Especially in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Is it only because there is wide availability of these leaves in these states or historic/religious reasons also apply?
so lets we discuss some reason behind that.
- It is one of the most eco-friendly, disposable food serving systems. It degrades quickly and unlike a metallic/porcelain utensil, it requires very little cleaning with water or soap. Great for a water scarce India.
- It is healthy. The antioxidants (polyphenols) in banana leaf is reported to help fight cancer.Another research says the leaf contains polyphenol oxidase that help fight Parkinson's disease.
- Banana leaves are also used in some ayurvedic medicinal preparations. By serving hot food on a banana leaf, one could get a lot of those good stuff although the leaf is hard to digest for human when eaten as-is.
- It is hygienic. A simple sprinkling of water is enough to clean a banana leaf. When you are eating at places with questionable hygiene it always preferable to eat in a banana leaf than an inadequately cleaned plate.
- It is practical. Other leaves are too small to have food in and Indian population is too big to have everybody use plastic utensils without screwing up the environment in a big way.
- It is waterproof. South Indian foods involve a lot of liquids and many other bio materials don't fit in easily.
- The leaves can be quite big and is great to present the diverse food stuffs in a South Indian menu. Most plates are not good in this aspect.
- Since the leaf can hold a large volume of food, it requires less rounds of serving and thus it is easy when you are serving parties of 1000s of people (not unusual in Indian weddings).
- It adds a nice aroma to the food and improves the taste of some foods like rasam (Indian soup).
- Finally, we love to follow the ways of our ancestors (especially when they are right). It is nice to have a bit of history and culture when you are dealing with something as fundamental as food.
Banana leaf was not the only leaf used to serve food though. Lotus leaf was quite common in those days and even today several Hindu temples use Lotus leaves to package.