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Why You Must Serve Meals on Banana Leaves

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Food served on banana leaf
Food served on banana leaf

Once, I was at a South Indian get-together and they served food in a traditional manner on banana leaves. We were seated in a line on the floor in a cross-legged fashion, eating the hearty meal served piping hot on the huge green leaves. While I was having my last bite, I heard a kid asking her mother, “mama, can I eat this banana leaf too?”

Quite intrigued by the question, I researched to find out whether we can actually eat a banana leaf.

Well, I found out the answer. It was “no.” Banana leaves are not edible food for humans.

The leaves contain complex fiber like cellulose and lignin, which our stomach cannot digest. Cows can digest it.

The charm of banana leaves

We cannot eat banana leaves, but we can certainly serve savory meals on it.

Visit Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orrisa, and states of Bengal and you will find banana leaves being rampantly used as plates for serving food.

Do you know the leaves add a mild earthy flavor to whatever food is served on it? This makes the food taste yummier.

And, undoubtedly, the leaf plates are a great alternative to the disposable plastic plates that harm the environment. So, if you wish to go green, eat on green!

Doesn’t it feel better to eat on a fresh, green plate than a dead, plastic plate?

Other uses of banana leaves in the Indian kitchen

Meat pieces, fish, and rice are wrapped inside banana leaves. Then they are steamed or grilled. This prevents the food from getting burned. Also, food retains its flavor and juices, tasting better.

Food inside the leaves absorb the leaf’s antioxidants during cooking. This makes the food more nutritious.

Banana leaves is also used for packing food.

Eco-friendly banana plate

Dried banana leaves, known as “Vaazhai-ch-charugu” in Tamil Nadu, are used to pack meat, vada, and rice. The dry leaves are waterproof, so serve as good packing materials.

But eat only the food inside, not the leaf!

Kratong bowl made of banana leaves

Uses of Banana leaves in a nutshell…

  • As a popular serving plate, especially in South India.

  • As a wonderful barbeque or grilling “mat” because the leaves let the steam penetrate inside, increasing the flavor of food.

  • As décor for mandap and other religious ceremonies of the Hindus.

  • As floor coverings, thatches, and woven items.

  • As an offering bowl by twisting the leaves. This is done in some religions during the Loy Kratong Festival. The bowl is called Kratong. It is floated in a holy river on the festival day.

So, why not try steaming your rice or meat in a banana leaf in your kitchen? But please don’t chew the leaf. Chew bananas instead!

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