Banana Blossom curry (Vaazhaipoo curry)


The banana tree is a true giver, all parts of the plant : the tender bark, the leaves, the flowers , the fruits…. either are edible or they aid in cooking. Banana blossoms, rich in antioxidants , flavonoids and vitamin E are found to stabilize blood sugar levels and elevate mood among other health benefits. Prepping the flower for cooking can be cumbersome, but its unique taste is completely worthy of the time and efforts.

Image

If you are new to cooking with the blossom, this post can show you how to properly prep the flower. The blossom can be used in stir fries, salads, stews and curries. The most popular concoction is the “vazhaipoo vadai” (crispy patties made with chickpeas and the banana flowers). Though the flowers can be used in any curry, here I have given my mushroom curry recipe, replacing mushrooms with the banana flowers.

Without further ado, here is how to prep the blossom for cooking :

[Either use  food prep gloves or rub sesame oil on your fingers before working with the blossom to avoid staining.]

  • The petals are layered on top of one another and as you remove each petal you will find the cluster of tiny flowers inside.

Image

  • Actually in a fresh banana blossom , the flowers are slightly pinkish (as shown in the image below). However, the blossoms I get here are either refrigerated or frozen before they make it to the stores, so the black color. However, the color doesn’t affect the taste.

Image

[Image from : http://www.moorheadandrutter.com.au]

  • As you remove the layers you will notice the flowers getting smaller and tender.

Image

  • Finally you will end up with this beautiful tender bud, which can be either eaten  raw or sliced up and used in cooking.

Image

  • Once you have removed all the flowers, each flower must be individually prepped by removing some unwanted parts (similar to deveining a shrimp).

Image

  • Each mature flower has  a stamen and a sepal (a wax paper like layer). It is important to remove both , as the stamen and sepal will stay raw even after cooking, resulting in an unpleasant texture and taste.

Image

Image

  • It is time consuming but if it is any consolation, only the outer 4 or 5 clusters will have stamen and sepal. The middle clusters won’t have a prominent sepal. The inner flowers are very tender and they can be used as such.

Image

  • Soak the cleaned flowers in diluted buttermilk until you need them.

Image

This concludes the prepping of the banana blossom. No matter what you choose to make with them, the above steps have to be done first.

Now for the curry recipe :

I normally make this curry with mushrooms. The cooked flowers have a similar texture to mushroom, so I figured this would be a good choice. You can add the florets in any curry of your choice.

To make the cooking sauce for this curry, you will need :

Image

  1. Pearl Onions – 5 or 6
  2. Ginger – 1 inch piece
  3. Garlic – 4 or 5 cloves
  4. Green chilli – 1 (optional)
  5. Dry red chiilies – 3 or 4 (use red pepper flakes instead)[use only 1 or 2 chillies for milder curry]
  6. cloves – 3
  7. cardamom – 1
  8. fennel – 1 tsp
  9. cumin – 1 tsp
  10. coriander seeds (dhaniya) – 1 tsp
  11. roasted gram dhal (pottukadalai) – 1 tbsp (replace with cashews or grated coconut)

I know thats a lot of ingredients, but they result in a very aromatic curry. No fancy ingredients anyways 🙂 . Grind all the above ingredients with little water to make the cooking sauce.

Image

  • You will also need :
  1. onions – 1 medium (chopped)
  2. tomatoes – 1 large or 2 medium (diced)
  3. curry leaves – few
  4. turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Image

  • In a pan , heat a 2 tsp of oil, and saute the onions and curry leaves. Then add the tomatoes and cook until tomatoes soften.

Image

  • Add the banana flowers (that were soaking in buttermilk) to the pan and saute.

Image

  • Add the cooking sauce , turmeric powder, salt and mix well.

Image

  • Add about half a cup of water and cook until the flowers are tender and oil starts to separate. It will take about 15 – 20 minutes in medium heat.

Image

I like this curry for its flavors and also that it goes well with rice, rotis, idli and dosa. You will definitely appreciate the unique taste of banana flowers in this curry. Hope you try it 🙂 !

Advertisements

Spicy plantains (Ennai vazhakkai)


After six weeks of vacation, my own kitchen looks so new to me. Everything looks untouched as my husband had survived with canned soups and packaged salads and the kindness of our neighbors 🙂 Even cooking seems like a strange thing. I guess that is the point of a vacation : to refresh and renew.  I am slowly easing into the idea of cooking three meals a day, everyday 🙂

Here is a simple recipe that doesn’t ask for much, easy to make and easy to eat 🙂

Image

  • I use the green plantains we usually get in the Indian/Asian stores, but any green plantain is good.

Image

  • Peel the plantains and cut them in half. I do a very gentle peel, by removing only the hard skin out and leaving the layer of soft skin still intact. It adds a nice texture once cooked. If you don’t care for it , you can peel off that layer too.

Image

  • Bring a pot of water to boil and drop the plantains in. Cook for no more than 5-6 minutes.

Image

  • When you see the change in color, remove from heat.

Image

  • Cut the plantains in rectangles. (If you think  the plantains are overcooked, just allow them to cool down for 30 minutes before cutting).

Image

  • Mix 2 tsp. of turmeric powder, 3 tsp. of chilli powder (more or less as you prefer), 1 tsp. of black pepper, and salt with water to make a paste. You can also add garlic powder or paste.

Image

  • Rub the paste on to the plantains and set them aside for 15 mins. You can refrigerate them too, it helps the paste to adhere better.

Image

  • Heat oil in a skillet and fry the plantains to a golden brown.

Image

  • This is traditionally made as a side for rice. But in my house, this never makes it to the table 🙂 Kids enjoy it as a snack and they call it the “vegetarian fish”…. 🙂

Image