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Elai Vadam/Stand Vadam (Rice papadum)

Each family has its own set of traditional recipes that are passed down to its next generation with lots of love. These are the recipes that no restaurant in the world can make and no amount of money can buy!  These are the recipes that bring the family together and remind them of the good times. This is one such recipe in our family. It is everybody’s favorite!! I get to hear wonderful stories about Venkat’s childhood every time I make this, he almost becomes a kid as he goes about describing Amma making this and how much fun he and Anna (my brother-in-law) used to have. So of course, I wanted to learn how to make this. Well, I kinda had to learn it to be in my husband’s good graces right! 😛 Venkat had told me so much about this before we got married, but finally when Amma made this for us, I became a fan instantly!! Then, I wanted to learn it more for my sake than his :)…..shh!! (this is just between you and me!).

What is Elai Vadam/Stand vadam?

First lets begin with “Vadam”. Vadam is almost synonymous with “Papad”. These are usually sun dried preparations which are made from one or more of the following ingredients: rice, lentils, potato or sago. These need to be deep fried in oil for eating. They are usually served as accompaniments to a meal in India, but they are great as snacks or appetizers. This particular vadam that we are going to see today are made from rice. We make a batter with soaked rice and let it ferment. They are then steamed in the shape of small pancakes (4″-5″ circles). “Elai” means leaves in Tamil. These vadams are called elai vadams because, in earlier days these were steamed on leaves instead of the stainless steel contraptions used today. Of course using leaves is not exactly practical today. So we get these “stands” in some stores in Tamilnadu and Kerela. Venkat used to call these vadams as “stand” vadam as a child because of these stands (shown in the picture below). That is how all of us in our family call it now :)

The Process:

Making elai vadam is a laborious process and it is much more faster when you have help! So have your kids and husband handy when you plan to make this. For me, it is very convenient because Venkat is used to helping Amma and loves to help me because he can gobble up a few of the steamed vadams before lining them up for drying. Well, actually that is the best part about making these vadam. They are very very tasty in their steamed version. Amma always tells me about what Venkat and Anna used to do when she made these vadam. As kids, Amma would give them first few batches to eat and then start to make vadams for drying. The process of peeling these vadam from the plates is a little tricky. So both Venkat and Anna used to stand by Amma’s side when she was trying to peel the vadam. They would stare and stare and wait for a torn one!! Because a torn one would not be good for drying, Amma gave it to them to eat!! :) Venkat still does that!!! He is so happy when I have a torn vadam that is useless for drying!!

We sometimes (most of the times!) make only the steamed vadam to eat them just like that!!! And when the intention is to dry them, I have to plan on making twice the batter as required originally, because the first half is eaten up before it hits the plastic sheet!!

Drying the vadam:

Another good thing about these vadam is that they do not need to be dried in the sun (which comes out very rarely here at this time of the year!). They dry up just fine in your bedroom! And they dry up pretty fast, just leave them out overnight and they will be almost dry. Then just let them be, spread on a plastic sheet for 1-2 more days. Then pack them up!! That’t is!! If you do have enough sunlight, or are making them in summer, then you can dry them in the sun. This is optional. The important point to note here is that the vadam have to be completely dry or they will develop mold/fungus when stored for a long time.

Special Equipments needed:

The process of making elai vadams is very simple. It just needs some patience and practice, and of course the stands! If you cannot get the stand shown in the video below, you can use the dhokla steamers (they are a set of small plated on a stand) or just use any plate that fits your steamer or pressure cooker. That will just slow you down a little bit. You can definitely steam the vadam and eat them, but if you plan on drying them I recommend that you try to buy the stand. Otherwise it is a painful process.

Special equipments needed are:
Elai vadam stand
Pressure cooker/idli cooker/any steamer large enough to fit the stand
Pastry brush (optional)
A plastic sheet to dry the vadam (buy an inexpensive shower liner!)
Some helping hands, at least a husband 😛

I have tried to explain the process as clearly as possible. I have even included a video to demonstrate as that is much more easier and effective when compared to words. But please do let me know if you have any doubts/questions. I will be more than happy to answer :)

I am sending this recipe to “My most cherished Indian Creation” event being held at Lias’s Kitchen.

Yield: About 75 vadam after snacking on the steamed ones!!

Rice (basmati, any long/short grain or sona masoori) – 1 1/2 cups
Green Chillies/Serrano chillies – to taste
Salt – to taste
Sesame seeds – 1/4 cup
Asafoetida powder – 1/2 tsp

Oil (preferably sesame or any flavorless oil like canola, sunflower or vegetable) – as required


  • Wash and soak the rice in enough water for at least a couple of hours.
  • Grind the rice into a smooth paste, adding water as required to make a batter neither too thick nor too thin. Almost like dosa batter. Let it be on the thicker side, so you can adjust the consistency later. If the batter becomes too runny, it will be very difficult to amend later.
  • Now add some salt to taste and mix thoroughly. Let the batter ferment overnight or until it is slightly sour to taste.

