Malaysia Food Safari: Banana Leaf Rice

Banana Leaf is a popular Malaysian dish served on a fresh banana leaf with an assortment of vegetables, curried meat or fish, papadum and other side dishes. Originally from South India, this dish has become common fare in Malaysian cuisine and is widely available throughout the country.


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Banana Leaf Rice is one of my favorite Malaysian dishes next to nasi lemak and assam laksa. It reminds me of a more intricate version of Binalot meals in the Philippines, which consist of rice wrapped in a banana leaf served with salted red egg, chopped tomatoes and a choice of Filipino meat dishes like adobo, tapa, chicken and fish.

I’ve tried banana leaf rice in Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands and Sabah but the best value for money and tastiest version I’ve tried was the one from the small town of Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands. It was cheap (8RM) and the portions were satisfyingly large.


A Typical Serving of Banana Leaf Rice

• rice served on a fresh sheet of banana leaf
• 3 types of vegetables
• choices of curry and/or dal
• other side dishes like pickles and/or papadums

The traditional banana leaf rice is a vegetarian dish.  Only the curry sauce is usually served but you can always request your curry with chicken, mutton, fish or other side dishes.


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How to Eat Banana Leaf

Traditionally, this dish is eaten with your hand (right hand only) and can get a bit messy with all the added dips and curry sauces, if you’re not used to it . But that’s what makes eating banana leaf rice fun and interesting. It is practical and environment-friendly too.

After a satisfying meal, fold the banana leaf towards you to show appreciation. Folding it the other way around means the food wasn’t good and satisfying.

Don’t forget to try banana leaf if you happen to visit Malaysia. Aside from the thrill of eating with your bare hand in public (without raising eyebrows), it apparently aids in digestion which will come in handy if you have been feasting on the delicious street food while on the road.

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