Patra, [meaning leaves, Gujarati] is a savoury steamed dish made from leaves, gram flour and spices. It was originally created in British Kenya by ‘free’ and indentured Gujarati Indian’s that migrated to the East African British Colony between 1920 – 1963. Taking their spices with them from West India to an unfamiliar land, the Gujarat’s developed a new and evolving cuisine through hacking, adapting and absorbing new ingredients from their place of migration in East Africa. Patra was created when the Gujarati’s utilised a local plant – Colocasia esculenta – with leaves known as taro, to create a steamed spiced dish. Continuing to travel through British Colonial Imperialism, Patra was later brought to the U.K. when East African countries gained independence from British Imperial Rule during the 1960’s.
Originally featured in the online edition FEAST SALT, the recipe PATRA v 2.0 was inspired by the Gujarat resistance in Dandi against the British salt monopoly during 1930. Salt, a basic necessity, was heavily taxed and its production and distribution controlled by Imperial forces. PATRA v 2.0 exchanges the Kenyan Colocasia from the original recipe for foraged salty seaweed local to the North East Coast of the UK, an action that symbolically embodies ownership, resilience and adaption, further pointing to the contemporary challenges of climate change and food insecurity.
The act of foraging with my daughters for the spices and seaweed ingredients in Patra v 2.0+ continues to contribute to the legacy of resilience by my family whilst developing embedded multi-generational knowledge for self-determined food cultures in times of climate and environmental shifts.
V 2.0 > Commodities ISSUE 2: SALT edition
Edited by Laura Mansfield and Niamh Riordan
Feast Journal, 2020
V 2.1 > Commodities ISSUE 3: Spice Edition
Edited by Laura Mansfield
Feast Journal, 2021