I am dedicating this blog post to my friend Dawn. She is one of the most lovely ladies I have met and it just so happens I met her in Thailand. We were both working at the Pattaya Orphanage where we instantly connected on our mutual love for all the little children. Dawn is living in Indonesia now and recently posted a picture, on Facebook, of a banana tree in her backyard that had the blossom hanging down. I told her I would research some recipes and send them her way.
It has only been within the last few years that I have deeply explored cooking Asian foods. Mostly Thai (after living there for almost two years it was hard not to replicate my favorite dishes), some Korean and Chinese. The thing I love about Asian food, though they all use similar ingredients, is the way those ingredients are manipulated can create amazing, and taste tantalizing and different dishes. In Thailand they have a saying, “SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT,” very fitting!
The banana blossom is an interesting ingredient. It has a purplish color to it and looks like a torpedo. If you ever saw it in the store you may look at it, wonder what it is, and keep walking. I know I probably did this for years.
As you peel the outer layers you find these little flowers. They are actually what will eventually turn into a banana. I read that you want to discard the little stringy part with the black tip and the clear feather-like portion as those are not quite edible.
As you continue to peel the blossom, do not discard the outer layers. They are great serving vessels for the salad. The inside layers turn from purple to a lighter cream color the closer you get to the “heart” of the blossom.
The “heart.” Peeling away the layers reminded me of an artichoke in the way you peel the layers to get to the good part.
The florets change from a dark color to a lighter color the closer you get to the center, just like the leaves. If you toss the bad parts from the florets you can eat the rest of it, but it is a very time-consuming task.
For the whiter leaves, it is important to soak them in ice-cold water with some lemon juice to stop them from oxidizing (changing color to brown). I soaked mine immediately but still had some slight color changes. Mai pen lai (no problem, in Thai)!
Now to the recipe! Serves 1-2 as a light snack/starter
What you will need:
For the salad
1 banana blossom, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup shredded green papaya
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1-2 green onions, julienned
2 inch piece of English cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 long red chili, finely diced (add more for greater heat)
cilantro for garnish
For the dressing:
1 tsp agave (honey would work as well)
1 T light soy sauce
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T water
1/2 tsp white pepper powder
1/2 inch knob of ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, grated
What you will do:
1. The banana blossom should be prepped first. This gives times for the leaves to soak in the lemon juice. Then prep the other salad ingredients and dressing and set aside.
2. Remove blossom leaves from lemon water, drain and finely slice. Add to a mixing bowl.
3. Add remaining ingredients and the dressing and toss to incorporate. Portion out salad to the outer leaves and garnish with cilantro and serve.
This is a guilt-free salad to eat as a snack, or make a larger portion for a meal. When researching this ingredient I came across a lot of recipes for a salad that incorporated chicken or shrimp. Adding a protein would make for a delicious and well-balanced meal.
I know Asian cooking and ingredients can be very intimidating but get over it and get out there and explore! So, next time you are at an Asian market or specialty store become friendly with a new ingredient, research it and then give it a go!
Cheers and happy eating!