We have a lot of bananas in Malaysia. In fact, it’s the second most widely cultivated fruit in the country! Most homes (with a yard) would have a banana tree (or two). I’ve got two trees that seem to be fruiting all year round!
But this post isn’t about bananas, it’s about the banana leaf. Yep. With bananas being ubiquitous, we’ve found a variety of ways to use its leaves, which is abundant. Of course, most of its usage (if not all) involves food.
Lemang is a traditional rice dish that’s most often prepared during festivals. It’s a mixture of glutinous rice and coconut milk, which is cooked in bamboo. Before pouring the mixture into the bamboo, banana leaves are used to line the inside of the bamboo so that the rice mixture doesn’t stick to the bamboo.
One of my favourite food is nasi lemak, which translates directly to fatty rice. Don’t let the name fool you though, in 2016, TIME magazine listed it as one of the 10 healthy international breakfast foods 🙂 There are many versions of this fatty rice but the type that I always seek out is the type that’s ready-packed, wrapped using the banana leaf and sold at roadside stalls. This version of nasi lemak can cost as low as RM1.50 or less than 25 US cents.
Being a multicultural society, we have all sorts of cuisine available to us. One of these is South Indian cuisine and in particular banana leaf rice. There are so many banana leaf rice restaurants and everyone has their favourite. In this type of restaurant, food is served on the banana leaf, so effectively, it’s your plate! You’ll be provided your own banana leaf plate when you’re seated and someone will come around to dish out rice, vegetables and curries of your choice. And once you’re done with the meal, you fold the leaf towards yourself, if you’re happy with what you ate, and if you’re not, you fold the leaf in the other direction.
So, have you ever eaten anything that’s cooked using banana leaves?