Food wrappers – edible or not?

On ABC NSW radio

Food wrappers – edible or not?

A great way to use up leftovers – simply wrap it up. But there are many edible and non-edible wrappers and it’s not always obvious which is which.

So here’s a quick reference to get you started. Always remember to check the ‘use by date’ or ‘best before date’ for shelf life.


Edible Availability Preparation Storage (check use-by date on packet) Cooking/Recipe ideas
Baking paper No Various length packets from supermarkets None Indefinite All-purpose wrapper for cooking foods en papillote. Suitable for use in microwaves & ovens; heat resistant to 230ºC (450ºF) but for direct heat (eg. BBQ plate) lower temperature or wrap again in foil as prolonged cooking can burn paper.
Bamboo leaves No but imparts a faint aroma & looks good to serve Available dry from Asian grocery stores. Soak in warm water before use to soften and prevent cracking. Keep dry, 12 months. Use softened to wrap flavoured rice or meats. Great for steaming.
Banana leaves No but imparts a faint aroma & looks good to serve Available fresh and sometimes frozen from Asian grocery stores; selected fruit & veg stores. Remove hard spine and trim ragged edges. Blanch in boiling water for 30-60 seconds or heat on BBQ or frypan to soften. Rinse in cold water to cool & set colour. Roll up & tie/rubber band. Wrap in paper towel in plastic bag. Refrigerate 1- 2 weeks or freeze. Bake, BBQ, panfry, steam, microwave.

Savoury: chicken or fish with herb marinade

Savoury custard (see Brigid’s Steaming book)

Sweet: Black coconut rice with fresh mango.

Betel leaf – Wild (la lot)

(This is not la trau, the variety typically chewed with areca or betel nuts that stains teeth with red juice.)

Yes Asian grocery stores; selected fruit & veg stores. Rinse, dry, wrap & eat. Wrap in paper towel in plastic bag & refrigerate 5 – 7 days. Eat fresh, panfry, grilled, BBQ.

Top leaves with smoked trout, horseradish cream, apple and salmon roe or Thai flavoured chicken or minced beef.

Thread small leaf parcels onto skewers & BBQ.



Yes Supermarkets Pita ready to use.

Roll bread slices with rolling pin until thin before rolling around filling. Outside of roll can be sprayed with oil & baked or pan fried.

Keep airtight. Refrigerate in hot humid weather or freeze 1 month. Wraps.

Corn husks

No Corn on the cob from fruit & veg stores; fresh produce markets. Strip husks from corn on the cob. Soak in water for 20 minutes. Wrap food & secure with cooking twine. Keep on cobs until required. Use within 5-7 days. BBQ, panfry, bake, steam, microwave.

Peel husks far enough to remove silk threads from corn. Rewrap corn cobs in husks. Soak in water before barbecuing.



Yes Make your own. Duck pancakes available frozen from Asian grocery stores. Ready to use. Keep refrigerated 2 days or freeze. Roll around filling (eg. crepe suzette or duck pancakes) or fold to make parcels which can be pan or deep fried.

Buckwheat crepes with savoury fillings.



– Dim sum

– Gow gee

– Wonton

– Gyoza

Yes Wrappers available chilled or frozen, round or square. Number of wrappers in packet will vary with thickness. Keep wrappers covered with a damp cloth as preparing to them prevent drying out. Keep chilled or freeze. Steam, boil, deep fry, pan fry.

Thinner wrappers are best for dim sum or steamed dumplings. Thicker wonton wrappers are best for pan frying (eg. Japanese gyoza dumplings) or deep frying.


No Various length rolls from supermarkets. Ready to use.  Wrap shiny side facing in towards food or it does not reflect heat when cooking. Indefinite. All purpose wrapper.

Fresh leaves

– cabbage

– lettuce

– radicchio

– silverbeet

– English spinach

Yes Green grocery, supermarkets, fresh produce markets. Small firm leaves can be used as ‘cups’ and filled.

Blanch larger leaves in hot water before using to avoid splitting leaves.

5 – 7 days, refrigerated. Can be eaten raw (eg. lettuce cups for San choy bow, steamed or baked (eg. cabbage rolls).
Lotus leaves No but imparts an earthy aroma Dried in packets from Asian grocery stores. Soak in warm water to soften before use to prevent cracking. Keep dry; 12 months. Use softened to wrap flavoured rice or meats. Great for steaming.
Pasta sheets


Cannelloni tubes

Yes Fresh or dried from supermarkets & delicatessens. Fresh and dried ready to use & should be covered with sauce to cook. Soak dried sheets in warm water to soften if using as a wrapper. Keep fresh chilled. Use in lasagne or as a wrapper like cannelloni tubes.


