14 Sep2006

Banana Leaves

by Marketman


I think banana leaves are fascinating and generally under appreciated. They are nature’s perfect cooking vessel… abundant, biodegradeable, versatile, good-looking, economical, etc. Across several leaf2tropical countries, banana leaves are used as liners for cakes and baked goods, wrappers of sausages, rice cakes, fish and many other dishes. The leaves not only enrobe the food but they impart a subtle flavor, aroma and color as well. Often used in conjunction with dishes with coconut milk, they are a perfect example of using what is locally available to brilliant results. Today, I find we use far too much plastic and non-biodegradable styrofoam for wrapping our food, and not only is that an environmental disaster, it seems so clinical compared to banana leaves…

Fresh banana leaves tend to tear easily. So it is imperative that the leaves are passed over an open flame (or alternatively blanched in water) to make them more pliable and easier to handle. leaf3The exposure to heat seems to release the leaf’s natural oils and fragrance and even flavor enhancing capabilities. You can then cut your leaves into the desired shapes and sizes and create strips to tie up little bundles of food. Whether boiled or steamed, the leaves tend to loose their vibrant green color and turn a darker shade of olive green. I use the banana leaves as lining for my bibingkas, for wrappers of suman, to grill fish in, and to wrap other dishes in. I actually just checked the internet and notice that anyone in North America can get banana leaves shipped to them…isn’t that cool? Though they did seem wickedly priced…



  1. ajb says:

    Here in Texas, we can get banana leaves in the groceries stores that cater to the Hispanic community. My guess is they’re shipped along side the bananas themselves which makes me question if they have pesticides on them.

    Sep 14, 2006 | 9:33 pm


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  3. peng says:

    We also use this as a plates during picnic time. What could be more better that you throw everything away when youre done. No more washing!

    Sep 15, 2006 | 12:07 am

  4. Maria Clara says:

    When we go on a picnic, we wrap our rice in banana leaves. After preparing the leaves for wrapping, we throw in some salt and the rice and proceed with the wrap. It imparts a redolence of the banana leaves that really wet your appetite and heightened the flavor of the rice. Foods wrap in banana leaves give a rustic elegance not to mention again the extra flavor it gives out. Banana leaves tame the fishy taste in fish when you put a little piece in them or throw a little piece in the cooking vessel. Where is SUMAN if no banana leaves? Use of the banana leaves is endless in cooking and in the kitchen.

    Sep 15, 2006 | 12:30 am

  5. stef says:

    yup, we love our banana leaves! GMTA! see my post:


    we can get it pretty cheaply, i think — $1.99 for a package of 4 or 5 large leaves. that may sound expensive to those not living here, but $1.99 for all that you get in terms of aroma, convenience, etc.? i’d say it’s worth it. plus these days you don’t have to order it, most international/asian stores carry them in the freezer case. here in ohio i can even get it fresh. — i suppose from the hotter states….

    Sep 15, 2006 | 2:13 am

  6. MasPinaSarap says:

    Masagana brand does a good job of importing quality-intact huge banana leaves; meaning you unfold this huge leaf that you have to then cut.
    The benefits of using banana leaves are amazing. Plus I think it adds a special ethnic touch to our dishes.

    MM, My economy professor (from India) told us a story about how when she was young the vendors along the train stops would sell food in banana leaves and drinks in clay cups. When they were done they would toss them out the window to degrade over time. Well when she returned everything was being sold in plastic and styrofoam and as you can imagine, the tracks were extremely littered.

    Sep 15, 2006 | 3:37 am

  7. Apicio says:

    A few fastidious folks in my town cultivate a certain variety of banana in their backyards mainly for its fronds that impart a sweeter scent and for its heart that does not turn black after slicing. The fruit though is hardly humanly edible being riddled with seeds which nodoubt furnished the false phalic name, butuan.

    As Cebuanos cook rice in their own individual baskets woven out of palmfrond strips so do the Kapampangans, Malays and Indonesians in their banana leaf cones sealed a certain way with bamboo pins that also result in heart-shaped servings of rice.

    Sep 15, 2006 | 4:10 am

  8. rowenajks@yahoo.com says:

    Same thing here in the D/FW Texas area. I usually buy my fresh banana leaves from the Fiesta Market-love using it with suman, bibingka and for grilling fish….the price is $1.99 a pound. The smell and use of the leaves itself brings me back home….

