Banana Leaf

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The green leaf that grows on a banana tree, which can be dried, cleaned, cut to size, and then used as a wrap for steaming or heating food. Spanish cultures use banana leaves to steam and cook tamales while Asian cultures similarly use banana leaves for wrapping cooked rice, fish and poultry. The leaf serves to enhance the food with a fresh fruit flavor similar to adding an herb for seasoning, while also keeping it moist and pleasantly presented.

Banana leaves are large and may be dark green in color or dried to a dull appearing greenish tan when used as a food wrap. If banana leaves are to be used over an open flame, keep the leaf moving approximately an inch or so above the flame until the leaf becomes somewhat shiny and flexible. Caution is advised to keep the leaf or leaves from burning or igniting in a flame when held over the heat. To assist with keeping the leaf from burning, soak it in hot water for approximately 30 to 60 minutes, remove the leaf and pat it dry before completely or partially wrapping it around the food to be cooked. Corn husks are also used in a similar manner as a food wrapper for cooking. A variety of foods such as fish, turkey, pork tenderloin, and beef are often wrapped or placed in a husk that serves as a means to steam and flavor the food while also becoming a decorative way to present the prepared dish. Banana leaves can typically be found in Hispanic or Asian food stores.

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