Many classic Asian dishes use banana leaves and if you’re daunted by how to prepare them, this short video will walk you through the easy steps. Banana leaves are not eaten, but commonly used to wrap foods which are then steamed, boiled, grilled or even baked. The leaves impart a wonderful aroma and lovely color to foods they are wrapped in. Prepping the leaves appropriately is crucial for the cleanliness and success of any dish as banana leaves can be extremely dirty. Have you noticed on the package it always shows “Wash thoroughly before using”? The washing process is fairly simple and cannot be skipped so check out the video for a quick how-to!
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Notes and Tips
Banana leaves are fairly inexpensive here in the US and can be found in most Asian and Latin grocery stores. A package of frozen banana leaves typically costs less than $2.00 and contains about 4-5 large leaves. There will be some sections of the leaves that are torn or damaged, and therefore, not useable. When planning for dishes using banana leaves, I typically buy twice the amount needed. I adjust for the fact that not all leaves in a package will be useable or the right size. Also, I always prepare extra leaves because they can tear during washing or when wrapping foods.
Thaw the leaves at room temperature for 1 hour. Optionally, run under hot water to quickly thaw the leaves.
It’s easier to clean smaller sections of leaf so if you know the size you need, cut them first and then wash. The leaves are delicate and tear easily especially when wet.
Some leaves are really dirty and I find it varies by brand. If the water is dirty and muddy after the first wash and rinse, repeat the process until the water is clear. I’ve had to wash certain leaves up to 3 times to get them clean. (I usually avoid these brands in the future.)
Wash and wipe the leaves in the same direction as the veins to avoid tearing them.
Most leaves have a thick spine which can make it difficult to wrap your foods. Cut off the spine after washing and not before as the spine helps to prevent the leaves from splitting and tearing.
Store the cleaned leaves in the refrigerator and use within 2 days. If not using right away, return to the freezer and use within the month.
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Hi Trang, Very helpful, however I notice u did not place over stove. My recipe is to make Pasteles Puertoriquenos and is required to place over flame.
I use banana leaves to wrap my delicacies after steaming, then i place them inside the chiller at night. Apparently, I’ve noticed the discoloration of the banana leaves the following day. Do you have tips on how to avoid such discoloration, since i need to store them inside the fridge to avoid spoilage the following day/s? Thank you.
The discoloration is due to the leaves drying out. A trick the bakeries use is to coat the leaves with vegetable oil to keep them moist. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
thank you runawayrice for giving me wonderful information
Hi Trang, I just googled and found your blog. You make everything looks so nice, clean and tidy.
Thank you for explaining and showing how to make delicious Vietnamese foods in detail
instructions. I’ll try to make bánh tét chuối and bánh chưng following your recipes.
Welcome to RunAwayRice and thank for your kind words! When you make bánh tét chuối and bánh chưng, please stop back to share your results. Of course, if you have any questions, just let me know. Good Luck! 🙂
if you do not have twine, the banana leaf’s spine are usually flexible enough and won’t snap when tied. If it’s too brittle, your can always soak in warm water to soften them.
Great tips Faye, thank you for sharing!
I’m brand new to your blog. I love your recipe for Bánh Chung! Im gathering the ingredients and will attempt to make a few this week!
Welcome to RunAwayRice! I am so glad to hear you’re making Banh Chung. Good luck and I look forward to hearing about your results! 🙂
These are some nifty tricks that you have for cleaning the banana leaves using chopping board and sponge. I try it and it really cut down the tearing of the leaves and save water too. My question is why so much water in the first sink. Also , if you are using the cloth ( design for car wash, new one of course) when drying the leave , it absorbs the water much better than using tea towel or paper towel
My sink is really deep so I use lots of water so I don’t have to drape the leaves into the sink and risk tearing them. Plus I had a lot of leaves to wash that day I was making the video 🙂
I haven’t tried the cloth for cars but it sounds like it would be super absorbent. That’s a nice tip. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Trang, thank you so much for a show preparing a bananas leaves, I hope you can show us how to make Banh Tet for our new year come.
I shared the recipe for Banh Tet earlier. Here’s the link: http://runawayrice.com/main-dishes/sticky-rice-mung-bean-cakes-banh-tet/
My leaves have a white film after I heat them for folding what is that?! I’m concerned it could be a pesticide or something
This white powder is common on frozen packaged banana leaves. It’s calcium deposits from the water. Wash the leaves and remove the white powder using a kitchen towel or clean dish sponge.