Fancy eating on a banana leaf? Your hunt ends here
It’s ironical, but sometimes all that we crave for is simple, homely food, and that too in a restaurant. The week-old Babai Bhojanam at Punjagutta touches that sentiment to serve fare that reminds you of heartful meals savoured at your Babai’s (uncle’s) home in your growing years. The first thing that catches your eye is that all the food is served only on plantain leaves, a rarity in Hyderabad. Ramakrishna V Achanta, founder and partner at Chai, Coffee, Company – C3, which operates the 94-seater Babai Bhojanam, says, “Traditional Telugu meals are served on these leaves as it’s healthy (the antioxidants in it fights cancer), and bio-degradable. Also, the flavours of the leaf seep into your hot food. Although it’s a big effort to source these leaves all the way from East Godavari, we do it. Our tagline is ‘the banana leaf meal’ and we hope to sustain that.”
As Nadaswaram plays in the background, one can see Telugu motifs such as Kondapalli wooden toys and paintings by local artists. If you order their signature meal, without wasting much time, the leaves are laid out and the waiters serve everything from salt to curd, while the rice is drizzled with a generous amount of ghee. Hot rasam, your welcome drink, comes with fried crunchies. “There is a myth that Telugu food is laden with chillies and leaves you tears when you eat. Food at home is seldom that way and we replicate it here,” adds G Srinu, Executive Chef. Spice lovers may feel shortchanged, but one can up the spice quotient by ordering their curries such as Ullikaram Royyalu (spring onion prawns, spicy and crisp). The day’s special starter called Ulli Bombulu was a surprise because what was served was onion rings in a batter of paneer and deep fried in oil. It was crisp outside and soft inside and in a bite, there’s a burst of flavours.
The Telugus are fond of rice variations and therefore, the combo meal of Gongurannam and Kandi Podi Annam, which came next, served as two mounds of rice with a green chilli and onion, seemed innovative. One is tangy, the other is of toor dal flavour. The combo meals is a popular takeaway. “Our carrier meals are called butta bhojanam as we pack in eco-friendly vistarakulu (leaves) and send it in a butta (basket). When you see the meal, you will wish you were sitting under a tree in your farm,” he adds. In the desserts, try the Kobbari Payasam, an overdose of coconut in creamy milk.
The meal has a rotational menu so that the best of their variety makes way into the leaf every day. Each one ‘leaves’ a good aftertaste.
Meal for two: Rs.600.