Apart from the innumerable regional variations of fish and meat cooked in banana leaves across India, some delicious delicacies also have the leaf as a key cooking element in the recipe. Here are six such recipes to try.
Cooking with banana leaves has been part of Indian culinary traditions for more than one reason – to begin with, it allows the food enveloped in it to retain its texture, while also adding a beautiful aroma to food. While the glories of making a bhetki paturi, patra ni machchi or a meen polichathu are well-known delicacies that are enjoyed for their flavours and most importantly, the experience of eating out of a banana leaf parcel, here are some more Indian dishes that transcend the realm of seafood or meat, that also utilise this versatile part of the banana plant.
Image Credits: Archana's Kitchen
Another rice-based delicacy from Kerala, the ela ada is the South Indian version of the Goan patoleo or the Maharashtrian patoli. Unlike the latter, the ela ada is made by stuffing flattened rice dough with a mixture of jaggery and grated coconut, and steamed in banana leaves until the dough forms a firm but soft cover. Prepared during festive occasions and enjoyed as a snack, the ela ada has a caramel-like flavour from the melted jaggery.
A gluten-free rice crepe that is often eaten for breakfast in the Konkan region, the pangi is made by pressing down rice dough into a flat disc over a greased banana leaf, after which it is roasted in a tava. Typically paired with spicy curries or pickles, the pangi can also be made in a sweet variation with the addition of ripe bananas. The pangi can also be served with flavour-packed chutneys and make for a refreshing change from rotis or parathas.
Image Credits: Nilamehtasnacks
A traditional Gujarati recipe made by steaming a batter of five different lentils, the damni dhokla is a fluffy and spongy dish, similar to the regular khaman dhokla. Stuffed with coarsely ground green peas, the batter can also be made by grinding millets to give it a different taste. Hailing from the southern parts of Gujarat, this dhokla also uses two types of batter that are layered to give it an aesthetic appeal.
A Konkani preparation of idli batter steamed in banana leaf cones, the kabdu or hittu, as it is known popularly, is a classic breakfast recipe. Eaten with chutney or sambar, it has a taste and texture that is very closely similar to idlis. Made during festivals, the kabdu can also be prepared using jackfruit leaves and is most typically found around homes in Kundapur, Udupi and Mangalore.
Image Credits: Nams Corner
A vegetarian version of Kerala’s popular meen polichathu, this banana leaf-wrapped steak of paneer is coated in the same spices as the fish. Slathered in a thick marinade of chilli powder, shallots, ginger-garlic paste and curry leaves, the paneer is wrapped in the banana leaf and pan-fried in coconut oil to let all the flavours seep through the protein. Eaten with flaky parotta or steamed rice, this accompaniment also tastes delicious with a moru curry (buttermilk curry).
A lesser-known Bengali delicacy of flat beans smothered in a freshly ground mustard paste, this vegetarian spin-off of the bhetki or ilish paturi is a winter delicacy eaten with rice. With the addition of sweet potatoes, green peas and a healthy drizzle of mustard oil, this preparation celebrates winter produce and is ideal for when you’re craving a simple, light meal for supper.