Banana Leafs have a wide range of applications because they are large, flexible, waterproof and decorative. They are used for cooking, wrapping and food-serving in a wide range of cuisines in tropical and subtropical areas. They are used for decorative and symbolic purposes in numerous Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies. In Mexico they use it for cooking tamales and more.
Potent Antioxidant Activity
Best Benefits & Uses of Banana Leaves For Health, Cooking & Serving Food
1. Banana leafs for serving food
The first best reason banana leaf is perfect for serving food is because of it’s size, you can serve a large variety of dishes in the leaf from sweet to savory. We serve the small leaves for breakfast & dinner and the largest leaf is reserved for lunch, as usually lunch has a huge variety of dishes. It is very very hygienic, In many hotels in India, they provide a banana leaf on top of the plate exactly cut to the plates size which I really like, because we just have to sprinkle water and wipe, and the leaves are clean in a few seconds.
It is eco friendly to dispose a banana leaf, whereas plastic plates worsen the environment and in a small way, if each one of us start using biodegradable natural materials, we will have a much cleaner and safer environment. Banana leaf is full of antioxidants and eating hot, freshly cooked foods on the banana leaf is one good way to get all the antioxidants easily. Lastly, I am a strong believer that eating in banana leaf enhances the taste of the dish .
2. Banana leafs for packing
Next time, you go on a trip, try packing food in banana leafs. I remember when I was younger, whenever we went out, the food (usually different varieties of rices) will be packed in a banana leaf. After a long road trip, opening up the banana leaf for eating is an amazing experience. The rice usually tamarind rice (as it stays longer with spoiling) will taste like heaven and is usually had along with pieces of fresh coconut pieces.
Nowadays we have replaced banana leafs with aluminum foils and I really miss banana leaf packing. It is easy to pack with banana leaves. To use, cut the required size of the banana leafs and wash it to remove any impurities and dry it completely, else the food will spoil easily.
See whether it folds, if it breaks when you fold, take the leaf with a tong and fry it in direct flame for a few minutes, now it will be flexible. Keep the food, fold it and wrap it around and tie it with a thread securely.
3. Cooking with banana leaves
Banana leaves are also excellent for cooking. We use banana leaves for shaping batter before deep frying and I always prefer banana leaves over plastic sheets. Cut a small square piece of banana leaf and place it near the frying pan.
We simply wipe it with water and then take a required amount of batter and place it over the leaf, make small rounds and then deep fry. This method can be used for any deep frying any batter.
Banana leaves are also used all over the world for cooking various things from fish, chicken, idlies and even certain dessert use banana leaves. Try to use tender leaves, so it does not tear easily.
The dishes cooked by wrapping it banana leaves have an unique flavor. If you have not tried cooking with banana leaves, I strongly suggest you try few recipes with it.
4. Banana leafs for pooja & decoration
All our prayers and rituals require banana leaf and even a simple daily ritual of offering the food to crows is done in banana leaf. But for poojas, we make sure we only use the top end part of the leaf called thalai vazhali ilai and even if we go the markets, we will ask for the thalai vazhlai ilai.
We also serve guests only with the thali vazhlai ilai, which shows the guest how much they are appreciated and welcome in the home.
Beautiful decorations can be done with banana leafs, once I visited an exhibition where they had showcased the beautiful things done with banana leaf. Each and every thing was so beautiful and very artistic.
5. Banana leafs body & burn wounds
Many natural treatments include banana leaf body wrap treatments in their program. After a body massage with warm oil and applying body packs the whole body is covered with banana leaf to keep the body warm, this is said to remove the toxins from the body and is said to be very relaxing.
We apply banana leaf as a bandage for treating burns, as it helps to heal it faster. This treatment is still carried out today in many villages. Small burns that is caused due to fire, hot vapor & hot water can all be cured very fast, if we tie banana leaf around it.
6. Banana leafs for health : cure sprains
This is the home remedy that my aunt uses with great success for sprains: Take the dried leaves of banana and burn it, now collect the ash and mix it with little slaked lime and palm jaggery (karupatti in Tamil). When you mix, it will form a thick paste, now apply this paste over the affected area, it immediately dries up into a thick coat.
My aunt said that usually the person will feel better very soon. The slaked lime that we use is called Sunambu in Tamil, Chuna in Hindi and Pickling lime in English.
Here are Some of the Benefits of Banana Leaves for the Skin
- Natural herbs can treat minor skin wounds and other skin disorders such as dandruff, eczema, and sunburn. Use juice of fresh banana leaf juice will gradually heal from the root disturbance. You can also soak the leaves with cold water and apply on skin sunburn.
- Banana leaves have medicinal properties that can relieve poisonous insect bites, bee stings, spider bites, rashes, skin irritation. The leaves are popularly known as a natural eraser.
- Cosmetic creams and lotions contain active ingredients are expensive so-called Allantoin found in plant leaves. Allantoin helps faster healing, kills germs and stimulates new skin cell growth.
10 Ways To Cook With Banana Leaves
Around the world, wherever bananas grow, cooks have devised ways to use the giant leaves, wrapping them around foods both savory and sweet. A parcel made from banana leaves seals in moisture and flavor and infuses the contents with a subtle, grassy aroma. From Latin American to Asian dishes, here are 10 clever and beautiful ways to cook with the versatile leaves.
