Kamis, 24 Maret 2011

Banana Flower

Dealing with a banana flower was a very interesting experience. 
I saw one in Koreatown while with Andrew and he mentioned they took special preparation and were real bitter. I decided not to attempt it at that time. 
Recently I saw and purchased one at an Asian market in San Bernardino. It sat in our refrigerator for several days and as we prepared to go out of town for a few days I decided I needed to dig into it. 
I cut off the pointy tip and the first impression I had was that of a leek, a white inner, layered core. 
I then went to the other end and cut off the bottom and was not ready for what I saw. 
Instead of the tightly wound leekish look at the top, I found what looked like octopus suction cups wound irregularly in reddish membrane.  Below, after cutting off an additional portion at the bottom, revealing even more of the rounded suction cups, now starting to look more like bamboo shoots. 
I eventually discovered that the suction cups were portions of matchbook-like fronds that are little buds that eventually become bananas. At this point, as I started to unwind the banana flower, layer-by-layer, I discovered that under each layer was a collection of the buds. 
I tossed the buds and kept the leaves. 
I got a bowl of water, added some lemon juice, and put the unraveled leaves in it to keep them from turning dark as they started to do, similarly to an avocado. The outer leaves are a dark red, then as you get closer to the center the color starts to fade to more of a creamy color. 
I ended up tossing the darker outer red leaves and keeping the lighter-colored inner leaves to try. 
Banana leaves are primarily eaten in Asia: Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia and are one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die. 1001 says they are "eaten raw or lightly blanched in salads dressed with vinegar or citrus, cooked until tender in soups or coconut milk sauces, or shredded as a garnish for noodle dishes and the fondue-style sharing dishes known as 'steamboats.'" The inner portion was somewhat reminiscent of both palm heart and artichoke. After soaking the leaves for about 30 minutes, I cut them into small sections and tried some raw. 
It was horribly bitter and almost immediately I felt a numbing effect on my tongue. I felt like I was chewing on Novocaine. This stuff is not for the faint of heart. I then put some in a frying pan with olive oil and fried it for awhile, adding salt and pepper. 
It was much, much better. It had the texture of artichoke heart and a similar taste, although the numbing effect was still present to a much lesser degree. I gave Judy a bite-full of the cooked banana flower and she immediately commented on the numbing effect and declined any more. I am sure there are ways to prepare banana flower to minimize the bitterness and numbing impact and maximize the taste. If I ever do venture this way again, it will be with a recipe that focuses on some kind of cooked preparation. 

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