Earlier this week, one of my friends spoke to me about a South Indian delicacy called Kanchipuram Idlis. We then went on to talk about how these idlis are sometimes steamed in small cups made out of the leaves of the Bauhinia Creeper plant; locally known as the Mandharai plant.
The leaves are big and have a lovely fragrance.
Picnics and train journeys in my childhood were incomplete without these Mandharai leaves, as all our food was packed in dried Mandharai leaves.
These were then wrapped-over with brown paper and tied into small compact packets with twine – one for each of us. We had freshly steamed idlis soaked in chutney powder, tamarind rice, lemon rice and the South Indian’s must-have curd rice.
We usually carried food that would keep till our journey ended. These leaves were easy to carry and easy to dispose, healthy, organic and recyclable.
We eagerly waited for the train to leave the station, just so that we could get started on our packets. Pickles were packed in another small leaf.
The Mandharai leaf lends itself so beautifully to creativity. Artistically- folded, dried Mandharai leaves can be made into recyclable cups, bowls and plates. These are usually stitched together with strands of fibre. These cups are called ‘dhonnais’.
If you ever visit South India, you should eat piping hot Venn Pongal (a local breakfast delicacy) in a ‘dhonnai’, and wash it down with strong filter coffee.