While I’m on the subject of banana leaves, I thought I would share a traditional way to serve Indian food that is also a fun family craft.

 

Bowls made from banana leaves in the Indian style.

Bowls made from banana leaves in the Indian style.

 

  • Wipe a fresh banana leaf with a damp towel to remove any debris.
  • Cut out the center stem from the leaf leaving two long halves.
  • Blanch the leaf pieces in boiling water for 30 seconds. Dry and let cool.
  • Cut squares from each leaf half.
  • Place the square with the shiny side down so it ends up on the outside.
  • Fold each corner to the center to make a half-sized square.
  • Fold the top corner and bottom corner to the center of the square so the points of the new folds overlap the corners from the first folds.
  • Carefully lift the folded pieces and secure the new fold to the first fold flaps using either two toothpicks or a stapler. Traditionally they would be tied with strips of fibers from the stem of the leaf.
  • Lift the sides to open the bowl.
  • Fill with your favorite dish.

 

Banana leaf bowls are used to serve Indian food.

Banana leaf bowls are used to serve Indian food.

 

 

These cute bowls can also be used for presenting gifts or holding small treasures like jewelry or shells. They last for a long time and are recyclable!

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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As I look outside my window I see a dozen beautiful banana trees with large green leaves waving in the breeze. Soon it will freeze in north Texas; my leaves will shrivel and turn brown, and the trunks will collapse when their internal cell structures can no longer hold them upright. This is the time of year when I go outside and “harvest” some leaves to tide me over until next spring when I have access to a fresh crop of leaves.

  

Freezing banana leaves

Preparing banana leaves to be frozen is a very simple process. I usually select about a dozen leaves that are bright green, not torn and have a minimal amount of yellow or brown edges. I want my leaves to be as perfect as possible. Here are the steps to freezing them:

  • Clean the leaves with a wet paper towel to remove any obvious dirt.
  • Dry the leaves with a clean paper towel.
  • Carefully cut the central vein out of each leaf so you will have two long thin leaf strips. I cut them on a cutting board so I can run the knife across the leave without damaging my counter.
     
Fresh banana leaves getting ready to be blanched and frozen.

Fresh banana leaves getting ready to be blanched and frozen.

 

  • Cut off any thin strips that tore when the vein was removed. At this point you may want to cut some of the leaves in half or thirds, depending on how you plan to use them in the future.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.
  • Carefully immerse each leaf piece, one at a time, in the pot and blanch it for 30 seconds. Remove from the pot with tongs and carefully lay them flat on the counter until they are dry.
     
    Blanched banana leaves ready to be frozen for future use.

    Blanched banana leaves ready to be frozen for future use.

     

  • Fold and lay the leaves in a pile. Place them in a freezer zip top bag and set in the freezer. Often I use several bags so the leaves are not damaged by freezer burn as I remove individual leaves.

Thawing banana leaves

When you are ready to use the leaves, simply place one or two on the counter. Take care not to let the leaves tear until they come to room temperature. The leaves will be soft, pliable and ready to use in a short time. Dry the leaves before using them.

  

Alternative to freezing the leaves yourself

Now that you have read through my entire post, frozen packages of banana leaves are available at many Asian grocery stores. This can save you some time or give you an option if the leaves are not available where you live.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.

India has been using natural, disposable plates and cooking wrap for generations, dating back to the Middle Ages. They are still used today for their practicality and tradition.

 

While visting the spice farm in Wayanad earlier this year, the plates on which we ate our lunch had been pressed out of lotus leaves. They were strong enough to hold a plateful of rice and curries from a buffet. Most South Indian weddings include meals for hundreds of guests all served on banana leaves.

 

Leaves are also used to enhance the presentation of food. A piece of leaf can be slipped under some of the food on one’s plate to complement the color or something (often rice or noodles) can be partially wrapped in it to make the presentation unique. They make quick and easy platters for presenting snacks at parties for no cost at all. Other than eating off of banana leaves, did you know they have several other uses in Indian cooking?

 

Fresh banana leaves getting ready to be blanched and frozen.

Fresh banana leaves getting ready to be blanched and frozen.

Steaming fish

In Kerala whole spiced fish are often wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed. The cooked fish takes on a delicate tea or grass flavor in addition to the original spices. These banana leaf wrapped packets make a stunning impression when presented on individual plates for a dinner party. When the package is opened, the steam and enticing aromas rush out into the air. Next week I will publish my recipe of the month, which is Banana Leaf Steamed Halibut. (It is very tasty.)

Steaming sweets

Just like steaming fish, several South Indian sweets are steamed in banana leaves. My cookbook, Kachi’s Kitchen, includes many recipes for banana leaf steamed sweets.

Grilling meat

A piece of banana leaf can be placed directly on the grill under the meat, like flaky fish, or vegetables to keep them from sticking to the grate or falling through into the fire. Since the piece of leaf takes the heat, the heat is more even and the meat doesn’t burn as quickly. The leaf also enhances the flavor of the food.

Keeping food from sticking

A piece of banana leaf would be placed on the bottom of a pot to keep food from sticking. This technique is still used today to make food healthier.

Protecting food

In the days before wax paper and plastic wrap, Indians would wrap their food in banana leave to keep it from drying out.


 
With all of these uses, I have to admit that Indian cooks have been very creative in using recyclable materials. 

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.