You know when you happen upon something unfamiliar and then you encounter it repeatedly? I called it serendipity or fortunate happenstance, but science has another term for it, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Mine is currently banana blossoms.
I first laid eyes on them in the produce section of the Asian supermarket that I frequent. Dark purplish pointed blooms, akin to a gargantuan purple artichoke. Banana blossoms are also known as banana flower or banana hearts. They are found hanging at the end of banana clusters and can be eaten raw or cooked and are used primarily in salads, curries or soups.
Then I saw them in a cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens (great cookbook by the way!) in a recipe for Banana Heart Kinilaw, the chef explained that banana blossoms can have an astringent or bitter aftertaste, so the following method to remove the bitterness is suggested: (photo via The Woks of Life)
“Fill a bowl with about 6 cups of water and 2 tablespoons salt. Swirl to dissolve the salt. Peel the outer layers of the banana blossoms until you reach the pale-coloured heart. Finely chop the banana hearts and immediately place in the water. Massage the pieces with your hands for about 3 minutes to remove the bitter sap. Discard the soapy-looking liquid that emerges. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse and repeat the whole process. Taste a small piece and if there is any bitterness remaining, wash the banana hearts again.” Fernando “Fern” Aracama
Next, another banana blossom recipe popped up, this time on my Twitter feed. I was intrigued and wanted to know, what does banana blossom taste like anyway?
Ann Redding and Matt Danzer chef-owners of Uncle Boons, a Thai Cantina in Manhattan describe the flavor of banana blossoms as, “mild—faintly vegetal, astringent bordering on tannic, with fleeting notes of cucumber or melon.”
The Kitchn says, “banana blossoms can be eaten raw, and are also cooked in soups, stews, and curries. They can also be steamed and served with dips, and peeled apart like an artichoke. Some people claim the flower’s petals taste like artichoke leaves.”
I say, why don’t you see for yourself! Hit up your local Asian grocery for a few fresh banana blossoms and give one or some of the following recipes a try:
How To Prepare Banana Blossom: First things first, Rika and Doni the fine folks who run the vegan food and travel blog Vegan Miam, give the best run-down on how to prep your banana blossom, including helpful tips like, using a neutral oil on your fingertips before handling the blossom to conquer the black sap. They also have an awesome pictorial showing the anatomy of the banana blossom and how each part can be used.
Thai-Style Spicy Chicken, Banana Blossom and Herb Salad: Recipes by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt are always a clear winner in my book. Here, he offers up a salad which includes the notorious hot-sour-salty-sweet flavours of Northeast and Central Thailand. His banana blossom and chicken salad is close to the classic Thai version made with poached shredded chicken, thinly sliced banana blossom, shallots, coconut and a sauce that’s outta this world– flavoured with garlic, chilies, palm sugar, and fish sauce.
Kare-Kare: The Queen of Filipino cuisine Betty Ann Besa-Quirino, author, journalist, food writer, correspondent and blogger extraordinaire, shares her Sunday supper favourite, Kare-kare a Filipino oxtail stew simmered low and slow in a peanut-based broth.
Kundige Palya: This banana blossom stir fry recipe stems from a Havyaka (Hindu) family staple. A freshly plucked banana blossom creates this traditional and healthy stir fry and do you know what makes it extra special? An entire bunch of bananas grows just one blossom, a true treat.
Banana Flower Salad, Rahkine Style: In Burma, banana flower salad is commonly served raw, but this Rahkine version from Naomi Duguid’s cookbook Burma, is cooked in a delicious way. She suggests serving it with a mild and sweet grilled eggplant puree or alongside roast pork or grilled lamb.
Banana Flower, Jicama and Coconut Salad With Fish Baked In Banana Leaves: A perfect pair. The dressing for this salad will make your tastebuds sing! Tangy tamarind, fish sauce, lime, coconut cream, sweet palm sugar, chilis, and crunchy peanuts Mmmmmm.
Vazhaipoo Vadai: If sipping chai and noshing on fried snacks sounds good to you, then give this South-Indian banana flower fritter a go. To keep with authenticity, it’s suggested that these fritters be paired with a sweet element like a payasam in order to balance the flavours.
Ron Finley’s Banana Blossom Salad: Another banana blossom salad, this time with Vietnamese roots comes from Ron Finley’s backyard garden. Banana blossoms, green papaya, herbs, fish sauce and a spicy lime dressing combine to create a vibrant salad that’s bursting with colour and flavour. Not only does this version taste great, but it’s easy on the eyes too!
Grilled Pork Monggo With Banana Blossom: Fork tender chunks of grilled pork and chopped banana blossom make for a smoky taste sensation in yo mouth. This one-pot meal is best served alongside hot steamed rice and a dipping sauce of fish sauce, calamansi lime and fresh chili… gotta hit those sour notes.
Banana Blossom and Prawn Curry: Refreshing and light with the perfect hint of spice. Succulent prawns are the star of the show, amp up the fancy effect by serving this curry in a discarded outer leaf from the banana blossom.
Canned Banana Blossom Salad: If you can’t get your hands on a fresh banana blossom, this salad uses the canned variety. Sauteed banana blossoms blend with soy, chili, mustard seed, turmeric and lime and served atop a slice of crunchy toast.
Any banana blossom recipes in your repertoire that I must try!? Share them in the comments below: