One of the things to do on my cooking “bucket list” has been to make tamales wrapped in Banana Leaves. Unfortunately they are not so plentiful out here in the Mojave Desert! Or so I thought… I found out that one of our local Mexican supermarkets (Vallarta) carries fresh banana leaves in their produce section! (I’ve also heard that you can find them in some Oriental markets, but I haven’t confirmed that…)
So last weekend I headed out and picked up some leaves. The leaves, when unfolded were approx 6 feet long and 18 inches wide. I never did count how many leaves were in the package, but there were plenty of them in the package for about $3.00.
The tamales turned out great,the leaves were easy to work with and they added a great flavor to the tamales (not banana flavor, thankfully) I will do an updated tamale post soon, but first I wanted to see what else I could do with the leaves!
I wanted to make something that I could wrap up and put on the BBQ, but not burn up before the food was cooked. My Paper Wrapped Chicken recipe sounded good – maybe with some pineapple and ginger. It turned out great and the banana leaves stood up to the BBQ grill with ease. I will probably try this with fish later on in the week!
I think that the greatest aspect of cooking with banana leaves like this is the chance to BBQ and still keep all or part of the food Gluten Free! I have a brother in law that has Celiac and I am always worried about “glutenizing” him when I BBQ. (I haven’t , but I know it can happen…) I usually cook his food on a corner of the grill that is covered in foil, but where’s the fun in that? It’s still hard to keep it uncontaminated and it can’t be too exciting. The recipe below can be Gluten Free if you make sure to use gluten free soy sauce or just alter the marinade recipe to use sherry or maybe white wine instead of soy sauce.
- 1 8oz can of pineapple chunks (or crushed pineapple) with juice
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 oz fresh ginger root – grated
- 3 cloves of Garlic – Crushed
- Juice of 1 lime (from my indoor-lime tree!)
Cut 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (approximately 4 breasts) into bite sized pieces. Add to marinade, and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
Wash leaves, then cut off center rib of leaf. Cut each wrap to approximately 8″ x 8″ avoiding tears in the leaf. Save some strips of leaf that are 1/2″ wide to use as ties. If you try to fold the leaves at this point they will crack and leak (as I found out!) Dip each piece of leaf (and ties) into boiling water for 10 seconds or so – now they are very pliable and won’t crack!
Divide the chicken up onto the 8 leaves include the pineapple, garlic etc (but not the juice) Fold into a snug parcel and then tie it off with one of the strips.
Place on hot grill and cook approximately 10 minutes per side (depending on the temperature of your coals or gas BBQ)
I served this with Chayote Squash and it was great!