Food from Malaysia: Banana Leaf Rice

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ May 5th, 2011. Updated on May 30th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » Food around the world » Malaysian food.
Banana Leaf rice from Malaysia

Magnificent Banana Leaf Rice from Malaysia

Banana Leaf Rice from Western Malaysia

I think this must come in as my number two favorite meal in Peninsular Malaysia. And, I have to say, like many things in this part of Malaysia, it’s a hit in miss affair to get a version of Banana Leaf Rice that tastes “great” every-time.

I have found such a place. It’s a town with many restaurants, serving near equally great versions of banana leaf rice every-time. More on this later, but for now a little bit more about this wonderful dish.

What is Banana leaf rice?

Banana leaf rice originally comes from South India, and now a Malaysian version sits with equal prowess beside it’s original counterpart.

Set on fresh banana leaf you will be presented with a mix of fresh vegetables, lentils, rice, a papadum or small deep fried baji along with a hot curry.

Mutton banana leaf rice with a deep fried donut

Same banana leaf rice with a deep fried onion donut

Banana leaf rice curry usually comes with a choice of either mutton, chicken or a vegetarian option.

Why eat on a banana leaf?

Aside from a decorative touch, and an environmentally friendly plate, a fresh banana leaf skin is believed to aide in digestion.

Where is the best Banana Leaf Rice in Malaysia found?

In my findings the results have been mediocre throughout Malaysia. The one place that consistantly had great Banana Leaf Rice has been in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands.

Costing less than in many other places, I ate banana leaf rice for USD $2 here. While rather staggeringly I have seen prices of this dish hit over $20 in some higher end restaurants, and many charging $10, with alot less than what I’ve photographed here.

By all means try banana leaf rice anywhere in Malaysia. But, I’m pretty sure you won’t get a consistently better version than in the Cameron Highlands!

This is an additional article, featuring everyday, local food from Malaysia

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21 Great responses to Food from Malaysia: Banana Leaf Rice

  1. seems a rather far place to go for some banana leaf if you were in KL, there are plenty of good banana leaf place but i guess you do have to go through a bit of trial and error, though u definitely have to pay more than usd2!

    • I’ve had banana leaf rice in KL, and can’t really say I got excited about it. Nice, yes. Excellent at $2, no. Consistent no. All of this is a yes in The Cameron Highlands, that’s the difference to me!

  2. Kristina says:

    Beautiful photo. Makes me want some now. Curious…is that typically eaten with utensils there or by hand? I think in India similar dishes are eaten with the right hand and I wondered if that custom had followed to Malaysia.

    • Thanks Kristina. I’ve seen local Malays tuck into banana leaf rice with their hands alright. Indians in Malaysia too. Though nearly all the places serving it will offer spoons and forks. I’d say it was a good 60/40 in favor of hands over utensils.

      Rice is also one of the few foods I don’t like eating with my hands! Too mushy :)

  3. Anna's World says:

    Wow! No wonder you list this as your number two food in Malaysia! What’s the main difference between it here and elsewhere?

    • I found it a lot fresher in the Cameron highlands, with a lot more of those smaller side dishes you see here! Also, every order no matter the restaurant made a similar, and good version of banana leaf rice!

  4. “Vegetarian option” – just what I wanted to hear! it looks tasty :)

  5. Jason says:

    Makes me hungray just looking at this Dave, something about the colors and the way it’s laid out. I never tried the dish in Malaysia, but it was one of my staples in India. Nothing better than rolling up the sleeve and getting into it. Is the Malaysian version as hot as the Indian original?

    • I’ve never had the south Indian version, but I have had the pepper hot North Indian version. Either way, the Malaysian version is not that hot. Though I suspect this is due to the tourist trade they are working with. But in the local places the person serving will ask “you want spicy, or not?” So I imagine you can get something quite hot too.

  6. Lois says:

    This looks absolutely delicious. Something we also eat in the Philippines and I’ve tried in India. I have to wait for 1 more month to experience it when we go to Malaysia. Looking forward to more Malaysian eats Dave.

  7. Craving some Asian food and spices. Life in Colombia is good but food here leaves something to desire.

  8. Ciki says:

    Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands??! NEVAH!!! hahahaha Joker. Vishal in Brickfields (little India) KL is the best:P

    • **BREAKING NEWS** Malaysia changes its name to “Kuala Lumpur”!!! Because life does not exist outside of the shiny capital, and nothing in Malaysia can compare to it!


  9. lara dunston says:

    Looks delicious! Haven’t been to Malaysia in about 7 years – must get back soon!

  10. Sabina says:

    This is one local dish I missed – and didn’t even know existed. I was too busy eating Indian food every day for lunch and dinner :) I’m glad I learned about this from you, Dave.

  11. Travis says:

    Looks delicious/didn’t even know this was a thing… Definitely going to try it sometime though!