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May 16, 2008 07:07 AM

Ti leaves substitute

I'm on the mainland and don't have access to ti leaves. If I substitute banana leaves will they impart a significantly different flavor? Sure seems at least a closer effect than corn husks or foil. TIA

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  1. Are you making lau lau? If I remember correctly, lau lau uses taro (Colocasia esculens) leaves as an inner, edible wrapper, and ti leaves as an outer, inedible wrapper. Banana leaves will substitute for ti leaves if using taro leaves as the inner wrapper.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      would I be able to substitute banana leaves if I were making kahlua pig in an imu? from chicago, with no idea where to purchase ti leaves. but i have found banana leaves...

      1. re: rosanna0803

        we always used banana leaves and stalks in imus.

    2. I might suggest you check a florist. They usually have a source of Ti leaves. Be sure you specify that you will use them for cooking food so as not to get something sprayed.
      When Diana Kennedy had a food progam on TV it was possible to get banana and Ti leaves frozen. If you have a friendly grocer he might look that up in his source book.
      If you substitue banana for ti it will be a little different. But if the filling, lau lau or whatever, is flavorful I would be willing to bet no one will know. Anyone who did know would also be aware why there was a substitution.

      4 Replies
      1. re: The Old Gal

        >> I might suggest you check a florist. [...] Be sure you specify that you will use
        >> them for cooking food so as not to get something sprayed.

        Maybe I'm being paranoid but I would not trust a florist - let alone "some" sales clerk - who's willing to claim they know whether they were sprayed or not. Maybe things have changed now that "environmentally friendly" has become all the rage (for real and for marketing), but historically, ornamentals grown for commercial sale were/are sprayed heavily - early and often. (To be fair, they kind of have to be, since while people might be willing to buy fruit with blemishes at a farmers' market no one wants little bug bites in their flower arrangements!)

        1. re: MikeG

          Having worked for a good florist myself, I can tell you that it's not so much that the florist can't be trusted as that he's buying his stuff from floral wholesalers, who get their stuff from all over the hemisphere, with no FDA controls in there anywhere. Back when some of those cookbook writers were suggesting florists as a source for ti and banana leaves, we all had such a blasé attitude towards pesticides that we assumed all we had to do was give those things a good washing and they'd be fine to use in cooking.

          Mochi's suggestions are all sound ones - the recipe I have for fake kalua pig calls for ti leaves around the meat and banana leaves to enclose the whole thing, but I've found that either foil or those plastic roasting bags work just fine, though you miss some authentic flavor. But, as he says, the stuff is almost too easy to grow.

          1. re: Will Owen

            I guess I was mixing adjectives - in this case what I was thinking by "good" meant to me they'd give me an answer like yours, that they don't know or can't assure it's being food-safe by US standards. Since exotic ornamentals are a dime a dozen these days (well, hardly, but you know :) ), I wasn't thinking in terms of their having good stock or arrangement skills. :))

            I'd forgotten how easy they are to grow since they're so "boring" as houseplants and needless to say, not cold hardy at all, as I recall... last time I tried was when someone sent me one from HI when I was a kid. ;)

            1. re: MikeG

              Anyone happen to know if any of the ti plant species (Cordyline being I think the "preferred" generic name this month anyway, according to taxonomists ) are either not edible or not palatable? I happened to find my near a local greenmarket yesterday and picked myself up a small plant - an ex-Navy uncle of mine who later settled in Hawaii once sent me the above-referenced plant but he didn't know anything about its culinary use even at the time and I hesitate to try strange new things sight unseen, as it were - you never know what might happen!

      2. You can order ti leaves here.
        We buy laulau from a local gal who uses foil instead of ti leaves. It's very ONO! She get her luau leaves from Hawaii, however.
        Ti plants are so easy to grow. We have plenty in our yard.

        1. You can most likely find Ti leaves at an Asian grocer, probably frozen. If not, the banana leaves in your imu will suffice. From my experience using banana leaves in lau lau they don't impart a lot of flavor, but do hold in the moisture.