Friday, January 21, 2011

Doin' It on a Banana Leaf

I just returned from a three-week trip to India and Singapore. During the first week of my trip, I ate on a banana leaf three times in three different cities. The first time (pictured here) was for Christmas brunch in Singapore with my best friend Rikki and her boyfriend Rav. We ate at Samy’s Curry House, a South Indian Singaporean institution. Despite our hangovers (Christmas Eve in Asia is similar to New Years Eve in the rest of the world. You drink all night and countdown to Santa’s arrival) we devoured delicious chicken curry, fried cauliflower, crispy chicken, tender lamb … you name it.

The second banana leaf incident occurred at a friend’s wedding in Bangalore. It was a traditional South Indian wedding. We ate on a banana leaf in typical South Indian style ... with our hands. The food was to die for. Completely vegetarian and utterly delicious. We were served over twenty items and I tried every single one of them. Hubs and I aren’t used to eating with our hands, so it was a bit of a situation. I used my noodle and substituted the papad and uttapam as utensils. The hubby didn’t take to the whole no-fork thing as easily and after an awkward incident with some yogurt a server ended up throwing a spoon at him.

The third banana leaf sighting was at the Parsi wedding of our very good friends Shenaya and Pirzad. They had a beautiful New Years Eve nuptial celebration at the same place we wed nearly one year prior. (This spot, called Colaba Agyari, is THE spot for Parsi parties in Bombay, FYI.) Their banana leaf dinner, called a patra or lagan nu bhonu, included like sarya (crisps), achaar/rotli (pickle and rotis), patra ni macchi (steamed fish), salli margi (chicken with potato crisps), lagan nu custard, and pulao-dal (rice and lentils).

All these banana leaves got me thinking … why don’t we ever eat on banana leaves stateside? Word on the street is that banana leaves add to the flavor of the food. While I’m not sure about all that, it definitely adds to the funness of the meal. I’m considering opening a San Francisco spot that forgoes plates ...