Cooking in a banana leaf – Caribbean Pork

When I first starting cooking, the idea of wrapping a perfectly good piece of protein in a banana leaf was downright repulsive.  Why!?  Why wrap something in a banana – scented leaf?  What’s the point?  What will it taste like?  Why not wrap it in something more worth while, like bacon?

I, of course, had never had anything wrapped in a banana leaf or cooked anything in a banana leaf.  I was also under the impression that a banana leaf would lend a ‘banana’ flavor to the protein.

This is not the case.

Banana leaf lends almost a green tea flavor/scent to your food, as well as a mild sweetness.  They are large, flexible and waterproof; perfect for wrapping.  Typically, banana leaves are used in southeast Asian, Indian and some Latin cuisines.  As they are a wrapper, any food item inside will be cooked via a ‘wet’ method, ie steaming.  The banana leaf will protect the item, and therefore can be subjected to very intense dry heat, like wood and coal fires, hot rocks, and so on.  Used correctly, the flavor imparted by banana leaves is irreplaceable.

This is a Caribbean inspired dish, whose flavor profile is similar to that of my jerk marinade  Highly seasoned, fragrant, succulent, and delicious.  The banana leaf is the finishing touch- the perfect finish.  I hope you love this recipe as much as I do.

Banana wrapped Pork Shoulder, slow roasted

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours
Yield: 6 portions


1 8lb bone in pork shoulder
2 banana leaves, cut in half
2 tbsp annatto seeds
2 cups fresh orange juice
juice of 3 limes
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 habanero peppers, or scotch bonnet
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp allspice
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
kosher salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil


Place all items except the salt, banana leaf and pork in a bar blender.  Blend until completely smooth.

Heat an oven to 325.  In the bottom of a small baking dish, place a few overlapping sheets of aluminum foil on the bottom.  Spread the banana leaves over the foil, making an X.  This will enable you to place the pork in the middle and wrap it tightly.

Rub the pork on all sides with the vegetable oil and salt liberally.  Place the pork in the middle of the banana leaves and pour everything else over the top.  Gently massage it into the pork.  Bring all sides of the banana leaves over the top, followed by the foil.  Pinch the foil at the top, sealing the pork.

Roast for about 4 hours, or until falling apart tender.  Let the pork cool slightly, remove from banana leaf, and gently pull apart.  Mix the shredded pork in with the residual sauce.  Serve right away.

This is a Latin/Caribbean inspired recipe.  This is best served with coconut curry, white sweet potatoes, black beans and rice.  Sweet mangoes will work as well.


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