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Thursday, July 26, 2012


Recently, the FDA banned the use of the compound bisphenol-A (BPA) in some food containers (notably ones meant for children). The main concern is that BPA can exhibit endocrine disruptive effects in high concentrations, although no such link at the concentrations used in practice has ever been conclusively proven. Nonetheless, the concern over the potential leaching of compounds into food from their plastic wrappings have spawned ideas like WikiCells - edible food wrappers.

But maybe the idea doesn't have to be so high tech. After all, I've written about zongzi. Leaf wrapped food, often entire meals, are the original portable food, with biodegradable wrappers.

Vietnamese shops in Houston sell these beautifully wrapped packages of glutinous rice around a core of bananas and sweetened black beans. For some reason, bananas cooked in this manner turn pink.

Apropos to the season of Ramadan, I present a traditional foodstuff from the Muslims of Southeast Asia: the pastil. Basically, it's chicken or beef (never pork of course) cooked down into flakes with onions and spices, wrapped in rice, and the whole wrapped in banana leaves for convenient transport. Two of these make a pretty substantial and filling meal. I find similarity between these and the musubi of Hawaii, and perhaps a bit less subtle than the onigiri of Japan. But it's basic portable comfort food, every bit as familiar and simple as a taco or a ham sandwich.

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