Cooking In A Banana Leaf

28-Jan-2013 by

Banana leaf cooking


As it has been reiterated several times, human beings share a close and personal relationship with food. So of course, the true gourmand will leave no stone unturned when it comes to exploring food. There are examples of foodies trying everything – and by everything we mean everything that possibly be eaten including insects and offal.

Gourmands go out of their way to utilise everything that a plant or animal has to offer in terms of food – the logic being that since a sacrifice is being made, it is dishonourable to just eat a portion or part of the animal/plant. While many of us would balk at eating unmentionable bits of animals, plants are a different matter altogether.

While we typically eat the yield or fruit of a tree or a plant, and sometimes its leaves, all parts of the banana plant can be eaten in various delicious ways. How? Well the fruit is well known for its nutritional value, the banana flower is typically eaten as a spicy accompaniment with rice and the stem can be crushed and the juice drunk, or eaten as a spicy vegetable as well. The banana leaf, while cannot be eaten directly, also works in beautiful ways to flavour food and cook it delicately in a healthy fashion.

The banana leaf is an effective way to cook or bake your food because it imparts a delicate flavour to the meat that is being cooked in it. Usually, the fillings are non vegetarian – though some cuisines do steam tofu and suchlike in it as well. There are many ways to cook delicious meals in banana leaf.  Usually lightly spiced lean meat such as chicken or fish is spritzed with a few squeezes of lime and delicate spices before being parcelled into the leaves which seals in the moisture and flavour and infuses the meat with a earthy, smoky smell. Banana leaves are used everywhere the plant grows and is a popular dish in Asia and some parts of Latin America too.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for you to try – you will need:

2 boneless chicken breast 

1 red capsicum

½ cup (or more) pineapple tidbits – there are tinned cans of the same available in stores or just buy fresh pineapple and chop it up.

A handful each of fresh basil and coriander leaves

½ cup coconut – shredded

For the marinade you will need:

½ can thick, good quality coconut milk

2 tbsp fish sauce (or if you wish, make a substitute with one tsp soya, one tbsp Worcestershire and two tsbsp of tamarind paste. Mix all the liquids together and squeeze a lemon over it.)

2 or 3 green chillies – chopped

3 cloves of garlic – chopped

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp soya sauce

Handful of fresh basil and thyme leaves

1 tbsp ground coriander

Now all you have to do is this:

Prepare the marinade by processing all the listed ingredients together in a food processor or a mixie. Then, combine the chicken pieces, capsicum, marinade and pineapple. You could keep this mixture overnight or at least for about 5 hours. This helps the flavours to mingle well. Then, before baking, toast the shredded coconut on a pan over a medium flame. Place one  large banana leaf on top of another and place a scoop of the chicken mixture on it. Wrap up with the leaves like a large square packet and tie with string or toothpicks – or simply place it seam down on a thin cookie sheet with sides. The sides are important because there is bound to be a little juice spilling from the packages. Bake at 200 degrees for about 25- 30 minutes till the chicken inside is cooked. You can also lightly oil a pan and steam these parcels on a low flame with a cover on top. Serve the chicken in the parcels after opening them, add a sice od fragrant white rice, topped with the toasted coconut. Beware while opening the packages because it can be quite hot and a lot of hot steam will escape.

Other leaves like large lime leaves and fig are also used to cook meat, fish or other items and they lend a fragrant citrusy flavour to the food. However, none wraps around a portion of steamed filling quite as well as a large, green banana leaf. Enjoy!

Guest article from:

Image Courtesy: kitchenmishmash