The banana leaf in Thailand can be found on over 20 species of the fruit grown in the country so there is never a shortage of banana leaves. Which is probably a good thing because banana leaves in Thailand are used in many different ways related to Thai cooking, food preparation and eating.
Indeed you might say that the banana leaf is the Thai equivalent of tin foil or baking parchment. But while using tin foil is not exactly environmentally friendly the ubiquitous banana leaf is since it is freely available and importantly biodegradable.
Banana leaves are also used as decorative art at various festivals like Loi Krathong and ceremonies including getting married in Thailand.
Thai Food Preparation
Banana leaves are used to wrap food for barbecuing, baking or steaming and some of Thailand’s best recipes involve their use and often include the addition of an aromatic herb stuffing too . Fish either barbecued or steamed is a favourite for this treatment while in the deep South of the country a coconut based creamy curry is served in banana leaf cups.
Thais love sweet things and another favourite way of preparing sweetmeats is to enclose them in small parcels made of banana leaves. All food cooked in banana leaves is said to have its taste enhanced by absorbing enzymes from the wrapping.
Thai Celebrations and Ceremonies
The use of the banana leaf in Thai celebrations and the Buddhist culture is perhaps most commonly seen at the Thai festival of Loi Krathong where several parts of the banana plant including the leaves are used in making a krathong to float during the festival.
I have also seen the banana plant complete with leaves carried at the head of the procession for the groom at a marriage ceremony in Thailand.
Banana Leaves Trivia
Banana leaves also make a great umbrella if you are caught in a tropical shower and a makeshift plate on a picnic. But if you believe in Thai ghosts and spirits perhaps its best to keep away from banana plantations and let someone else collect your banana leaves in Thailand lest you encounter Phi Tanee