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Mum's Classic Saina

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

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This is the 6th recipe that we are releasing to celebrate our six month anniversary! Today I am excited to share another one of Mum's appetizer/snack recipes. This is another one of my favorite savory snacks to eat. Sometimes I cannot decide which I like more, Mum's Classic Baaras or Mum's Easy Potato Samosas or Mum's Classic Sainas. Luckily sometimes, I can have all at the same time especially during Diwali (which is coming up on November 14th :D). We call this snack saina but I noticed that folks from India call this patra. It is an extremely tasty snack! But it does take a while to make so usually we make a big batch of these and freeze them down.

As I was helping mum make this snack, I thought about all the women before who made this recipe. Somehow as I used my hands to apply dhal paste to the leaves, I felt connected to all the previous generations of women that came before me. I wondered if they moved their hands in the same way as me and if they found the same excitement that I felt as they made these classic sainas.

For this recipe we use dalo or taro leaves. Dalo or taro is a popular root crop in Fiji and we all love eating it in many ways. The dalo leaves can also be used in many ways. The leaves are very big and a pretty dark green color. We use dalo leaves in this recipe. Dalo leaves need to be cooked pretty well. If not, your throat will get irritated by a component of the leaves. I think that if you cannot find dalo leaves, another leafy green can be used as well. It just has to be big enough to make a roll and tough enough to handle several cooking steps. I have seen patra recipes done with cabbage leaves for example.

So the first step is to prep the dalo leaves. You want bigger leaves that are also tender. Don't use older, tougher leaves. Then we thin out the veins of the leaves. You can use a knife to shave/peel down the tougher, protruding veins on the backs of the leaves. This will make leaves more pliable and will also help cook the leaves better. Then wash and dry the leaves.

Next step is to prep the dhal and rice. We use urad dhal for this recipe. Urad dhal or urdi as we call it, typically has a thin, dark coating. For this recipe we use white urdi which means the dark coating has already been removed for you. This white urdi is sold at the Indian stores. The urdi and rice have to be washed, then soaked overnight (technically this is the first step). Next day, drain the urdi and rice and grind it in a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Grind until coarse paste has formed. Then this paste gets rubbed onto taro leaves.

Start with the biggest leaf first. Place leaf upside down. Then either with your hands or a spatula, rub the dhal paste onto the leaf. Then get another big leaf. Place this leaf upside down on top of the first leaf but facing the other direction. Put on dhal paste again. Then place two more leaves on either side of the initial two to form a big circle of leaves. Dhal paste goes on these leaves too.

After these steps, smaller leaves can be layered on along with dhal paste. Once the second layer is done, then we roll up the layered leaves and dhal paste. First fold the edges in. Then start on the edge closest to you, and roll up the leaves tightly but delicately at the same time. Keep tucking in extra leaf edges into the roll. Use a little bit of dhal paste to seal the roll and any other tears that may have occurred. Also add dhal paste to the ends of the rolls.

Then these rolls get steamed for two hours. After steaming, remove carefully from the steamer. Slice up the rolls into about 1/2 inch slices, then fry them up. Saina should be dark brown and crispy on the outside and tender inside. The leaves should be cooked thoroughly by this point.

It is definitely a process but with extremely tasty results! Now you have Mum's Classic Sainas! Serve them up with a chutney or eat as is. So delicious and addicting!

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If you have leftover dhal mix, you can make Mum's Easy Dahi-Baara!

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