Science On Why Banana Leaves Have Been a Part of Indian Food For Centuries

Wondering why Indians cook food in banana leaves? Scientific research has revealed some interesting facts about its many health benefits.

For someone who is not fond of fish, gorging on Bhetki Macher Paturi, a Bengali dish, was a pleasant surprise. I was not sure if it was the mustard or banana leaf or the divine combination of both, but every time I think of it, I inevitably drool. 

The steaming of fish wrapped in banana leaves is certainly an exciting element that I discovered pretty late. What makes it even more interesting is that this Bengali cuisine is linked to several other regional cuisines through the banana leaf. 

Whether it is steamed idli, Gujarati snack, panki; Parsi’s patra ni machchi, Assam’s bhapot diya maach or the elaborate Onam Sandhya from Kerala, the humble banana leaf has found its way into many cuisines. 

It is also very versatile as food can be steamed, grilled and deep-fried. It can also be used as a serving plate and packaging material. 

While banana leaves have been an integral part of the desi food and traditions, did you know there are health benefits to it as well? 

Banana leaves are a powerhouse of antioxidants that may help delay or prevent cell damage. They contain large amounts of polyphenols which are absorbed by the food. They help in neutralising harmful free radicals in our bodies. They can also fight ageing, lifestyle diseases and cancer. 

The leaves also have antibacterial properties that can fight germs in the food. 

Besides, leaves make for a much more eco-friendly option than plastic cutlery. The wax-like coating on the leaves keeps dust and dirt at bay. 

“Eating on a banana leaf is not only healthy but also economical. It is packed with antioxidants so it is good for your body. Banana leaves contain large amounts of polyphenols that prevent diseases like Parkinson’s and hypertension. For instance, the patra ni machi. Because fish is steamed in banana leaves, the calcium and protein of fish are retained. Additionally, banana leaf is also good for dandruff and scalp dryness. You can add the dried leaf in hair oil to reduce both,” Kamal Palia, Chief Nutritionist at Ruby Hall Clinic tells The Better India. 

Here’s a recipe for Thai fish in Banana leaf by chef Sanjeev Kapoor 

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Boneless fish fillets 2
  • Thai red curry paste 1 tablespoon
  • Banana leaves 2
  • Lemongrass stalk 1 inch
  • Spring onion bulb 3
  • Fresh basil leaves 6-7 glass
  • Ginger grated 1 teaspoon
  • Fish sauce 2 teaspoons
  • Soft brown sugar 2 teaspoons
  • Tamarind pulp 2 teaspoons
  • Bird’s eye chillies 5
  • Oil 3 tablespoons for drizzling
  • Salt to taste

Method

  • Step 1
    Slice lemongrass and spring onion bulbs diagonally and place them in a bowl.
  • Step 2
    Roughly chop basil leaves and add to the bowl. Add red curry paste, ginger, fish sauce, brown sugar and tamarind pulp.
  • Step 3
    Slice bird’s eye chillies and add to the bowl. Mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and mix again. Let the mixture rest for a while.
  • Step 4
    Discard the veins of banana leaves, halve lengthwise and soften by placing them on a direct flame.
  • Step 5
    Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan.
  • Step 6
  • Cut fish fillets into halves and place them on a plate. Sprinkle salt on top.
  • Step 7
    Place 2 banana leaf halves overlapping each other. Drizzle some oil on it and place one fish piece and top with some spring onion mixture. Place another fish piece and top with some more spring onion mixture. Wrap into a parcel. Similarly, make another parcel.
  • Step 8
    Place the parcels in the pan, one at a time, cover and cook till the fish is fully done, flipping once in between.
  • Step 9
    Open the parcel a bit and serve immediately.

Sources 

News18

Medical News Today

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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