This post featuring grilled banana-leaf-wrapped chicken was written for SABER®Infrared Grills by Chef Chris Koetke.
Filming my cooking show, Let’s Dish, was a lot of work. Everyone on set, myself included, was more than ready to hear, “That’s a wrap!” at the end of each day. On the grill, that can be an equally exciting phrase. Wrapped food opens the door to a world of delicious opportunity.
I want to focus more on putting wrapped food on the grill. Bacon-wrapped food is always a go-to crowd-pleaser, but I want to mix it up a bit with some less common wrappings: banana leaves and grape leaves. The wrappings bring international flavors to your dishes, with banana leaves common throughout much of Southeast Asia and Latin America and grape leaves harkening to Greece and the Middle East.
Banana leaves hold up pretty well to the heat of the grill. If you’ve never bought them before, you can find banana leaves in the frozen section of many Latin and Southeast Asian stores. They aren’t edible, however, they are an excellent way to hold in the flavors of your dish during the grilling process while infusing it with a subtly sweet flavor.
Tips for Grilling Banana Leaves
- Banana leaves are best used on low heat so as to thoroughly cook ingredients inside the leaf before the outside of the leaf burns.
- Keep in mind; you don’t want to flip the leaves while grilling because you’ll lose the juices of whatever is inside.
- And be sure to grill with the lid closed.
Check out my recipe for Grilled Banana-Leaf-Wrapped Chicken below and check back in next week for a second recipe using grape leaves.
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 4 baby Bok Coy, quartered and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1 large red pepper, julienned
- 1/2 cup green onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 fresh pineapple, peeled, halved, cored, sliced thinly (16 slices)
- 2-4 large banana leaves
- Marinade chicken thighs in coconut milk, pineapple juice, soy sauce, lemon juice, turmeric and cayenne in refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
- Remove chicken from marinade. Place marinade in a small saucepan over high heat; boil until the marinade is reduced to half of the original volume. Remove from stove, let cool and reserve.
- Combine red pepper, green onion and ¼ teaspoon salt.
- On a large square of banana leaf, place two ¼ pieces of seasoned baby Bok Choy. Top with some of the red pepper mixture and then, layer with one chicken thigh. Place several thin pineapple slices on top of the chicken. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the reduced marinade on top of each packet of vegetables and chicken. Discard the remaining reduced marinade.
- Wrap each banana leaf like a package and tie with a small banana leaf strip or secure with toothpicks.
- Place the banana leaves on a low-heated grill, making sure that the seal is up. Cover the grill and cook for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, poke the packages with an instant read thermometer to gauge the internal temperature. Once the temperature is 165°F, the chicken is ready to eat.
- Serve the packages with plenty of rice to soak up the juices inside the leaves. If you want to spice it up, add your favorite hot sauce.