Back To The Roots: The Indian Art Of Cooking With Banana Leaves

Banana leaves have been an integral part of Indian cuisine for ages. One of my fondest childhood winter memories is relishing the aroma of ilish mach (hilsa) wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a clay pan, with freshly ground mustard paste. Machha patra poda still occupies a special place in my heart. 

While this remains one of my favourite Odia fish dishes, there are other delicacies made in banana leaves that are loved by many Odias. From muaan pitha to poda pitha, numerous Odia pithas are made using banana leaves in Odia cuisine. 

But Odia cuisine is not the only one that uses banana leaves. Almost all of us are aware of the famous Onam ‘Sadya’. The delicacies prepared during the Malayali harvest festival are primarily served on a plantain leaf and there are reasons behind this tradition. Not only in South Indian culture, but most regional Indian cultures serve prasads on banana leaves. These are mentioned in almost all Vedic scriptures. Moreover, the banana plant is considered a symbol of Lord Vishnu and every part of it is put in use. The banana leaves are also rich in antioxidants; are eco-friendly, economical and hygienic.

Quite inevitably, fish dishes across world cultures are made using the technique of steaming with spices in banana leaves. Starting with my favourite, the Odia machha patra poda is made by wrapping fish marinated in mustard paste in banana leaves and cooking it on a pan. Be it the Parsi patra-ni-machhi, the Bengali machher paturi or the Assamese bhaapot diya maas, steamed fish dishes across cuisines are delicious and admired.

Some Other Indian Delicacies Made In Banana Leaves

1. Rice Pankhi

A classic Gujarati dish, rice pankhi is made by cooking a rice batter between two banana leaves. If you are trying to lose body weight, but craving a healthy yet wholesome breakfast, rice pankhi is an ideal option for you.

2. Hittu Or Kabdu

A Konkani version of idlis, hittu is a cone-shaped variant that is steamed either in a jackfruit or banana leaf basket. Filled with the fragrance and aroma of banana leaves, the idlis are a delightful treat for idli lovers.

3. Damni Dhokla

Another version of the famous Gujarati breakfast dhokla, damni dhokla is a decadent food made with parboiled rice and dal. The batter is prepared with dal, rice and some spices and is cooked in a banana leaf cone.

4. Kizhi Parotta

A flavourful South Indian parotta, kizhi parotta is made by cooking meat and parotta in a banana leaf. The marinated meat is first cooked to perfection, then wrapped in a parotta and tied in a banana leaf. This tied banana leaf is then placed in a kadhai of water and cooked till the water evaporates.

Are you also a fan of delicacies cooked in banana leaves? Do let us know your favourite and try it out at home.