Friday, March 14, 2014

When banana leaves replace plates!

A new concept to most people not living in South India, we eat on banana leaves. Yep, just like Adam and Eve. Sounds quite caveman considering we live in a world where we get all kinds of plates to eat on- porcelain, melamine, paper, eco-friendly and the likes. So then why do we eat on leaves?
So, its simple- eating on a nicely washed leaf is hygienic. It adds lots of flavor to the food. A very common sight at weddings and festivals, ''ellai sapadu"is a much awaited affair.

Imagine your attending at a grand south indian wedding. You'll see a lot of mama's and maami's in veshti's and nine-yard sarees bustling around being the perfect hosts. Next thing you know, your sitting in the large dining hall with a big banana leaf in front of you. What do you do? For those unaccustomed to eating with fingers, dont ever try to eat with a spoon- you'll be glared at. Waiters running around carrying food in buckets- yes, buckets are not just for baths alone, sambar and rasam is carried around in steel buckets to serve guests. Soon your going to be served with food. Fair warning: theres a way of serving and eating on an ellai. 

Position your leaf- ensure that the broader end is on your right. The top half of the leaf is served with side dishes and the lower half is for the rice. The right side of the leaf will have a small helping of payasam ( sweet, milky rice sweet- a type of kheer), kesari (a rava sweet) , sweet pongal or any desert items. Whereas, the top left will have a pinch of salt , pickle and raita. Around the middle there will be a lot of fried items like chips, appalam, etc. For every ellai sapadu, vegetables are chosen carefully. Today, a lot of varied rice items are also included in the ellai. Once at a wedding, I was given fried rice on a ellai.
Rice is always served on a plate only when a guest is seated. Sambar, rasam and curd are the various accompaniments along with the traditional ellai sapadu.One must be super careful during this meal- there are times where the leaf might tilt and food will be on your lap. This happens a lot with rasam. 

One feels like a royal, with many waiters waiting on you while you relish each and every bite of the elaborate and delicious meal.

So remember: Whenever you visit South India, dont ever miss out on the traditional ellai sapadu! 


  1. Your blog is very informative and gracefully
    your guideline is very good.Thank you.Please visit in chowringhee laxminagar Restaurant for test and variety in kathi roll..

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  3. I am american and always find other culture’s practices and traditions super interesting! Now i wanna eat on a banana tree as well! Good post

  4. A new concept to most people not living in South India, we eat on banana leaves. Yep, just like Adam and Eve.Nice information you are sharing.
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