Rangi Mitaera-Johnson: Banana leaves original foil wrap!

Thursday 30 July 2020 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Art


Rangi Mitaera-Johnson: Banana leaves original foil wrap!

RECIPE: It certainly tastes better when you know it’s from your own garden.

The use of local ingredients is by far the most sensible way to go these days.

If you are a planter or farmer that utilises your own produce, then you will value the savings this means during Covid-19.

This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and plant mass plots, but a subsist amount to ensure there is always something for “apopo”.

I’ve seen some amazing pieces of land that were just sitting there idle and now flourish into magnificent gardens.

Believe me, it certainly tastes better when you know it’s from your own garden.

I don’t have a massive garden, but what I do have is what I use regularly.

The banana tree has numerous uses without even highlighting the variety of fruit it produces.

Just like our coconut tree, the trunk, leaves, flower etc are used throughout especially in Asia.

I suppose you could call the banana leaves our original foil wrap! I prefer these leaves to the foil we spend money on.

Rukau viti or bele to our Fijian families is a very resilient plant. It is so simple to grow and requires little maintenance and that’s one of the real reasons why I love it.

My mother used to prepare this (bele) cooked with the onions and corned beef or with the leftover meat from the Sunday lunch. It’s been a family favourite for many years in our home back then and now with my own family here in Rarotonga and in Manihiki, where we grow it too.

The other great thing about Rukau viti is that you don’t actually have to cook it.

Slice it up and add to your salad and voila, delicious!

Yesterday, I made fish parcels wrapped in Rukau viti and steamed in banana leaves. It’s a very fast and simple way to make a delicious and nutritious meal. It’s super moist and hits big with flavour and goodness.

Don’t be afraid to utilise other ingredients in your wrap.


For four adults, select two large slices of fish. When selecting your fish, look for something with a higher fat content like Mahimahi, Spia or Broadbill. If you have access to reef fish, then you are blessed.

You will need a steamer for this recipe, or make one with a tray that sits covered comfortably in a pot water in the base.

You will also need banana leaves and approximately eight Rukau viti leaves.

Some slices of tomatoes or pawpaw and thinly sliced onions that have been sautéed in a little butter or oil. When onions have cooked and cooled, add your favourite aromatics. I like to add Dill, salt, pepper and wild basil.


Step one:

Singe banana leaves on open flame from your cook top. When cool, remove from stem and cut into large pieces the size of your hand span, set aside.

Step two:

Cut fish pieces into small portions that will sit nearly in centre of banana leaves.

Step three:

Heat your steam.

Prepare all ingredients to assemble fish.

Place banana leaf in front of you and lay a Rukau viti leaf on top.

Set fish portion in centre of Rukau viti, top with a teaspoonful of onion mixture then a slice of tomato.

Encase the fish by wrapping the Rukau viti around it.

Now from one corner, wrap the fish portion encased in the Rukau viti in your banana leaf.

Stack in steamed pan facing down to secure parcel.

Continue until all fish portions are wrapped.

Steam on medium heat for 15 minutes.

Serve hot with your favourite accompaniments.