1. Steamed fish – A banana leafs makes a fragrant and convenient fish-steaming packet. Wrap the leaf around any kind of firm-fleshed fish (sustainable, of course!) together with seasonings like fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, or curry paste. See this post for some tips.
Cooking with Banana Leaves
2. Grilled fish (and other foods) – There are two advantages to grilling a fish on top of a banana leaf: first, it “prevents the fragile fish from sticking to the grill grates” and second, it “adds a mellow smoky, sweet flavor to the fish.” Get her recipe: Grilled Whole Fish on Banana Leaf. This cooking method can be used for shrimp or vegetables, too.
3. Savory custards – Throughout Southeast Asia, cooks make banana leaf “boats” to steam mixtures of meat, spices, coconut milk, and eggs. The Sun-Sentinel has a recipe for Cambodian-Style Amok Fish (adaptable for chicken or tofu) and good step-by-step photos for folding the boat. Meanwhile, Nyonya Food shares a Malaysian version of this dish called Otak-Otak.
Grilled Whole Fish on Banana Leaf
4. Tamales – In tropical regions of Mexico and Central America, tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, which imparts a different flavor than corn husks. Check out Saveur’s recipe for Guatemalan Tamales with Ancho Chile Sauce or Simply Recipes’ Vegetarian Banana Leaf Tamales.
5. Pasteles – Similar to tamales, Latin American pasteles are frequently enclosed in banana leaves. Hector Rodriguez has a recipe for the Puerto Rican version of Pasteles, made with green bananas and yautía root (similar to taro), along with a step-by-step photographic guide to assembling and wrapping them.
6. Cochinita pibil – Cochinita pibil is a Mexican dish traditionally consisting of a whole suckling pig roasted in a banana leaf.
7. Idlis – Varada of Aayi’s Recipes shares a riff on hittu/khottek/kadubu, an Indian dish traditionally made from rice and urad dal (black lentil) batter steamed in baskets of jackfruit leaves. This banana leaf version is easier to assemble.
8. Bibingka – Bibingka, a Filipino coconut cake, is traditionally baked in a pot lined with banana leaves. Panlasang Pinoy’s recipe shows how to adapt this for a cake pan, while Jun-Blog’s version uses ramekins. We’re looking forward to trying one of these methods next time we make our own binbingka recipe.
Sticky Rice is Wrapped and Steamed
9. Sticky rice – In Southeast Asia, sticky rice is wrapped and steamed inside banana leaves for a sweet or savory treat. For two examples, check out Thai and Lao Food’s recipe for Khao Dome (Coconut Sticky Rice in Banana Leaves) and The Global Gourmet’s recipe for Indonesian Lemper Ayam (Sticky Rice and Spiced Chicken
in Banana Leaf).
10. Presentation – Fresh, green banana leaves can be used as plates, serving containers, and table decor. Banana leaf boats would make pretty bowls for steamed rice, salads, desserts and more. Another idea is to fold the leaves into cones to fill with noodles or other foods.
Look for banana leaves at Asian and Latin American markets. If fresh ones aren’t available, check the frozen food section. Online, they can be found here.
Banana leaves are large, flexible, and waterproof. They impart an aroma to food that is cooked in or served on them; steaming with banana leaves imparts a subtle sweet flavor and aroma to the dish. The leaves are not themselves eaten and are discarded after the contents are consumed.
Besides adding flavor, the leaves keep juices in and protect food from burning, much as foil does. In Tamil Nadu (India) leaves are fully dried and used as packing material for foodstuffs, and are also made into cups to hold liquids. The dried leaves are called ‘Vaazhai-ch- charugu’ (வாழைச் சருகு) in Tamil.
Some South Indian, Filipino and Khmer recipes use banana leaves as a wrapper for frying. The leaves are later removed. In Vietnamese cuisine, banana leaves are used to wrap foods such as cha-lua.
In Caribbean and Mexican cuisine
Guanimos are Dominican tamales made with cornmeal, stuffed with ground meat and wrapped with banana leaves.In Puerto Rico pasteles are made primarily with fresh green banana dough stuffed with pork, and then wrapped in banana leaves which have been softened at the fire. Many rice dishes in Puerto Rico are cooked with banana leaves as a lid to add flavor and aroma.
Fish and pork shoulder can be wrapped in plantain leaves and baked. Guanimes known as Puerto Rican tamales, cornmeal cooked with coconut milk and other ingredients, are wrapped in banana leaves. Sweet cassava tortillas and Puerto Rican arepas are laid on banana leaves for a few hours before cooking.
Mexican, and more specifically Oaxacan tamales and a local variety of lamb or barbacoa tacos are often steamed in banana leaves. Banana leaves are used for wrapping pork in the traditional Yucatán dish Cochinita pibil.
The Traditional Yucatán dish Cochinita pibil
Tamales Veracruzanos recipe
Tamales Veracruzanos use Banana Leaves
- 1 package banana leaves, cut into 24 8″ x 12″ rectangles
- 6 tomato
- 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lard or corn oil
- 4-5 fresh jalapeño chiles, seeded and chopped
- 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
Roast the tomatoes and garlic on a comal or griddle until the tomato skins blister and the garlic skins turn brown.
Peel the tomatoes and garlic and puree briefly in a blender. Do not overblend, since sauce should have some texture.
Heat the lard or corn oil in a medium skillet, add the onion and cook 5 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and the jalapeños and cook another 5 minutes. Add the chicken, mix well, and remove from heat. Allow filling to cool to room temperature.