There are a lot of condiments, side dishes and curries when it comes to banana leaf. Here we spread the knowledge so the next time you take a bit of those fried long beans; you know exactly what it is called.
The use of banana leaf to serve food dates back 3000 years from South India. The benefits of using banana leaf are still relevant today as the leaves are packed with the antioxidant polyphenol that helps prevent degenerative diseases. It is also chemical-free requiring just a light wipe with a damp cloth to make it ready for serving food. Plus, it is nice to have a bit of history and culture when it comes to fundamental things such as food.
We took a trip to ANZGAM (Australia New Zealand Graduates Association of Malaysia) Club House to get our banana leaf fix. The restaurant is tucked between the German School of Kuala Lumpur and Istara condominium along Lorong Utara at Section 14, Petaling Jaya. The great thing about this place is that it extends beyond the generic purview at large about South Indian Cuisine.
A Sambhar is a mixed vegetable gravy. Incidentally, the sambhar we had is slightly thicker than the traditional sambhar made at home. It is made with various vegetables like aubergines, carrots, yellow pumpkin together with fresh fried coarse ground spices for that added zing.
The chicken kuzhambu served was an aromatic one indeed. We could tell that freshly ground ingredients and spices were used. Fried curry leaves, onions, red chilies and garlic are tossed with tempering agents such as cinnamon sticks, star anise and fennel to bring out the spicy redolence. Once the spices have cooked, the chicken and tomatoes are marinated in them for intense flavour.
A banana leaf staple is the poriyal which means fried in Tamil. Shredded or diced vegetables are sautéed together with spices, turmeric and dried red chilies. We were served with a variation of vegetable poriyal from cabbage to okra to cucumber and my all-time favourite, the keerai or spinach.
The deep fried poriyal that we got were cauliflower, snake gourd and bitter gourd were marinated with a masala paste, yogurt, fennel powder, red chili powder concoction and then deep fried. Absolutely divine when you have it together with beer!
The pièce de résistance of this meal has got to be the secret chutney. Chutneys play an integral part of Indian food. Expect tangy tomato and onion-based chutney for this particular recipe. The owner would not divulge their secret recipe but rest assured the tempering taste of mustard seeds and curry leaves add more complexity to your meal.
An aromatic soup consisting of tamarind juice, tomatoes, chilli pepper, cumin, steamed lentils and a plethora of spices to excite as well as cleanse your palate.
The crispy disc-shaped chip is traditionally made from black gram flour and a sprinkle of spices to add that much-needed texture to the banana leaf dish.
Where To Eat?
ANZGAM Club House
Lot 3, Lorong Utara B, Petaling Jaya
Banana leaf lunch is served from 11.30am to 3pm daily
Vishal Food & Catering
22, Jalan Scott off Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur
Opens 7.30am to 10.30pm daily
Jaipur Curry House
32, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 1, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Petaling Jaya
Words by Thanabalasingam Balakrishnan
Photos by Fadza Ishak