Banana leaf presentation in cooking

Last weekend when I slow roasted lamb barbacoa wrapped in banana leaves, I did a video of the process and posted it to Instagram Story, where it received quite a number of views and surprisingly, a lot more direct private messages than I’d ever received for any video I’ve uploaded. People commented on how impressive and professional the cooking looked. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it had less to do with how “professional” the process looked, and more to do with the fact that cooking with big banana leaves just appears to be laborious and fancy, especially to people who don’t cook much. A pound of banana leaves at the Vietnamese market costs about $1.30, and all I had to do to prep them was to dip them in hot water to wash off any potential dirt or grime. All I did was wrap the big lamb leg in it. That was really it.

Because I had so many leftover banana leaves, I wanted to find another use for them soon so that the novelty wouldn’t wear off, so I not only used my remaining ancho and guajillo chili marinade to flavor chicken, but I also wrapped these up into banana leaves and steamed them. I even tied and knotted them with slivers of banana leaf. These videos today also received a lot of comments; it really was very little work to get this done, but it’s obvious that banana leaves add a “wow” factor to my audience who enjoys my cooking. I also noticed that the flavor of the banana leaf came through more in the chicken tonight than it did in the lamb last week, so I think I will reserve my remaining banana leaves for steaming smaller pieces of meat or other fillings.

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