If there were a top five of favorite Parsi snack foods, patrel would be on everyone’s list. It’s one of those dishes with Hindu Gujarati origins now completely absorbed into our cuisine and transformed by it. Patrel is definitely exotic and requires some effort, but it is worth all the time you put into it because there is no other taste quite like it. This recipe, which produces patrel of the highest order, was adapted from the one in the 1975 edition of the Time and Talents Club cookbook; its contributor, the late Mary Jamsetjee, my friend Firoza’s aunt, was a respected authority on Parsi food.
Patrel for Parsis, patra for Gujaratis, consists of taro (Colocasia esculentum) leaves spread with a sweet, sour, hot paste and then stacked, rolled, tied, and fried, following the traditional approach, or simply steamed, which I prefer. To finish the dish, the rolls are sliced after they cool and then lightly sautéed or grilled. For Parsis, patrel is a finger-food snack or appetizer, although Gujarati cuisine has recipes for patrel in coconut milk or other sauces.
Having made patrel for almost thirty years, I just recently discovered that large uncrinkly chard leaves make an entirely satisfactory substitute for the taro leaves. The size of the leaves determines the yield. You’ll get from four to eight rolls and at least forty to fifty slices of patrel from this recipe—enough for a gathering.
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