Kitchen Tips

Cooking With Banana Leaves

Banana leaves are quintessential to Southeast Asian  and South Asian cooking where bananas flourish. They add a rustic charm when used for presentation and they add a subtle flavour when used to wrap a meat in the cooking process. Today, we will give you some kitchen tips on how to store them, some cooking tips on how to use them and some shopping tips to buy healthy banana leaves.

Buying and selecting banana leaves:

The best bet is to buy them from the market where Asian vegetables are sold. Though if a trip to the vegetable market isn’t your cup of tea, you could also buy them at your local Asian grocer. Don’t forget to check the freezer if it isn’t visible on the vegetable shelf in the store. The colour of healthy banana leaves usually range from bright green to dark green. Try to avoid leaves which look yellow, brown, have many holes or feel very dry and brittle. Although some splitting along the vein is common and normal, try to avoid buying leaves with too many splits as they will be harder to use.

Banana leaves

Photo courtesy Alison Domzalski. Used under Creative Common Licence

Cooking with banana leaves:

Banana leaves are perfect for wrapping while steaming a meat, the way you use tin foil. Remember to wash your banana leaves well before you use them as a wrapper. The best way to clean a banana leaf is to first run it under cold water and gently brush away any dirt, without damaging the leaf. Then you can use a paper towel to dry the leave. You wouldn’t want the flavour of the banana leaves overpowering your dish. If you’re in a mood to experiment, we recommend you try banana leaves while grilling or barbecuing.

It’s a good idea to use it as a mat on the grill, especially if there are small pieces or tender pieces of meat that might fall through the grill. Don’t worry if the leaf turns brown as you cook it. It will give a slight hint of flavour to your food.

Banana leaves cooking

Photo courtesy Food Stories. Used under Creative Common Licence

How to serve using banana leaves:

Using banana leaves to serve food adds a quaint charm to the food. Finger foods and platters are perfect dishes that can be served on leaves. It can make ordinary-looking food exotic, with an Asian touch. Cut it to form creative shapes like circles or hearts to impress your guests.

Storing banana leaves:

If you have leftover leaves, to store for later use, simply clean them first, fold them individually and wrap them up in a sealed plastic bag and store them in your freezer. They only need 30-odd minutes to thaw, so freezing them should not be too much of a concern.

Other handy tips:

Use a scissor rather than a knife to cut the leaves into your desired size. Banana leaves can also be composted after you’re done using them.

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