Banana Leaf Rice; A Malaysian Favorite, Malaysia

Banana Leaf Rice; A Malaysian Favorite, Malaysia

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Virginia Woolf once said ‘One cannot think well, love well, or sleep well, if one has not dined well.’ So if you’re visiting Malaysia, please, I beg of you, please leave your diet plans at home because it would be absolutely ludicrous to visit Asia unarmed with an appetite. So come with a tummy that’s prepared to dine well and no, I’m not talking about 5-star posh dinners with little portions of food so elegantly placed on large dishes with aristocratic terms for fish. I mean, fish is really just, fish. (though, there are many places of that sort, but that’s a different story) What this piece is about, is banana leaf rice, a traditional Indian meal that’s loved by all.

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Picture this: a heap of rice, an assortment of fresh vegetables, rich curries, flavourful condiments and a meaty side for the meat-lovers! Put it all together and you’ve got a gastronomically good experience waiting to tantalize your taste buds. Just as its name suggests, the meal is served on cleaned banana leaves and as tradition follows, is eaten with hand. First you get your rice which is often dished out in generous amounts, so pay attention and tell the waiter to stop before he goes all out. You need tummy space for all the goodies that come with the meal.

Paired with the rice are three to five vegetarian dishes which are scooped onto your leaf. Depending on the restaurant, the vegetable sides vary along the lines of spinach, cabbage, a yogurt and cucumber salad, fried bitter gourd, mashed pumpkin, radish… just listing it out sets the craving already! The next part of the meal is the curries, the most important part that gives your meal the true Indian kick. Most places give you the standard dhal, chicken, fish and vegetable curry while some, more popular spots may offer mutton, crab and prawn curry. The curries are best when hot, thick and richly spiced. You know it’s good when the aromas waft through the air and hits your nose just as you walk in. Yum!

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To complete the vegetarian meal, you need all the little condiments that make (or break) the Indian experience. Chutneys, freshly fried poppadums, fried chillies, mulligatawny (rasem) and a fresh serving of yogurt! Don’t squirm in your seat until you’ve tried it because it’s the true (and delicious) traditional Indian meal, a daily staple in India after the assortment of breads, better known as roti.

Meat lovers don’t despair! It’s not all about the greens as the meat selection is just as wide! From mutton varuval to chicken paretal, you can have it all. Pick from meats that are spicy hot, deep fried till crisp, made with a mash of spices, soaked in gravies or whatever else. If seafood tickles your fancy more then pick from fish, prawns or squid too! A personal favourite would be spicy mutton varuval or deep fried squid, topped with freshly squeezed lime. So, lunch plans anyone?

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