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As the name states, Banana leaves originate from the banana plant. They are wide, light/ dark green in colour and are widely used in Asia. In India, it holds auspicious significance. It is used in various ceremonies as a plate to serve food or to perform rituals. Do note that serving on a banana leaf holds prominence. There is a particular list followed where in what will be served fort and in which area of the banana leaf. Food served on banana leaves has a very unique flavour.
How to select
Ensure that the leaves are free from blemishes and tears. You will find them mostly packed in bunches.
· South Indian food is usually served on a banana leaf.
· Since banana leaves are edible, many recipes use them as a wrapper for cooking. Food wrapped in banana leaves can be grilled, steamed, deep fried etc. Fish is the most common and favourite ingredient to wrap in banana leaves and then cook- either grilled, steamed etc. Patra ni macchi is an excellent example.
· 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
· A famous Gujarati snack called panki makes use of this recipe. In this recipe, the panki batter is poured on the banana leaves which are then grilled on a hot tava using little oil. The leaves can be discarded after grilling since grilling absorbs the flavour of the leaves on to the pankis.
· It is used widely in Vietamese, Malay cuisine where it is used for wrapping rice, meat and other vegetables. Thus you will find it being used in recipes like Nasi Lemak, Cha-Lua etc.
· Use banana leaves as serving plates or party platters. In many authentic south indian restaurants, circular discs of banana leaves are placed on the serving plates and food like idli, dosa etc is placed on the same.
· You can also use banana leaf as a "mat" for barbecues. Simply lay a piece of banana leaf on your grill, then cook your food items (fish filets, chicken, shrimp etc) on top of it. The banana leaf will turn bright green at first, then pale brown as you cook. It will give a nice flavor to your barbecue.
How to store
Banana leaves are best used fresh. However, if there is any surplus, wrap in newspaper and store in a cool dry place. You may also pack the leaves in a zip lock bag and store in the refrigerator.
Banana leaves contain vitamins and thus when hot food is placed on the banana leaves, the food absorbs the vitamins from the leaves which then become a part of our intake.