Banana leaves are very inexpensive to buy - roughly $3.00-4.00 for a large pack. Buy banana leaves fresh or frozen in large, flat plastic bags at your local Asian supermarket (check the freezer if you can't find them on the shelf or in the produce section).
2. Cooking with Banana Leaves
Banana leaves can be used for baking anything "wrapped" - in the same way you would use tin foil or parchment paper. However, note that banana leaves are porous (unlike tin foil), so some of the "sauce" or juices from your food item may seep through. It's therefore a good idea to place your banana leaf "packets" in a glass cassarole dish, or a tray that has "sides" on it, so that the juices don't drip to the bottom of your oven.
3. Banana Leaves for Barbecuing:
You can also use banana leaf as a kind of "mat" for barbecuing fragile fillets of fish, smaller shrimp, or vegetables that have a danger of falling through the grill. Simply lay a piece of banana leaf on your barbecue (grill), then cook your food items on top of it (as you would with tin foil). The banana leaf will turn bright green at first, then brown as you cook. It will also give a hint of flavor to your food that is very pleasant.
4. Banana Leaves for Serving:
Banana leaf also makes a beautiful background on which to serve various Asian dishes - excellent for party platters or finger foods. Tip for Party Platters: If you're using banana leaves for serving rather than cooking, you can make the leaf even more attractive by heating it. Turn on the burner of your stove (or use the barbecue), and simply hold the banana leaf low over the heat. Rotate it slowly so the heat reaches all of the leaf - this will release the oils from the leaf and cause it to turn a beautiful bright green.
5. Eating on Banana Leaf!
This is perhaps the "funnest" part of using banana leaves in cooking - eating off of them! Any dish that has been cooked in banana leaf can also be served in/on it - in fact, this makes the dish even more beautiful to serve and to eat. It also makes for a wonderful conversation-starter at dinner parties! For an example of a good recipe to do this, check out my : Thai Pineapple Chicken- a Yummy&Exotic Thai Treat
6. Storing Banana Leaves:
Usually you will have leftover leaves after you've finished making your recipe or serving your food, as they are sold in large packs. To keep the rest for use later, simply wrap up in plastic (a plastic bag will do, secured with elastic), and keep in the freezer. Banana leaves only require about 30 minutes to thaw, so this is a convenient way to keep them fresh. If using within a week, store them (wrapped in plastic) in the refrigerator.
1. Use scissors to cut banana leaves into the size you need, depending on your recipe. For wrapping and baking food items, you will need a large "sheet" or leaf. Place enough for one serving in the center of the leaf, then fold like a handkerchief to make a square packet.
2. Banana leaf is also excellent for steaming, as it allows the steam to penetrate the food inside or on top of it. You can use banana leaf to line a steamer, or to wrap your food and then steam it.
3. Scure banana leaf "packets" with toothpicks inserted and woven through the leaf. Or simply place the packet "seam-side" down to keep it from opening.
4. Ideas for Baking with Banana leaves: Try wrapping up some chicken, fish or seafood, or other meats in banana leaf and baking them in the oven. First, mix in a little Curry Paste, , then wrap up in the leaf (square-shaped packets are easiest to make). Secure the packet with toothpicks, or simply place the packet "seam-side" down to keep it from opening while baking. For recipes that use banana leaf
5. Banana leaves can be composted when you're finished using them.