Seeking an odd ingredient

Joined Oct 9, 2008
I got drooling while reading the "which season?" thread, and this reminded me of something I want.

In Japan, the magnolia trees produce these gigantic leaves, 8" across and a foot long, that you can use as a cooking surface. What you do is, you put something thick and wet and sticky on top of a soaked leaf, and you put the leaf on top of a grid on a charcoal grill. The food cooks, and you get this mild smoky thing going on from the leaf, but the leaf itself shouldn't burn through if you don't crank the heat too high. (The leaves are ho-ba, magnolia-leaf, so this dish is called hoba-yaki, or magnolia-leaf grilled --- same yaki as yakitori, sukiyaki, etc.)

Problem is, I've never seen these leaves here in the US. So what can I use instead? I can get frozen banana leaves, for instance, or I can pick all the maple leaves I want, and so on.

Any thoughts?


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Maybe sub cornhusks?   Bamboo leaves or  Cedar plank?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Down here those large-leaved ones are called "umbrella magnolia," and they grow wild in the national forest.

Of the available subs, I think I'd go with the banana leaves. You want something that's still green, so you get the smokiness, but the leaf, itself, doesn't burn---which dried ones would do.

Corn swords would likely work, but might impart too much sweetness? Of course I say that without knowing what flavors get transferred from the magnolia leaves.


Founder of
Staff member
Joined Oct 5, 2001
I have used banana leaves which are readily available at Asian markets. Years ago when I worked in Greece we used to get in bucket fulls brined caper leaves and they are wonderful. They are almost perfectly round and you can simply eat them by themselves or use them in cooking. To this day I have not been able to find them anywhere in the US.
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