Thanksgiving Saturday countdown: Laulau with banana leaves
In Obama's words, “yes you can!” But I am going to dispense with all of the detailed steps because there's a good chance that if you've arrived here via google web, the answer to your search has just been resolved. Anybody who's anybody knows that hawaiian laulau - bundles of meat, fish and lu'au or taro leaves - are wrapped and steamed within ti leaves to achieve the real thing. Unfortunately these particular leaves aren't readily available everywhere in the world, and sometimes you need to make do with what you have. In this case, banana leaves from Thailand, shipped in and sold at a filipino food market in Milan. What can I say? Don't carbon footprint me, these laulau are for a special occasion because I'm doing a little bit of both american and hawaiian-style for our Thanksgiving in Italy.
It goes without saying that if you're lucky enough to have banana trees in your yard, select the young leaves that aren't torn or overly rigid. Wash them well and split down the middle, removing the stiff central rib. Cut the whole leaves into sections approximately 13 inches wide and gently heat the undersides over a low flame to soften. The color of the leaves will turn a bright, glossy sheen. When ready to fill, place the banana leaf glossy side down. Here I've used fresh spinach as lu'au leaves are not only impossible to obtain, but I also have an allergic reaction to them. Chunks of pork lightly seasoned with red hawaiian sea salt and a piece of swordfish (typically butterfish or pesce burro if you can find it) goes on top. I've given two examples using just leaf and string, and using leaf with foil. Either way works well but I find that when using foil, packing them for the freezer is less of a mess, especially when you want to give some away as gifts. Cooking time: 3 hours steamed in a covered pot over low simmer. Serve with lomilomi salmon, rice and poi (if get).