With this cooking adventure around the world, I wanted to learn not only about new flavors and ingredients, but also different techniques for cooking dishes. And this dish was all about technique. As I had mentioned earlier when I started this blog, I wanted to make sure I made a dent in some of the larger countries and this dish marks my 15th country (Democratic Republic of Congo) from the continent of Africa. Cooking in banana leaves isn’t solely an African technique, but one I’ve seen while traveling throughout Asia as well. You can find frozen banana leaves in the freezer section of Asian supermarkets.
Now I could have gotten really fancy and wrapped individual fillets of fish (I used tilapia) into individual banana leaves and tied it with some of the trimmed part of the leaf, but I 1) just didn’t have that kind of time and 2) definitely didn’t have that level of patience on a weeknight. My previous attempt at working with banana leaves (when I tried to make this for the first time earlier in October) taught me a few lessons and I decided that creating a large pocket for the fish to sit in, while sealing with toothpicks would suffice.
The fish was marinated in a few spices, including ginger, nutmeg and cayenne pepper, for several hours and then topped with garlic and chopped tomatoes before being baked for 30 minutes in the oven. The end result was an incredibly flavorful, healthy, steamed fish that had an aroma of cooked banana leaves but only a slight taste to that effect.
Here is the recipe I ended up using for this: https://www.196flavors.com/democratic-republic-of-the-congo-liboke-ya-malangwa/.
Overall Level of Effort: 2 (depending on how you want to go about wrapping the fish in the banana leaves)
Skill Level: Beginner (my method with the pocket made this easier)
Would Make it Again?: Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this but I don’t know that going out to get banana leaves on the regular would put this in our “must make again” category.
Additional Notes: This is mentioned in a few recipes but it warrant repeating. In order to get the banana leaves malleable, you need to heat them gently over one of your burners. I did this by hand, just moving it around to see it lose its frozen sheen and start to soften. You don’t want to do it too long as they can eventually burn, but by doing this, it makes them easier to bend to your will. 🙂