A Bunch of Reasons to Cook Seafood in Banana Leaves
Kick up the flavor of seafood by baking it in a banana leaf parcel! The leaves of the banana plant, which typically can be found in the international aisle of some supermarkets or at Asian and Latin American grocers, impart a tea-like flavor to seafood dishes. Fold up your seafood — along with your choice of fresh herbs, vegetables and grains — in a banana leaf to create a zesty seafood parcel for dinner!
Rather than working from a specific recipe, I like to choose ingredients by checking my refrigerator and pantry, and using what's on hand.
- Fresh Herbs, Onions and Garlic
Try diced shallots, garlic and fennel bulb and fresh grated ginger. Fennel adds a sweet anise flavor.
Citrus slices and juice impart their flavor magic.
Use julienned carrots, celery and yellow squash. Or, use whatever combination you like — the choices are endless! Broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, green beans and edamame all would work well with seafood.
- Whole Grain
Quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, farro, kasha — here's your chance to use that little bit left in a bag or jar that's been sitting on the shelf. (My choice was millet.) Cook the grain in water prior to assembling your banana-leaf pack, or use leftover cooked grains.
Use salmon, tuna steaks, scallops, shrimp or any variety of raw filet. (My choice is flounder, but you could even make two parcels with two different varieties of seafood!)
- Banana Leaf
I purchased a package of these in the frozen food section of a local Asian market. Take the leaf from the freezer and cut pieces the size of a parchment sheet (no thawing necessary). Then, freeze the rest of the leaves for up to six months. Before using, wash the leaf pieces and cut out any spines.
- To assemble your parcel, spread out the banana leaf and layer the ingredients on top:
- About ½ cup grains
- Fresh grated ginger and diced shallots, garlic and fennel
- Julienned vegetables
- Lemon slices and juice
- Fold the ends of the banana leaf to enclose the contents. Place face down on baking sheet.
- Bake at 375°F for approximately 20 minutes until internal temperature of the parcel reaches 145°F.
- Remove the parcel.
- While banana leaves could make a nice platter presentation, do not eat the banana leaves.
Cindy Gay, RD, LD, recently retired from her job in health care. She serves as historian for the West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and blogs at Cindy's Health Meals. Connect with her on Twitter and Pinterest.
(Photo: Cindy Gay, RD, LD)