Banana leaves are commonly used in Asian cooking because of the flavorful additions they offer to a variety of foods. It is no wonder, then, that they are also often used in Hawaiian cooking, as the many recipes and foods there have Asian influences. Aside from being an excellent way to prepare and cook many Hawaiian foods, they also add a colorful addition to your serving platters and table!
Cooking with banana leaves is actually a simple process, so we will examine who to buy banana leaves, decorate with them, and cook with them.
Purchasing Banana Leaves
What’s great about banana leaves is that they are inexpensive. You can often get a large pack of banana leaves for about $2 to $3, making them a great choice not only for parties and social events, but for everyday dinner preparation. You can typically purchase banana leaves either fresh, at your local farmer’s market, for frozen at many Asian grocers. They are usually sold frozen flat in plastic bags. When looking for banana leaves, check first in the produce section and then head to the freezer if you can’t find them fresh.
Preparing and Cooking with Banana Leaves
Think of banana leaves as you would parchment paper or aluminum foil. In other words, replace aluminum foil or parchment paper with banana leaves in your favorite recipes. However, it is important to point out that banana leaves won’t hold in all the moisture that aluminum foil will, so always cook with them using appropriate baking dishes. We like to put banana leaf dishes in glass dishes as to prevent the delicious juices from your meal dripping onto the oven floor.
If you want to head outdoors and cook with banana leaves over an open flame, such as your grill or barbecue, think in terms of delicate foods, such as fish and vegetables. We like to place banana leaves over the open grill grate and placing delicate fishes or vegetables on them. This is a great way to prevent the food from falling through the grate of the grill, and it also gives food a great taste.
Plating a Dish with Banana Leaves
If you want to impress your guests the next time you make a classic Hawaiian meal, then serve your food on banana leaves. Line your party platters or dishes with banana leaves and serve the meal or appetizers on banana leaves. You can also make smaller banana boats for holding salads, rice and other bean and rice dishes that may otherwise spill over the plate and cause a mess. Before serving, simply rinse a banana leaf under cool water and pat it dry using a paper towel. Then, line the dish or platter as desired to create a beautiful presentation for your next dinner party.
Storing Banana Leaves
If you don’t use all the banana leaves you bought, you can store them in the freezer. Before placing them in the freezer, wrap them carefully with a plastic bag and remove all air. Once you’re ready to use them again, place them on the counter and thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes.