Flavours Unwrapped: The Magic of Cooking with Banana Leaf Wraps

The possibilities for banana leaf cooking are truly endless

27 May 2024

Banana leaves act as a natural parchment paper, locking in moisture and preventing food from drying during cooking. As the packet cooks over an open flame or in a steamer, the leaves impart a subtle earthy fragrance that elevates the entire dish. Additionally, the leaves contain natural oils that can subtly enhance the flavour of the ingredients within.


Hailing from Bengal, paturi is a testament to the magic of banana-leaf cooking. Fresh fish or vegetables are marinated in a fragrant spice paste, often featuring mustard, turmeric, chillies, and ginger. This flavourful mixture is then carefully wrapped in a banana leaf packet, which is sealed using folds and techniques passed down through generations. The sealed packet is then steamed or gently poached over an open flame. The result is incredibly moist and tender dish bursting with the aromatic flavours of the spice paste and infused with the subtle smokiness of the banana leaf.

Meen Pollichathu

This Keralite speciality translates to ‘fish wrapped in leaves’, and it's a true crowd-pleaser. Fresh fish, typically seer or pearl spot, is marinated in a vibrant red masala paste featuring ingredients like red chillies, coriander, ginger, and coconut. The marinated fish is then carefully wrapped in a banana leaf, like a sealed parcel. Traditionally, meen pollichathu is cooked over hot coals or baked in an oven. The banana leaf imparts a beautiful smoky aroma to the fish, while also ensuring it cooks through perfectly, retaining its delicate, flaky texture.

Elai Adai

A sweet South Indian staple, elai adai is a comforting and healthy breakfast option. Unlike the previous dishes, it features a batter made from a combination of lentils and rice flour. This batter is then seasoned with fragrant spices and spread onto a banana leaf. The banana leaf parcel is then steamed, resulting in a soft and fluffy pancake infused with the subtle flavours of the banana leaf. Elai adai is often enjoyed with a dollop of chutney or sambar for a complete and satisfying breakfast.


Made with just rice flour, water, and a touch of salt, the magic of pathiri lies in its delicate texture and subtle flavours. Unlike some flatbreads that are crispy or chewy, pathiri has a soft and slightly springy texture. This is achieved by the unique cooking method: steaming in banana leaves. Soaked in warm water to make it pliable, the banana leaf becomes a natural cooking parchment. As the pathiri dough is pressed onto the banana leaf and steamed, the leaf imparts a subtle earthy fragrance to the flatbread.

Which other dishes do you know? Let us know in the comments.

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