Dried banana leaves work as well their fresh or frozen counterparts in preparing savory Vietnam delicacies. Banana leaves are the traditional wrapping material for both cooking and serving classic Vietnamese foods. Readily available at ethnic markets and specialty sections in the supermarket, dried leaves come cut into sheets. Use them to in the traditional way to wrap "packets" of spicy cakes made with ingredients like pork, rice and vegetables.
Things You'll Need
- Paper towels
- Kitchen scissors
- Filling ingredients
Take the amount of banana leaves you need out of the package and separate them to ensure even soaking.
Place the leaves in a bowl of water so that they are completely covered and leave them to soak at room temperature overnight.
Drain the banana leaves in a colander and gently wipe them dry.
Cut away browning or torn edges with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. If the sheets are larger than the packets you plan to make, this is the time to cut them to size.
Set two leaves down on your work service, perpendicular to one another, so that they form a "plus" sign. If one leaf section is smaller than the other, set the smaller one on top of the larger one.
Put your filling in the center of the leaf that's on top. Use 5 to 6 tablespoons of filling per packet. If the packet will be layered, arrange them in layers that are about 2 tablespoons each.
Fold the edges of the top leaf inward over the filling.
Fold the edges of the bottom leaf inward so that it covers the filling and the inner leaf. Between the two layers of leaves you shouldn't have any gaps through which filling is visible.
Warp the packet twice with twine in each direction so that the twine makes a tic-tac-toe pattern.
Continue filling and tying up the other banana leaves into packets until you have used up all of your filling.
Steam or boil the packets according to your recipe.
Serve the packets by cutting them diagonally into wedges, still wrapped in their double-leaf wrappers.
Tips & Warnings
- Two 14-inch square sheets, secured with twine, will securely wrap a Vietnamese-style food packet that is about 5 inches square.
- If your recipe has a significant amount of sauce or fatty ingredients, consider wrapping the tied-up packets in aluminum foil before cooking them. This precautionary step may prevent liquid for leaking out of the packets during the cooking.
- For recipes that call for boiling Vietnamese-style rice cakes or food packets, set a pot lid or other weight inside the pot to keep the packets from floating the the surface.
- Banana leaves are not edible. Be sure your guests scoop the filling from the packets without trying the wrapping itself.
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