I’d start by saying this is my absolute favorite dish. I ♥ it so so soooo very much! The flavors are simple, nothing too extravagant. And it is pretty healthy too! However, it can be a pain to do the whole process. Yep, it isn’t a quickie recipe. You’ve got to grind the batter, let it ferment, then make the pancakes patiently, which believe me takes hours! But just because it is a time consuming process doesn’t mean it is difficult. It takes a lot of coaxing, nagging & pleading for months to get my mum to make this recipe! But now that I know how to make this, I’m hoping this would make an appearance at least once a month!
There are 2 ways of making these pancakes. The traditional method is to pour the batter on banana leaves and steam them. Hence the name Yelai Vadaam (read Yay-lai Vuh-daam). Yelai means a leaf. But nowadays, people use the readymade leaf stands that are available in the market. They are made of stainless steel and can make upto 8-10 pancakes in one go. In the traditional method, one has to steam the leaves one by one. I’ve shown both methods here.
The CAST : White Rice, Asafoetida, Carom or Cumin seeds, Salt, oil, green chilli, lemon juice
You’re also gonna need banana leaves cut into squares or the elai vadam stand. And a steamer. I use my pressure cooker without the whistle to steam these. Alternatively, you could use your bamboo steamer too.
Start off by soaking the plain old rice in water for 3-4 hours
Drain the water and grind the rice with as much water required to make it into a smooth runny batter
As the batter is grinding, add salt to mix well. The batter needs to be really smooth. I use my wet grinder. But a blender should do the job.
Leave it at room temperature for 2-3 days. This is to let the batter ferment and develop a natural sourness. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip this and squeeze as much lemon juice as you need. But I suggest planning ahead and letting it rest for at least 2 days.
On the day you’re gonna make the pancakes, add the carom or cumin seeds, asafoetida, ground green chilli paste and mix well. Squeeze some lemon if you need more sourness.
METHOD 1: Steaming on the Banana Leaf
Cut the banana leaves into manageable squares. (as big as you’re steamer can take)
If you’re using the pressure cooker, you wanna invert a big vessel on the cooker. (almost as big as 3/4th of the cooker) Add 2 cups of water and let that come to a boil.
To the banana leaf, add a drop of vegetable oil and smear it all over.
Take a ladle of the batter and spread it out to a thin layer.
The thickness can really depend on how you want your pancakes. I like mine really thin so I made sure I poured just enough batter to cover the whole leaf.
Carefully place the leaf on the vessel in the cooker. Close the lid & steam (cook without whistle) for about 2-3 minutes.
Alternatively, steam in your bamboo steamer as per instructions. (I’ve never used one so I don’t know)
Once it is out, let it rest for a couple of minutes & from the edge, peel it off!
METHOD 2: Steaming with the Yelai Vadam stand
Smear the detachable plates with a bit of oil & spread the batter all over it.
Again, the thickness depends on how you like your pancakes. But make it thin for it to cook quickly!
Arrange the plates on the stand.
Into the steamer for 2-3 minutes
Out they come after 3 minutes!!
Remove the plates & let them cool for a minute
Peel off starting from the edges
METHOD 3: Using flat non stick plates
DO the same thing you did in method 2. But you will have to steam one by one
Another way of eating Yelai Vadaam
This is usually made so that you could dry it off, store and then deep fry! Those are delicious too!
Spread out each thin pancake & let it dry for at least 24 hours or until it is completely dry.
Store in air tight box. Deep fry later on & enjoy!
If you’re serious about Yelai Vadaam, I suggest you get the elai vadam stand. I’m not sure where you would get it. My mom got hers from Chennai. If that is not possible, you could use any non stick, heat proof plate too.
- 200 gms White Rice
- 2 tsp Asafoetida (hing)
- 1 TBsp Carom seeds (or cumin)
- 3 Tbsp Salt (adjust accordingly)
- 1 Tbsp Green Chilli Paste (just grind with a bit of water)
- Lemon juice (as required)
- Vegetable Oil (as required)
- Banana leaves or non stick flat plates or the Yelai Vadaam stand
- Soak rice in water for 3 hours, drain the water and grind it to a fine smooth batter. Add water as required to make it to pouring consistency. Mix in the salt.
- Let the batter rest (for it to ferment) for 2-3 days in a warm spot.
- On the 3rd day, mix in the asafoetida (hing), green chilli paste & carom (or cumin) seeds & mix well. Add lemon juice if you need more sourness
- I use a pressure cooker to steam mine. Invert a vessel almost ¾th as big as the cooker on the cooker & add 2 cups of water & let it come to a boil. (Skip the vessel part if you follow method 2)
- Or, if you have any other kind of steamer, follow manual instructions to get that ready to steam
- Cut banana leaves into manageable squares. They should be as big as the steamer can take. Smear a drop of oil on each leaf.
- Pour some batter in the center and spread it out evenly, making sure it is a thin layer.
- Keep that Leaf carefully on top of the inverted vessel and steam it for 2-3 minutes.
- Take it out, cool for 2 minutes and start peeling off from the edges.
- Smear a drop of oil on each detachable ‘leaf’ plate and pour a thin layer of batter evenly.
- Arrange the plates on the stand and place it in the steamer/cooker. Steam for 2-3 minutes.
- Let it cook for 2 minutes & peel of starting from the edges.
- Oil a flat plate well and pour a thin layer of batter.
- Place it in the steamer & steam for 3 minutes
- Let it cool & peel off
- Serve as it is or with some chilli powder or green chilli paste.
- Place the cooked pancakes on a cloth individually.
- Let it sun dry or dry under the fan for 24 hours or until they are completely dry.
- Store it in air tight boxes and deep fry & eat whenever you want.