Cooking in leaves, healthy food that are delicious too. Usually people use leaves available in their locality, to wrap food items, especially for steaming or frying. In Kerala, we use different types of leaves, preferably that of Banana plants for cooking dishes.
Sadya, the feast served on cut banana leaves, is important on special occasions like festivals and functions.
There are a lot of health benefits for cooking and eating food in leaves. For example, polyphenol the waxy substance that present on the surface of leaves, is a natural antioxidant. Really it melts on mixing with hot food, that is beneficial to our health in many ways.
Similarly, certain leaves such as that of the cinnamon plant, give delicious aroma to the dishes. Let us see a few examples of leaves in which we can cook healthy food.
1. Banana leaves
People from almost all parts of the world use banana leaves, mostly for packing food. Generally we use it for steaming idli or idiyappam, and for wrapping dough to prepare sweets like ada.
The Karimeen pollichathu, is one of the delicious dishes with fish cooked in banana leaves. Certainly you can enjoy it on your visit to Kerala, God’s own country.
2. Cinnamon leaves (Vazhana ila in Malayalam)
Kumbilappam, is the delicious sweet that we prepare in cinnamon leaves. It is the special item in the menu for Vishu, one of the most important festivals of Kerala.
The main ingredients for the sweet are rice flour, coconut, jaggery and Jack fruit. Here is the simple recipe for kumbilappam, that you can try.
If cinnamon leaf is not available, you can use banana leaves instead. But remember, that the unique taste and aroma of the sweet is that of the cinnamon leaves in which we wrap the dough.
3. Leaves of Macaranga peltata plant. (Vattayila in Malayalam)
Before the emergence of polythene bags, people of Kerala widely used the leaves of this tree for packing fresh meat and fish.
Due to its medicinal properties, Ayurveda recommends different parts of the plant for the treatment of ailments like rheumatism, stomach problems etc.
We use the leaves of the plant to wrap dough for the preparation of dishes.
Ilayappam is a healthy sweet that we can cook in this leaf, somewhat similar to that of ada.
4. The Portia tree leaves ( Poovarasu in Malayalam)
Surprisingly, almost all parts of this tree are effective medicines for a number of ailments. Especially like liver problems, skin diseases etc. Probably, this might be the reason why people consider it sacred, in many places.
However, the dishes that we prepare in the leaves of Poovarasu tree, are delicious as well as healthy. Like the banana leaves, we can use it for making steamed or fried dishes.
5. Lotus leaves
People from many parts of the world, use lotus leaves for packing food. For example, the Chinese sticky rice in lotus leaves, is popular.
Also the snacks made with lotus tuber and stem, are healthy as well as delicious.
Keeping the above points in mind, try to cook and pack food in leaves, as and when you can. Furthermore, it is one of the best ways to avoid a lot of toxic materials in our day to day life.