– filo

– puff

– shortcrust

Yes Chilled or frozen sheets from supermarkets & delicatessens. Keep covered with a damp cloth during preparation to avoid pastry drying out. Brush melted butter or oil between each filo sheet before wrapping filling. Keep chilled or frozen. All purpose wrappers, a great way to use up leftovers.
Rice noodle wrappers Yes Available fresh in room temperature packets from Asian grocery stores (refrigeration hardens the rice sheets so hard to separate). Pour hot water over the sheets or microwave to loosen the thin oil coating before pulling the sheets apart. Cut to required size. 1-2 days if not refrigerated. Once cut and wrapped around filling keep covered and refrigerated until required; 1-2 days. Use rice sheets to enclose fillings and steam or completely cover with sauce and bake.
Rice paper rolls Yes Dried in packets from Asian grocery stores & selected supermarkets.

Various sizes.

Soak in warm water 1-2 minutes to soften. Pull out of water with both hands or can twist & tangle (put back into water to untangle). Once rolls made, keep covered with damp cloth to prevent drying out. Keep dry & airtight. Used to make fresh rolls or deep fried.


Yaki nori (Roasted  seaweed)

Yes Retails packets are sheets of 10. From Asian grocery stores, selected supermarkets & some fruit & veg stores. Keep spare sheetsdry & covered during preparation as nori will absorb moisture from the air & lose its crispness & become a chewier texture. Keep dry & airtight or freeze.
Use open packets with 1 month. Nori will start to lose colour changing from deep green to bronze colour as it loses freshness.
Eat as is or cooked.

Use in nori rolls, hand wrapped sushi or deep fried in tempura.

Use to wrap fish with pickled ginger & red capsicum. Steam, bake or pan fry (see Brigid’s Steaming book for recipe).

Shiso (Perilla or Beefsteak plant) Yes A Japanese herb related to the mint family. Available from Japanese specialty stores, some produce markets & selected nurseries to grow your own. It’s an annual that dies in winter. Available red or green but each quite different & different uses. Red more robust for colouring and flavouring, green more delicate leaf used as a herb. Dries out quickly so keep refrigerated & wrapped or in airtight container. Use within 3-5 days. Wash & pat dry with paper towel.

Red leaf used for flavour & colour (eg. tea or umeboshi, a Japanese pickled plum); green leaf used with meat, fish, sushi, onigiri, tempura, salads or as a wrapper.

Soy – tofu

Deep fried bean curd


Yes Deep fried Available frozen from Asian grocery stores. Thinly sliced tofu, deep fried. Pour boiling water over tofu & squeeze to remove excess oil. Gently open one side and fill or use as a wrapper. Keep frozen. Fill pouch or use as a wrapperfor sweet or savoury fillings.

Soy – tofu

Seasoned bean curd pouches



Yes Available chilled or in cans from Asian grocery stores. Size & texture varies. Deep fried tofu slices simmered in sweet soy sauce so can be used for sweet or savoury fillings. Ready to use; open one side to fill or use as a wrapper. Once opened keep refrigerated and use within 2-3 days or freeze. Sushi pouches (filled with sushi rice).

Fill with sweet rice and fruit for dessert or finger food.

Soy milk ‘skin’ –


Yes Packets of dried sheets from Asian grocery stores. Skin formed when soy milk is heated; dried in sheets.

Gently brush sheets with tap water to soften before use. Offers little taste.

Keep dry & airtight. Fill with minced meat or vegetarian fillings. See recipe in Brigid’s book Steaming.
Spring roll wrappers Yes In frozen or chilled packets, various sizes Thaw and wrap around filling. Keep wrappers covered with damp cloth to stop drying out. Keep frozen. Brush rolls with cornflour and water to seal. Deep fry spring rolls on moderate to allow to cook through.
Vine (grape) leaves Yes but remove hard stems & veins. Delicatessens, selected supermarkets & larger fruit & veg stores. Leaves in brine: Rinse well & dry with paper towel.

Cut off stems & hard veins.

Fresh leaves: Preferably pick medium size in spring. Blanch in boiling salted water for 30-60 seconds; rinse in cold water to cool. Dry with paper towel. Cut off stems & hard veins.

Keep refrigerated or frozen.

Leaves purchased already in brine or fresh leaves blanched and boiled briefly in brine (1 cup salt to 4 cups water); store for about 12 months.

To freeze leaves: Separate leaves with sheets freezer plastic or paper; expel air & seal; freeze for maximum 6 months.

Leaves softer after freezing so use up quickly after defrosting.

Bake, panfry, BBQ, steam.

Dolmades (Greek rice parcels).

Small fish (eg. Whiting) wrapped in vine leaves. Leaf offers protection between delicate fish and BBQ plate or frypan.

Haloumi wrapped in vine leaves, pan fried and topped with caramelised peaches.

Posted on March 2, 2010 at 12:42 am by Brigid · Permalink
In: Cooking Tips & Hints, Radio · Tagged with: , ,

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