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Food Traditions

Go Bananas!

From food plate to steam wrapper, from barbecue mat to grilling foil, serving all purpose with utmost diligence is the Banana Leaf!

For a generation that eats in fork, chopsticks and licks Nutella from jar, eating on a Banana leaf can be quite a bombshell.

“The broader side of a leaf is to be placed on the right” is the first instruction I get whenever I attend any Tamil wedding. Cleaning the leaf with a splash of water, the course begins with salt and chilli to awaken the digestive system, followed by pickle and ginger chutney to relish. Continuously served with variety of rice, poriyals, kootus and kozhambus, the meal ends with curd and sweets. Eating in this fashion is every south Indian’s delight.

Eating on Banana Leaf has its own benefits. Easy to get, serve, and use. Big enough to contain the food and no particular smell to put you off!  Oil doesn’t stick, food doesn’t get stuck and easy to throw. The food served in Banana Leaf absorbs chlorophyll, which increases the flavor and also awakens the sixth sense.

Banana leaves are also used in various other parts of the world in cooking. In Asia, many recipes use them as a wrapper for cooking. Food wrapped in banana leaves can be grilled and deep fried. Fish is the most common ingredient for the same. These leaves can also help in steaming, as it allows the steam to penetrate the food inside. You can use banana leaf to line a steamer as well.

In Vietnamese & Malay cuisine, the banana leaf is used for wrapping rice, meat and other vegetables. Thus you will find it being used in recipes like Nasi Lemak, Cha-Lua etc.

In Philippines, it is used as a huge plate especially if the feast is “salu-salo” or a food gathering with a lot of people but in an informal occasion.

You can also use banana leaf as a “mat” for barbecues. Simply lay a piece of banana leaf on your grill, then cook your food items (fish filets, chicken, shrimp etc) on top of it. The banana leaf will turn bright green at first, then pale brown as you cook. It will give a nice flavor to your barbecue.

In the Hindu Culture, banana leaves are used as a tray to place the anything that is offered to God. Offerings can vary from fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, flowers and cooked items. It is considered holy and unpolluted.

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Niha Fathima

Niha Fathima, a Food Technologist by Degree, an ex- food Research Analyst, and a Creative Content Strategist by profession. Passionate Writer. A Food Enthusiast, live to cook, serve, eat, enjoy, criticize, admire and experiment. Loves shopping, travelling, chocolates, Bow Pins & Mom-made. Determined dreamer, collector of moments, Optimist & easily forgiving. Afraid of Dogs, Pimples & Dark. Wanting to be a food entrepreneur someday and believes in making every day count.