Thursday, 14 July 2016




          This princess of a curry comes not from prized truffles or precious caviar, but from the simple, humble, ubiquitous elephant ear leaves (a type of taro or Colocasia Esculenta commonly known as Alva Pànne in Konkani or Pal chèmbe ila in Malayalam).

          These leaves, together with jackfruit seeds and cucumber tree fruit (Bimbul in Konkani and Bilimbi or Irumban Puli in Malayalam) are freely available in the monsoon season. They are a true blessing of mother nature. Be sure to cook and enjoy this delicious curry with several crumbled papads.

Ingredients (for five large servings):

     1)    Tender and fresh deveined taro leaves – 500 gm.
     2)    Fresh jackfruit seeds with the outer skin removed – 150 gm.
     3)    Cucumber tree fruit – 120 gm.

     4)    Dry Kashmiri chilies – 35 gm.
     5)    Salt – 20 gm.
     6)    Medium sized coconut – 1 No.
     7)    Garlic cloves – 8 Nos.
     8)    Cooking oil – 1 tablespoon
     9)    Deep fried papads (black gram / urad dal plain papads) – 30 Nos.

To Prepare:

          Select only one tenderest leaf from each taro plant. This is because mature leaves contain too much of calcium oxalate and cause itching of the mouth and irritation of the throat. Around 15 leaves may be required depending on the size of the leaf. Carefully slice off the thick veins from the underside of the leaves and set aside.
Be sure to peel off the nylon-like white skin (cellulose) from the jackfruit seeds. Cut them lengthwise into two halves and set aside. Cut off the stems of the cucumber tree fruit. Slice them into thin disks and set aside.

Scrape the coconut. Put the grated coconut and the chilies into your food processor. Add a little water and grind it to superfine paste. Roll the taro leaves and slice them roughly into ribbons. Crush the garlic cloves and set aside.

To cook:

          Put the leaves, the jackfruit seeds and the cucumber tree fruit into a pressure cooker. Pour in 600 ml. of water. Close the lid and set on high heat. As soon as you hear the first whistle, turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Now switch off the heat and let the steam subside naturally. This will provide enough time for the leaves to cook to perfection.

          As soon as the cooker is cool enough, open the lid. Set a curry vessel on the stove. Tip in the cooking oil and the garlic. Stir continuously till the garlic turns brown. Now tip in the contents of the cooker into the curry vessel. Throw in the salt.

As soon as it starts boiling, tip in the coconut chili paste and stir. Add a little water to bring the curry to the desired consistency (see picture).  Once it boils again, taste and add more salt if necessary. Your delicious alvathi is now ready.

No sooner than hot rice, porridge or cherupayar kanji is ready, deep-fry the papads. Serve hot alvathi in a bowl or deep plate. Crumble two or three papads on top. Crush with your fingers, mix and slurp up alternating with a mouthful of rice / porridge. You will be surprised at the quantity of curry you devour!


          Race, nationality or table manners notwithstanding, please be an Indian as you enjoy this curry. Give up the spoon for the duration of this meal. Use your fingers to eat and see for yourself the surprising difference in taste.


  1. Karkidakam 1 special this one?
    never tasted anyway...

  2. Dear deeps,

    Karkidakam 1 or not, Alvathi is the tastiest of all leaf curries. The ingredients are available plentifully only in this season. If you can manage to get the ingredients together, be sure to taste and make the best of it. If taro leaves are unavailable, use amaranthus (cheera) leaves. If cucumber tree fruit cannot be had, use tamarind juice or hog plums (ambazhanga). If jackfruit seeds too are absent, simply use thick amaranthus stem pieces and crumble more papads in the curry as you eat.


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