Using banana leaves

Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

Banana leaves are nature’s tinfoil. Snipped fresh from the tree, they have a waxy surface that makes them strong and waterproof. Food can be steamed inside banana leaf parcels and the leaves themselves will impart a subtly herby flavour. Outside of the tropics, you can buy frozen banana leaves in Asian supermarkets, which defrost quickly.
Clean the leaves carefully. They are brittle and crack easily when folding, so soften over heat. To do this, hold above a gas flame or hotplate until it slightly wilts and changes colour. It should be pliable and easy to work with.
Wrap your food as if you were wrapping a present in paper. Tear off some long strips of leaf to tie the parcel up. Alternatively, use splinter-thin toothpicks to pin the leaves in place. It is fine if it seems overwrapped, the steam will still penetrate. The parcels can now be steamed, cooked in the oven or on an oiled rack over hot coals.