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.
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