Banana Leaves

When I noticed all the banana trees in our yard, one of the first things I thought of was cooking with them. When we saw the place, there was actually a bunch of bananas growing off one of the trees. Unfortunately they were gone by the time we moved in (1 week later!? There are a lot of banana thieves in Bermuda). After looking up recipes online, I saw that Malaysian cooking uses the leaves often. I found a sort of tapas or dim sum of Malay cuisine called Pulut Udang that I was excited to try. Another way banana leaves are used is to wrap around and steam fish. I decided that these two dishes would make a great pairing. After going to several Pilipino and Asian sections of grocery stores here, I could not find the dried shrimp that goes in the pulut udang recipe. It was probably a good thing, because this dish was already a bit shrimpy tasting for our western palates. We substituted ground beef as the recipe says you can.

Speaking of screwball, what’s amy doing in the background??

We tried to grab the leaves that would be next to die anyways.

Banana trees are actually not trees at all! They are an herb. Each year, new leaves grow from the center as the old ones die off on the outside. As the old ones die, they form the bark you can see in this picture which is often mistaken as the trunk of a tree. Wikipedia makes me sound really smart.

Now kids, don’t try this at home! Don’t just go grabbing leaves off any old plant and cooking things in it. I know it’s popular and you saw that dude do it on his website, but be sure you know the leaf is safe! Also owning the banana plants would be a plus.

For the rice, we used ‘glutinous’ or ‘sweet’ rice. Again this can be found in the Asian section of the grocery store. Ps, it does not contain actual gluten, nor is it overly sweet.

We soaked this overnight, then cooked it according to the package instructions. We used coconut milk as some of the liquid because it is in the recipe.

Amy prepping some shallots for the blender.

Separate these into as large pieces as you can. Separate them from the stem.

The rice is super sticky.

In the blender is: 8 shallots, thumb sized piece of ginger, 4 garlic cloves, 6 dried Thai chiles, 6 fresh Thai chiles, and lemongrass. Remember how to use lemongrass?

This shrimp paste was next for the blender. I have used fish sauce many times, so I was expecting this to be really “pungent” (read: gross smelling), but none of us had any idea just how ridiculous it was.

I reluctantly put a little less than was suggested in the recipe. I should have done even less than that because even though we all agreed the meal was delicious, and that the shrimp paste was an important factor in this deliciousness, it became too much by the end of the meal.


Cook up the paste for 5 to 10 minutes on its own.

Then add the beef.

Here I am on my hands and knees scrubbing the banana leaves. The girls conveniently both had jobs when it was time to do this part.

Amy’s job was cooking the paste and beef (beef sambal?).

And Mandi’s job was to make the salsa for the fish. Do you remember how to cut a mango? This cutter made it easier, but is it a unitasker?

A pineapple is easy to cut and tastes so much better than pre sliced.

Just cut the top and bottom off first, then the sides will be easier because it can stand up on its own.

Be sure to cut the core out of the center.

Tomatillos are also easy, just remove the paper, rinse all that sticky stuff away, then dice.

I’m getting really hungry. Good thing I am not in the space olympics where you only get one meal per day. I heard they had some sort of budget snafu…

This includes: Pineapple, Mango, Tomatillo, Red Onion (rinsed to remove intensity), a tomato, 2 jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. This will be a good wallpaper someday.

The Pulut Udang is sorta like a tamale with rice instead of corn. Put the banana leaf on the grill for 10 seconds a side, and it will loosen up nicely and be able to wrap around your food.

The fish is topped with the salsa. We didn’t flip them so the salsa was safe on top. This is tilapia by the way.

That’s a present I would like to receive.

Grill lookin good.

We all agreed that these were great, but they got too fishy by the second one.

I love how the rice sort of seals up and becomes a dough.

Fantastic meal! Try it! And then KILL THE PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA!!!!!!!

Here are the two links I followed as closely as I could for the Pulut Udang