For a cooking method that not only tastes good but is good for you, turn over a new leaf this winter and start cooking with banana leaves.
Banana leaves are used across Malaysia, Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia, where savvy cooks use the sturdy leaves to create parcels for steaming or grilling.
As the leaves capture all of the steam and flavour-packed juices, you’re guaranteed of retaining all the nutrients of the ingredients. Plus, the steaming method provides a low-fat alternative to cooking with oil.
To start cooking with banana leaves, try the Malaysian specialty otak-otak, a rich and satisfying dish of fish and coconut mousse wrapped in banana leaf and then steamed or grilled on the barbecue. Why not sample this Indonesian grilled sea bass dish, which stays ultra-moist thanks to the banana leaf wrap. Or experiment by using banana leaves instead of the lotus leaves in this impressive steamed coral cod recipe.
In Malaysia, banana leaf meals are popular with the Indian community, whereby the washed leaves are used as a disposable plate for a feast of rice, curry and sambal – you even use your fingers to eat it, so there’s no cutlery required. It sure beats adding to landfill with more plastic waste.
Why not use banana leaves at home, either to line trays and platters when entertaining, or as the plate for a fun-filled dinner? As a bonus, you’ll save on the washing up!
You’ll find banana leaves in the fresh or frozen section of Asian supermarkets, and you can store any leftover leaves in a sealed bag in the freezer. But it’s not only the banana plant’s leaves that are worth seeking out this winter. Banana flowers are also packed with health benefits, such as anti-bacterial properties, antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds. Try shredded fresh banana flower in a zesty Thai salad for a nutrient boost this winter.
For more healthy eating tips for winter, read about the health benefits of Thai ingredients.
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