How to Wrap Food in Banana Leaves

Cooking and wrapping food with banana leaves is ubiquitous throughout Southeast Asia and is equivalent to the American lunch box. In Malaysia, we wrap our grilled fish in banana leaf for extra flavor and smokiness, we steam kuihs (bite-sized Southeast Asian pastries) in banana leaves imparting them with a delicious aroma, and, most iconically, we wrap our national dish of nasi lemak in banana leaf as a takeaway method.

This method of food wrapping is great for environmental sustainability relative to artificial alternatives like plastic and aluminum since banana leaves decompose naturally. However, more importantly, this is a beautiful and traditional art of Southeast Asian culture: It is a symbol of convenience, cupping a pack in your hand as you chow down on it on the curbside, of resourcefulness in using available resources, and of an unfussy, flavor-first food identity. Here's a quick step-by-step guide to wrapping food, in this case Nasi Lemak, like a local!

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Arrange the nasi lemak rice, sambal & garnishes into a mound

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Fold opposite ends of the banana leaf

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Press the sides down and secure tightly

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Fold wax paper over the banana leaf

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Tuck the ends underneath

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Ta-da!

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