By Lafayette C. Hight Jr.
During the 90 seconds between the time I left my car until I entered The Green Banana Leaf restaurant in Duarte, I tried to guess what type of cuisine I was about to experience.
My first thought was Puerto Rican food, since I know banana leaves are used in pasteles – like tamale cakes – and other dishes native to the island.
Then my mind jumped from Mexican food, where the leaves can be used to wrap tamales, grilled meats and other char-broiled dishes, to Hawaiian food, where banana leaves are even used to cover meats in the imu, the underground oven where pigs are traditionally roasted whole.
In the end, I decided that there are far too many types of cuisine that use the leaves – African, Malaysian, Indian. After I asked, I was told that it was Filipino food.
Browsing the menu, I was delighted to see that the most expensive combination plates were $7.50. The only exceptions were for family meals and the special on Mondays, where two whole fried chickens can be had for $10.99.
The sweet and sour shrimp, seafood combination, breaded pork chops, and rice bowls all seemed appealing. But in the end I decided to try calamari as an appetizer and the BBQ Mix combination.
When the seafood arrived, it looked good, but after I tasted a few pieces I was a bit disappointed. It was slightly greasy and it seemed like it had been in the deep fryer for one or two minutes too long.
I’m not sure if it was the “Monday, one hour before closing time” factor but it seemed like the seasoning was right and it would have been perfect with a little less time in the oil. A bit worried, I watched as my BBQ mix arrived, hoping that this trend didn’t extend to the main dish. My fears were soon eliminated.
Both the beef short ribs and the chicken had been seasoned in a delicious marinade that I really enjoyed. The chicken was amazing and the ribs were prepared similar to Korean kalbi.
All of the special combinations come with a soup, and on this day it was Crab and Corn Soup, which was very similar to Chinese Egg Drop Soup, but with those two added ingredients.
Also complementing the meal were egg rolls, steamed rice and pancit, which I had for the first time.
The restaurant serves two types of pancit, and I had a bit of both. To me, the major differences between the two varieties of stir-fried noodles were the type of pasta: One thick like chow mein, and the other made with really thin rice noodles.
I look forward to going back and trying some of the other dishes. I’m a huge fan of places that serve breakfast all day, like this one, and am particularly interested in the bangus (milkfish) dishes, tocino, which I’ve heard is similar to bacon, and longanisa, which are supposed to be amazing sausages.
The Green Banana Leaf is at 1740 Huntington Drive, Suite 304, Duarte. It can be reached at (626) 301-9541.