Maraalva or Tree Taro leaves are available in the local market during rainy season. They are mainly found in tea or coffee estates on trees. Slightly thicker and brittle than the normal Colocasia leaves, these remain green for a week if wrapped in paper or muslin cloth and preserved in a fridge. What we get in the market are as small as betel leaves sometimes. If you have contact with anyone having coffee or tea estate, you can get really big ones. Avoid using ones that have turned deep yellow, as they are not suitable. Slightly Greenish Yellow ones are alright.
Meena's friend Joyce D'Souza gets very big tree taro leaves from her husband Max D'Souza's estate in Banakal. So, Meena learned how to make these fritters a few years ago. She also learned the technique of slicing the roll after freezing it, to obtain very thin and even slices.
My mother was not very fond of these phodis, as she was a bit allergic to maraalva leaf. She made pathrode more than these fritters. Besides, availability of good leaf was a major issue. My sister in law Prabha Shenoy made them very tasty and I had a chance to eat them for a few years in the Eighties when I was staying at my brother's place. Some people around Car Street Mangalore make them well. I remember having tasted excellent maraalva podis made by my Bank colleague Suresh Bhat's mother. She made them very crisp, tangy spicy and perfect.
When I was a small boy, my mother and a few contemporaries used to roast urad daal, soak it and manually grind to a smooth paste, add slightly coarse paste of soaked rice with red chillies, salt, asafotoeda and tamarind to it and then apply that paste on the leaves. Since last 35 years or so, we get Hoorna(Roasted Black Gram powder) and Rice powder in local mills, making our job easy.
1. Tree Taro leaves(Maraalva Paan) - 10-12
2. Hoorna(Roasted Black Gram powder) - 1/2 cup
3. Rice flour - 1 cup
4. Red chilli powder - 4-5 tsp
5. Asafotoeda - a pinch
6. Tamarind - Cherry size ball
7. Salt - Q.S.
8. Water - Q.S.
9. Coconut Oil or Refined vegetable oil - For deep frying
Make a thick solution of hing in water.
Extract tamarind in 30ml water.
Mix all the powders and salt to taste to make a thick gummy paste, adding the asafotoeda solution and tamarind extract, adding water as required.
Check for salt.
Wash and wipe the tree taro leaves dry.
Remove stem and ribs if any, with a sharp knife.
Spread one big leaf shining side down.
Anoint the masala paste evenly in a thin layer.
Place a smaller leaf over its edge and again smear the masala paste.
Go on arranging layers to make sufficiently thick and tight roll, tucking the ends inside like a 'Patrvadi Roll'.
Keep the roll in the freezer for 6-8 hours till it hardens.
Remove from the freezer and transfer to the cutting board.
Using a very sharp slicing knife, make very thin slices of the roll.
You can arrange these slices in a fridge container, keep them for later use and they remain good for 2-3 days.
Heat oil in a thick kadai.
As soon as the oil starts fuming, reduce the heat to less than medium.
Roll each slice in rice four and deep fry 6-8 slices at a time in hot oil on controlled heat till crisp, puffy and brown.
Remove any dropping in the oil each time as you finish frying them phodis.
You can also fry some slices without coating them with rice flour to make naked fried phodis.
Rava fried ones consume less oil and naked fried ones consume more, but latter ones turn out more crisp like puff pastry.
Drain the phodis on the perforated ladle and then transfer over to absorbent paper.
Serve with rice and daal or as a tea time snack.
You can store the fried podis at room temperature in an air tight dry container and use them for almost a week.