Cooking in Leaves – A Traditional Cooking Method

Cooking in Leaves

There are a wide variety of cooking methods used in our daily life. But how can one forget how our grannies cooked most of those yummy special dishes, especially when the food was sealed in leaves and either roasted, smoked or steam cooked. The aromatic flavour that comes when you open the leaves simply brings in water in your mouth. The very thought has done the magic!

Types of Leaves used for Cooking

Yes, today I am talking about the ancient and traditional cooking method – cooking in leaves. This method was and is still popular in many parts of our country and even the world. Why say more, even today, I prefer to do some cooking in leaves, especially banana leaves. Wilting the banana leaves to make it soft and then using it to wrap the food, is surely an art. From roasting fish to making traditional evening snack, we make a lot of items in leaves. It is not just banana leaves, a variety of leaves are made use for cooking. I have seen my mom use the leaf of jackfruit to make a snack made with ripe jackfruit pulp, jaggery, and rice flour. We call it “Chakka Kumbil” or “Kumbil Appam”. Even today I drool over this.

Another leaf that is used is the leaf from the cinnamon tree. Cooking in cinnamon leaf gives the food an aromatic flavour that will surely tempt you. Not just these, there are a wide variety of leaves used for cooking each with its own identity. Some of the varieties of leaves used for cooking include lotus leaves, colocasia or arbi leaves, lettuce, and even cabbage leaves.

Banana leaves are widely popular and used in our country and in many parts of Asia. Being a south Indian, I have seen more food cooked in banana leaves and the most popular one is the fish roasted or smoked in banana leaves. For this, the banana leaf is first wilted, so that the leaf does not tear off when we wrap the fish with all the flavourful masala in it. You have to wilt the banana leaves properly. We also used to make rice rotis in banana leaves which can be had with any yummy curry. The most interesting thing about the rice roti is that you have to roll it flat with your fingers on the banana leaf and cook on a hot pan. When we pull out the banana leaf it leaves its mark on the roti and at the same time, it is flavourful as well.

Benefits of Cooking in Banana Leaves

It is a tradition to eat your food in banana leaves in Kerala, though this has confined to just festivals and special occasions nowadays. In the olden days, people eat most of their meals on banana leaves. Did you ever wonder why our ancestors used banana leaves to eat food and also to cook it? They had valid reasons to do so. The leaf has antibacterial properties which have the ability to kill germs in your food. Another reason is that the banana leaves have nutrition called polyphenols and your food can absorb these nutrients from the leaves! Did you know that the same polyphenol is also in green tea? Not just these, banana leaves have anti-bacterial as well as anti-fungal properties. Moreover, it is chemical-free, environment-friendly and hygenic. Now you know, why eating and cooking food in banana leaves is healthy.

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