Tip: In winter, leave the batter near the radiator. Or switch on your oven to the “Warm” setting for 10-15 minutes. Then turn off the oven and place the batter inside the oven and close the oven door. Use a stainless steel or a glass vessel. This way the batter will ferment faster.

  • Mix in the asafoetida and the sesame seeds into the batter. Grind the green chillies into a paste and keep aside. Add the green chilli paste to the batter gradually, tasting the batter all along to make sure it is not too spicy. You can make a test batch and then adjust the spice level.

Note: You can also use red chilli powder instead of green chillies. The flavors will be different, that’s all.

    • Adjust the consistency of the batter, so that you will be able to make a thin dosa on the plate, and it will not run away before you transfer the plate to the stand. Follow the video below for the next steps.
    • Keep your steamer ready. I use my pressure cooker (WITHOUT the whistle). Use about 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Keep the steam ready so that the vadam starts cooking instantly when you place the lid.

  • Generously grease the plates with oil, using a pastry brush or newspaper or your hands. Be generous or the vadam will stick to the plates.
  • Then use a small ladle and spread the batter as shown in the video above. Gently arrange the plates with the batter in the grooves on the stand. Now carefully place the stand in your steamer/cooker and close the lid. The vadam steams in about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. When you see a lot of steam coming through the pressure cooker nozzle, either reduce the heat to low or remove the cooker from heat and wait for 30-45 seconds. Then when you open the cooker’s/steamer’s lid do it so that the lid opens AWAY from you. The steam is very hot, so be careful to let the steam escape in the opposite direction. NEVER open the cooker’s lid facing you.
  • Carefully remove the stand from the steamer onto your kitchen counter. Then follow the video above to remove the vadam from the stand. Using another plate’s edges, gently loosen up the edges of the vadam. Then peel them away and do not stack them. Lay them separately on a plate. You can eat this delicious goodness at this point! If you have any left, go to the next step!!
  • Spread a clean plastic sheet on the floor/or your bed if you have pets/kids. I bought a clear transparent shower curtain and used it to dry my vadam. Line up the steamed vadam on this plastic sheet and just let them dry!! If you have a ceiling fan in that room, keep it on at its highest speed. You can peep in from time to time and eat the half dried vadam! They are equally tasty!!

This is how they look when completely dry:

  • Let the vadam be spread out until they are completely dry. The time might vary depending on your house. Mine took 2 day to dry. After the first day, you can pile them up loosely and again spread them up the next morning. They should be dry by the end of the second day. For the benefit of doubt, I just left them spread out on the third day also.

  • Test by deep frying one vadam. If it fries up nicely without making any sounds that indicate moisture, they are fine!!

Tip: The oil needs to be pretty hot for frying up vadams! Not smoking hot, but hotter than what you use for making poori. Test the oil by dropping a small piece of vadam first. If it quickly rises up to the top, the oil is ready.

Store them in airtight plastic/tin containers.

Note: If you are too tired to make all the vadam in one day, you can store the batter in the fridge and use it the next day. This quantity took me abou 2 1/2 hours with Venkat’s help.

Some Tips & Tricks:

  • If you are planning on buying the elai vadam stand, I suggest that you buy an extra set of plates. A stand usually comes with six/seven plates. I suggest that you buy an extra six plates. Why? Because it will save you a lot of time. How? While your first batch is steaming (for about 2-3 minutes), quickly grease the second set of plates and have the vadam ready to go in for steaming as soon as the first batch comes out. This way you will not waste time when trying to remove the vadam from the plates. Once you remove the vadam from the plate, prepare and have this batch ready before the next one comes out. This will also give you a rhythm and time sense. You will not have to keep looking at the clock to see if 2 minutes are over!
  • If you are making the vadam for the first time, try to make it in a small quantity. These make great snacks, so just eat them the first time. Once you get comfortable with the process, attempt making a large batch.
  • It is very important to grind the rice into a very smooth batter for this recipe. And do not add too much water while grinding the rice, add slowly and only as required. You can always fix a thick batter but cannot remedy a watery one. Always keep that in mind.
  • After fermentation, you will notice that there is a small layer of water on top of the batter. Remove this water and set aside. I use this water to grind the green chillies. This way you will not add excess water to the batter. Add all the ingredients to the batter and mix well. If it is too thick then use the reserved water first and then ordinary water, if required to adjust the consistency. Always make a test vadam to see how it works.
  • The vadam will stick to the plate if they have not steamed enough or if the plates have not been greased well. A perfectly steamed vadam can be peeled very easily after slightly loosening the edges. But be careful not to over-steam, as the vadam may get dehydrated and develop cracks.

I learnt all these tips & tricks from my mother-in-law. Thank you so much Amma!!!


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