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Saturday January 28, 2012
A banana leaf meal on paper
By YVONNE LIM
PETALING JAYA: You've had “paper thosai”. So how about paper banana leaf lunch?
Breaking away from tradition for the sake of hygiene and due to a shortage of banana leaves, a popular restaurant chain has decided to replace the leaves with bio-degradable paper “lookalikes”.
Kanna Curry House, which is famous for its South Indian banana leaf meals, is now serving the dishes on paper “leaves” that look like the real ones.
“We have a shortage of banana leaves,” said restaurant assistant manager Muthu Kumar, 23, at the chain's Section 17 outlet here.
“Another reason for the change is because a lot of our customers have been complaining that the leaves are dirty. For us to clean each leaf individually is just too much work.”
He said the restaurant chain used up to 5,000 banana leaves daily.
Muthu added that the change would be implemented at the other outlets all over the Klang Valley.
“Some of our regular customers said using the paper leaves take away the authenticity of the traditional banana leaf meals.
“However, most of them don't mind the change as it ensures cleanliness,” he said.
A regular customer at the restaurant's Section 17 outlet for over 15 years, Mary Chong, 48, said although she preferred having her meals on a “real” banana leaf, she would continue to patronise the restaurant because she enjoyed the food.
“The paper leaves take away the feel of a banana leaf meal, but the food still tastes the same,” she said.
Shamrat Sengupta, 34, who frequents the outlet for breakfast before heading off to work, said it was “strange to eat from leaves made of paper, but at least it was clean”.
Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners' Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam Pillai said he did not foresee other banana leaf eateries in Malaysia following suit and replacing organic leaves with paper ones.
“Indians have practised eating on banana leaves for centuries. In Malaysia, the banana leaf meal is a staple among locals and has even become a tourist attraction.
“It is true that it is harder to get the leaves now, but in my opinion, banana leaf restaurants should not stop using real leaves as it takes away the authenticity of the traditional meal,” he said.
Patrons settling down to a banana leaf lunch at a popular restaurant in Petaling Jaya. But it was a banana leaf spread with one big difference. - RAJA FAISAL HISHAN /The Star
Breaking tradition: An employee of Kanna Curry House showing the difference between the banana leaf (left) and the paper leaf.