The beautiful and colourful kolams that decorate the floors of our shopping malls remind us that Deepavali is just around the corner. To get into the spirit of the festival of lights, the blogging crew decided to indulge in one of Malaysia’s favourite Indian meals – banana leaf rice. After all, if there’s one thing that brings Malaysians together, it’s food!

So armed with our hungry tummies, we ventured to our neighbourhood banana leaf rice eatery for a satisfying meal.

banana_leaf_rice_restaurant

What is banana leaf rice?

It’s a traditional method of serving rice dishes on banana leaves instead of plates that was brought over to Malaysia during the migration of South Indians. A unique dining experience, it will tickle your taste buds with all kinds of flavours, while filling your tummy with contentment.

A typical serving of banana leaf rice

banana_leaf_rice_dishes

1. Banana leaf
Banana leaves contain large amounts of polyphenols, a natural antioxidant. When hot food is served on it, the food absorbs the nutritional benefits. The leaf also imparts a subtle aroma that makes food more fragrant.
2. Curry
Banana leaf rice is best savoured when it is drenched with curry. Most places will offer a range of curries, with a choice of chicken, fish or dhal.
3. Assorted vegetables
Different types of vegetables are placed at the top half of the leaf. The types of vegetables available depend on the cook. They usually consist of a combination of cucumber raita, spinach, beans, cabbage, potatoes and chutney.
4. Side dishes
For a more filling meal, side dishes can be ordered. Some of the most popular dishes are mutton curry, fried squid, chicken 65 and fried fish.
5. Rasam
A spicy and sourish soup, rasam helps to stimulate the appetite and aids in digestion.
6. Tairu
Tairu is a fresh yoghurt that helps tone down the spiciness of other dishes.
7. Dried Chillis
Crispy, salty and a little spicy, dried chillis add extra flavour to this meal.
8. Papadam
A thin, disc-shaped dough made from dried lentils and spices, papadam is highly addictive and is served as an accompaniment to the meal.

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to banana leaf rice. No two restaurants are alike, with each having their own specialties. Some of our favourite side dishes are fried ikan bulus (silver whiting fish), mutton curry and telur ikan (fish roe).

How should I eat it?

banana_leaf_rice_way

For a more authentic experience, we were encouraged to use our hands as it is said to heighten our senses and enhance the taste. However, we were reminded to never eat with your left hand, as it is considered unclean.

To fold or not to fold

banana_leaf_flip

At the end of our meal, we learnt that we should fold our leaf to signify that we are done. It is best to fold the leaf inwards towards you, as that shows our appreciation for the meal. Folding the outwards is usually done at funerals and wakes as a sign of condolence to the family of the deceased. So, remember, always fold it towards you!

Help, my stomach is on fire!

mangolassi

For those of us with delicate stomachs, a mango lassi is the perfect accompaniment to the meal. It’s a yoghurt-based drink that is not only refreshing, but helps put out the fire in our tummy too!

Where can I get a taste?

Indian restaurants are aplenty at Brickfields, home of Little India in Kuala Lumpur and it’s easily accessible by public transport. But if you’re feeling adventurous, here are some of the most popular banana leaf rice eateries around Klang Valley:

  • Devi’s Corner (14, Jalan Telawi 4, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur)
  • Krishna Curry House (D-G and E-G, Jalan SS9A/14,Seri Setia Sungai Way, Petaling Jaya)
  • The Lotus Family Restaurant (13 & 15, Jalan Gasing, 46000 Petaling Jaya)
  • Raju’s Restaurant (27, Jalan Chantek 5/13, Off Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya)
  • Sri Ganapathi Mess (47, Jalan 1/10, Seksyen 1, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor)
  • Sri Nirwana Maju (43, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur)

 

Know of any other must-try banana leaf places that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to be part of some Deepavali festivities? Join the Deepavali Open House celebrations, which will be held in Malacca on the 1st of November 2014.

Find out more at www.tourism.gov.my and get to know other cultures and heritage in Malaysia.