“Going Green” with Banana Leaf Dining?

Banana LeafBeing typical Malaysians with a love for multi-cultural cuisine, the family anticipated with relish, a friend’s invitation to a banana leaf dinner this evening.

For the uninitiated, eating a hot meal off a freshly cleaned banana leaf, is said to be a naturally flavourful experience. While the bright green leaf ‘plate’ places one in a relaxed mood, it also feeds the imagination with other ways in which to apply the banana leaf to good culinary use.

Categorised as South Indian, banana leaf cuisine is usually found in a no-frills restaurant, without air-conditioning, just with whirring fans to keep its diners cool amidst servings of hot curries. We marvelled at how devoid of embellishments that particular restaurant was, yet judging by the good number of patrons within, it was obviously a matter of ‘quality food’ over the ‘decor’ that worked in this equation.

As they say, ‘our eyes were hungrier than our tummies’. Each of us eagerly nodded to one too many ladles of parboiled rice, scooped onto the clean rectangle shaped banana leaf, laid out neatly with the spine of the leaf nearer to the edge of the formica-topped table.

Next, spoonsful of chutney, cabbage and brinjal cooked to vegetarian perfection, were served on our green leafy ‘plates’.  And always, a few pieces of papadum placed on the side.

They then plonked down on the table, three aluminium buckets, each containing a different curry – chicken, fish and vegetable. Self service being the order of the day with the curry buckets, they came complete with huge soup ladles. A word of advice: do not dally over which curry you prefer, lest the buckets are swung off the table before you are done helping yourself to one of its spicy contents.  It must be explained that the trio of curry buckets are to be shared with other tables in turn too. Additional side orders of delectable dishes complemented the vegetables and curries.Helping oneself to the curry in the bucket.

At the end of the tastefully satisfying banana leaf rice meal, we observed the etiquette of folding the empty leaf into half, with the outer edges facing you….thus  signifying that the meal was well-appreciated.

To wash down the heavy meal, some diners prefer to drink an aluminium cup of ‘rasam’ which only suits some palates due to its tart tanginess….while some, like us, chose to down frothy concoctions of ‘teh tarik’ or ‘pulled tea’.

We count our blessings for every meal, and  hope you enjoy yours too. No matter what ends up on your plate, be thankful for it, as many in the world have nothing to eat! For the less fortunate, let us always say a prayer for their well-being.

Amen.

Mary

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2 thoughts on ““Going Green” with Banana Leaf Dining?

  1. Dear Tony and Susanne,

    Your description of the meal took me back to my time in Malaysia. I remember being invited to a similar meal at Harban Singhs home. Harban was a Police Inspector at the time. I have told so many people since, about eating off a palm leaf, and using our fingers to eat.

    We are in the grip of a heat wave in Australia. The bush fires are terrible Fortunately I live in an area where we don’t have much bush around us, but we can still smell the smoke. It has been a miracle, that no lives have been lost, although hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

    Love to you both.

    Regina

    • Dear Regina,

      We are glad that our banana leaf rice article had brought you pleasant memories of your stay in Penang.
      Actually, one has the option to eat with fork and spoon too as against using the fingers.

      Practically every year, we hear of bush fires raging in Australia and we keep all concerned in our prayers.

      Love and God bless,
      Suzanne & Tony

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