    Sep 15, 2006 | 7:28 am

  9. fried-neurons says:

    Uhm… I keep getting distracted by that awesome-looking range you have there! :)

    Anyway, you’re absolutely right about the subtle flavor that banana leaves impart on whatever’s cooked in them. That’s why my aunt, even when she makes totally fake bibingka (using Bisquick!!!), uses banana leaves.

    Sep 15, 2006 | 10:45 am

  10. erleen says:

    i love it in everything! grilling fish, bibingka, suman, as rice wrapping, serving dish liner, as a picnic plate. Even the body of the banana plant is used as a picnic plate. no need to wash beforehand due to it being tightly packed.

    also the best used when ironing clothes. let the iron touch the leaves before ironing. makes the iron glide on smoothly over clothes and it gives a very homey aroma to the clothes.

    Sep 15, 2006 | 1:41 pm

  11. izang says:

    same with apicio, we prefer use the “butuan” banana…not for the fruit but for the leaves….the taste it imparts on food is very different than the regular banana tree and smells good when ironing clothes….

    Sep 15, 2006 | 1:56 pm

  12. linda says:

    Here in Oz (Australia),it costs us $8.00/kilo,pinoys here still buy it – just can’t help it kasi anything cooked in banana leaves is just pure heaven.

    MM,I noticed that your stovetop is humungous.I’m impressed!

    Sep 15, 2006 | 2:04 pm

  13. bayi & ssk says:

    In Malaysia we have many Indian restaurants that offer “banana leaf rice”. White rice is serve on a big banana leaf. Usually 2 types of cooked vegetables and 1 fresh mixture of cucumber, pineapple and sliced green chilli mixed with diluted yoghurt are provided with the rice. And there is a choice of chicken, fish or chickpea curry (dhal). The banana leaf heighten the aroma of the rice and increases one’s enjoyment of the meal.

    The traditional “nasi lemak” (rice steamed with coconut milk and pandan leaf) is wrapped in banana leaf, giving the rice its unique flavor. This is one of the most popular choices for breakfast. Of course, the rice come with basic additions like curry (or sambal, a thick chili paste cooked with anchovies, shallots and sometimes shrimps), hard boiled egg, fried anchovies, fried peanuts and some other more expensive options.

    Sep 16, 2006 | 12:47 pm

  14. Katrina says:

    Fried-neurons, my relatives from the US introduced us to what they call “bibingcake” which uses Bisquick too! It’s actually quite good; even though bibingka is easy to buy here, my family now likes to make bibingcake at home once in a while.

    Sep 16, 2006 | 5:53 pm

  15. Wilson Cariaga says:

    does anyone recall using banana leaf putting it on the “plantsa” flat iron rest? nice aroma. . .

    Sep 16, 2006 | 9:43 pm

  16. elisabeth says:

    hai your websitet is very excelennt

    Sep 18, 2006 | 3:05 pm

  17. millet says:

    oh, yes, wilson, you remind me..our maids used to put banana leaves on the plantsa rest. did it have any purpose other than to make the room smell of bibingka? did it not stain the clothes that were pressed? i also recall my lola telling me that the green fresh pinipig got its color from bring rubbed between banana leaves and pandan (for the smell). any truth to this?

    Sep 19, 2006 | 7:14 am

  18. Angelica says:

    hi, can anyone post a “bibingka cake” recipe using bisquick or galapong? i haven’t eaten bibingka for a looooooong time.

    Oct 12, 2006 | 8:36 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    Angelica, look in the archives and keep scrolling down after you type search for bibingka galapong… I have a recipe in the archives…. also, one for a simple bibingka with all purpose flour!

    Oct 12, 2006 | 8:39 pm

  20. Juan Carlos says:

    Hi, Soy productor de hoja de platano (Banana Leaves) vendo este producto en reja de 25 libras (pounds) somos una empresa del Estado de Veracruz y nos interesa buscar cliente para nuestro producto gracias. Espero se puedan comunicar conmigo a mi correo. carlos_v79@hotmail.com

    Juan Carlos Velazquez F.

    Jul 12, 2007 | 3:07 am


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