E is for Elai Sapad #BlogchatterA2Z

The first time I heard the words ‘Elai Sapad’ I thought it was a dish, as I assumed it was a single word ElaiSapad. It was only later that I found out that Elai means Plantain / Banana Leaf and Sapad means a Meal, so Elai Sapad simply translates to a meal served on a banana leaf.

Savouring the Sapad on this ‘eco friendly plate’ is an experience. Don’t assume that the leaf is just slapped on the table any which way. The tapering side of the leaf  faces the left. After is placed in front of you, you open it, sprinkle water on it and use your hands to gently wipe it clean. Tip the excess water away from you and your ‘plate’ is ready.


The food is served in a certain way too. Rice is served on the bottom half of the leaf and all its accompaniments on the top half. Sweets are served first (just between you and me that is one of the reason I love it so much) then the rest.

Looking at the amount of the Sapad on the Elai, you would think ‘How am I supposed to eat all THAT?’ Worry not, you can. Just ask for ‘konjam’ (small) servings .


The food traditionally served as sapad is so delicately flavoured and seasoned , with just the basic spices being used if at all, and no excess oil, that not only would you digest it easily, but you’ll most probably be hungry in the next few hours.

If you thought Elai Sapad was restricted to pure vegetarian fare, you couldn’t be more wrong. Non-vegetarian food is served too.

After you’re done savouring your meal, don’t forget to close the leaf facing  towards you. As closing it away from you signifies that you did not enjoy the meal, and it is an affront to the host!


Enjoyed your meal served on a Banana Leaf? Finish it off with another leaf, the Betel Leaf this time. Make yourself a Beeda (Pan) that will not only help you digest that meal, but will act as a mouth freshener too.

Bon Apetit!

Written for the theme

My A to Z of Chennai: The City Viewed Through An Outsiders Eye


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  1. Being used to Elai Sapad in most of our functions, I have never really thought of these small points that go into it. Interesting read.

  2. First time I came to know this word. Food is looking tempting. I love south Indian food as I spent 3 years in that part of Hyderabad which is now known as Telangana.

  3. Even i thought that it is some food item. Its amazing to know such intrinsic details about having food on Banana leaf, right from placement of food items to the manner of folding it.

  4. Hot rice on those green elai!!! Both tasty and good for health… if someone can eat rasam and payasam from the elai without routing it outside, then they r legend 🙂
    After you covered Ellis beach on B, I was waiting for Esplanade! A different surprise. Good to see!

    1. Rasam I don’t eat at all. I have eaten Payasam without routing it out!:)))

  5. Loving your posts, Mayuri…keep it coming!! 🙂

  6. Having spent a decade in Karnataka, this was a dish we savored in Andhra mess kind of outlets. It got me really nostalgic.

  7. I love a banana leaf meal here in the South. All the teeny tiny accompaniments and so much rice. I have finally started savouring the South Indian meal. And I love eating on a banana leaf. I also enjoy the paan they serve at the end along with a yelakki. 🙂

  8. We serve in Banana leaf too during pooja. But I didn’t know there’s a process of arranging food items on it. That’s something new I learnt today.

  9. You will be surprised that I have never eaten properly on a banana leaf, a lot of restaurants use it but n plates no one serves in a proper traditional manner. Hoping to enjoy a proper traditional meal sometime.

  10. I have eaten idli sambhar on banana leaf in Murgun Idli in chennai. One had to eat it pretty fast lest the sambhar flowed away.


  11. Thanks for introducing this word to us. I had South Indian meals on Banana leaf twice in Bangalore at 2 diff Andhra Style restaurants. I love the food, i vaguely remember a few dishes – puttu, rasam, a few chutneys etc. It was an interesting experience.

  12. “Sweets are served first (just between you and me that is one of the reason I love it so much) then the rest.”
    Hahaha! You are funny! 😀

    I have eaten a banana-leaf meal only once in my life… when I was going to Nemam (I think) from Chennai, to attend some workshop. We were going by road, and stopped at a dhabha like place, which looked clean. That’s where I had this. I anyway, love South Indian food. Especially the breakfast stuff… can live on it daily.

    Find my E post @ Microwave Eggless Chocolate Cake Recipe | How To Make Eggless Chocolate Cake in Microwave

  13. In maharashtra also we eat on banana leaf. Its considered healthy also. Great post.

  14. Elai sapadu is wonderful. It is distinctly south Indian and there is nothing we Tamilians love more than having our meals served on Banana leaves. The only trouble is when you try to mix rasam with rice rasam tends to overflow as it is very watery. :)) When I was a kid I used to have a lot of problem eating Rasam rice in an elai or banana leaf. But once I got the hang of it I began really enjoying Elai Sapadu.

  15. Now this is something I can relate to dear. Sapad served on banana leaf is my childhood favourite. Only those have tasted it know how yum it feels eating from this leaf

  16. Mayuri Nidigallu Noor Anand Chawla

    I’d never heard this term before and had no clue about the etiquette of eating the meal like this. Really enjoying your informative series. The pictures have made me so hungry!

  17. Learnt a new word, Elai Sapad, though I know some people traditionally eat on banana leaves:)

  18. I love Elai Sapad and Kerala Sadya. There is a certain charm to eating a lavish spread in banana leaf.

  19. Did not have much knowledge regarding eating in Banana Leaf, by the way, i also thought that its some type of dish.
    Informative post indeed.

  20. In my life, I have had opportunity to enjoy Elai -Sapad twice. I never knew of anything other than that it is Ecofriendly. I enjoyed the read.

  21. Mayuri Nidigallu Rashi Roy

    When I went to Chennai for a vacation, I specifically ordered the lunch that was offered like this because it looked so tempting. It’s only now that I know the name!

  22. We south Indians love elai sapad! I love eating even Andra meals on the banana leaf. There is something so delicious and sacred about it.

    Nothing peeves me out more than people trying to use spoons while eating on the leaf! I feel like giving them one tight slap.

  23. I always get confused on that last bit.. Which side to close the leaf. Have done the reverse on so many occasions.

  24. Mayuri Nidigallu Deepa

    I learnt all this after coming to Bangalore and still dont know many things. I am a fan of south Indian meals and Tamil style smbhar. Good to know what its exactly called in Tamil through your post.

  25. During festivals & special occassions, we do eat food in Banana leaf. As you said, there is an order in distributing food. First sweet, then curries & chutneys and then rice and sambar. Eating in Banana leaf is love 🙂

  26. You will be surprised to know I used to get the cravings for proper square sapad mean during my pregnancy. You took me back in memory lane, M. I enjoyed my time in the South India and lots of sapad meals. Not in Chennai though.

  27. I too thought Elai Sapad is some meal but learned a great deal here. I didn’t know of the deets you shared above. On another note, my sister is getting married in a Tamilian family. It will be really cool to tell her something that she isn’t aware of! 😀


  28. Seems like a fun way to have a meal. And looks delicious too! 🙂

  29. I ate on a banana leaf (Kerala Sadya actually) earlier this year. It was an experience. That it should be closed facing towards you…. is an important tip. Thanks for sharing, Mayuri!

  30. We went to Kerala Bhavan in Vashi and had sapad there on elai. It was a novel experience. I didn’t know about the significance of leaf-folding in the proper way though. The spread here looks sumptuous and inviting.
    Is paan called Beeda in Tamil too? What do those cute little white pouches contain?

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