions in case some ingredients are not available .
Colocasia can be substituted with Spinach.
Green sorrel can be eliminated and use more tamarind pulp instead.
Sometimes leftover gulab jamun syrup is used to sweeten the bhaaji. In that case, eliminate the jaggery.
Tamarind pulp can be substituted with Lemon juice.
You could use thalipeeth bhajani instead of besan to thicken the bhaaji.
Green chillies can be substituted with red chilly powder.
This vegetable is super easy to make and very forgiving. It allows you to experiment with the flavours and to add your own touch to it.
I love making such preparations. They help me channelise the wabi -sabi spirit of cooking.