Bai Thong ใบตอง
Banana leaves are magical; this versatile, environmentally friendly material permeates everyday Thai life. Thai people transform a simple leaf into containers and food wraps. Prior to non-stick clothing irons, the hot iron was pressed onto a fresh banana leaf to clean it and help it glide better. Mackerel (ปลาทู) is wrapped in banana leaf before the final wrap of newspaper. Haw Mok (curried fish) is steamed in small banana leaf containers. Sticky rice with banana is wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. Banana leaves are stripped and folded into elaborate ceremonial containers.
After moving to the US, I stopped relying on banana leaves for my cooking needs because banana trees didn't grow in my backyard and I couldn't find leaves at the market. Recently, I have found the banana leaves in the freezer at many local markets. So, banana leaves are back in my kitchen again. This reopens opportunities for me to cook many more dishes authentically.
There are a few techniques when using banana leaves in cooking.
There are 2 sides of a banana leaf, the shiny, bright green top and the whitish green bottom. Wipe both sides with a damp kitchen towel. With scissors, cut 2 strips, as large as you need. You should see the lines going along the leaves. Put the whitish green sides together so that greener sides will be exposed. Rotate the the pieces to have the lines going in opposite directions (perpendicular) for strength.
Banana leaves are available in the freezer section (in the picture above, the whitish appearance is just frost) of many Asian, Hispanic, Filipinos and Indian grocery stores. It is very affordable. I found 10 -15 of 8 inches by 12 inches pieces for less than 2 dollars.