Banana Flower Stir Fry- Vazha Poo Thoran

Plantain flowers, a Kerala veggie delicacy that I used to devour while growing up, that too plucked right from the plantain plant grown in the backyard of my house in kerala…

The scene of plantain flowers or blossoms hanging from the plantain plant is quite common to those living in Kerala. If you are in Kerala, you just have to look around to spot a plantain plant, you could spot not one but many plants standing in a row, soon you will be in the middle of plantain farm. While growing up, seeing a plantain plant or plantain flowers didn’t excite me much, as this was an everyday sight for me. But things got changed after coming to the US. Every time I see plantains in any grocery stores, I get excited. But, when I saw plantain flowers the other day at the Asian supermarket I got super excited and without any second thoughts I snatched one of them.

Lots of sweet childhood memories unwrapped along with this plantain flower…

Almost all parts of the plantain plant are useful in one way or the other. Not just the fruits from the plantain plants are edible, even the flower and the plantain shoots can be turned into delicious dishes. Plantain will fruit only once, so after harvesting the fruit, the plant can be cut and the layers peeled, the inner most white cylindrical shaped shoot is used for making delicious dishes, which has high health benefits. The plantain leaves are also used in preparing fish and other sweet dishes, by wrapping the fish or other ingredients in the leaves and steaming it will give nice aroma and flavor to the dish. Also, fresh plantain leaves are used instead of plates in South India and food is served on that. Leaves are also used as wrappers. Again, the fiber thread like part that comes out of the plant when pulled off is used for tying jasmine flowers and for making garlands, its stronger than the cotton thread.

Plantain flowers or Banana flowers:


 

The banana flower is a large, dark purple-red blossom that grows from the end of a bunch of bananas. Its sizable bracts, or leaves, snugly enclose delicate, sweetly scented male flowers. The female flowers, which do not require fertilization to become fruit, grow farther up the stem from the male flowers. Once the tougher, darker outer bracts are pulled away, the paler and more tender inner leaves are used in a number of dishes, prepared in a variety of ways: From Wise Geek.

Whenever my mom finds a banana flower, she used to make this stir fry and I loved this. When I saw this flower in the grocery store, I was reminded of the delicious stir fry my mom made and my mouth watered instantly. When I bought this, the only thing that I was aware was that the cleaning was a tedious and time consuming process. I recalled how my mom used to clean this staining her hands, that time I only cared about the tasty dish I would get to gobble, not helping her in anyway. I was a big time slacker then 🙂

After coming home, I called the expert, my mom and took notes on how to clean the flower and make the stir fry.

How to clean a banana or plantain flower:

  • Wash the whole flower under running water.
  • Cleaning the flower will stain your hands, so use kitchen gloves or you could even apply oil on your hands before doing this.
  • Peel off the tough red bracts or leaves and save the bunch of florets attached to the top part of the leaves.

  • Peel off all the tough red leaves till you reach a point where you can’t peel any more leaves and when you find tender ivory colored inner part in the shape of a bulb.

  • You could use the red leaves for presentation, so save them.
  • Save the ivory colored inner part of the flower, you are going to chop this finely, no need to separate this bulb as it’s tender.

  • You can’t use the florets you saved as it is, you need to remove the stamen, looks like a string which tastes bitter.

  • Open up the flower and you could see the stamen with a bulb shaped top, pull that off.

 

  • The florets attached to the outer part of the leaves are quite big, so the stamens are visible and can be removed easily compared to those in the inner part.
  • Florets found in the inner part are small, you have to open them gently with your fingers and remove the stamen from them.
  • Once you separate the stamen from the florets and the inner tender bulb from the flower, chop these coarsely with a sharp knife and put them into a bowl of water drizzled with lemon juice, this is to prevent the oxidation of the flowers and to prevent them from turning black in color.

  • In a fresh banana flower, the florets attached to the outer leaves are white in color, but in not so fresh flowers it would look pale and black, discard those flowers and use only the white colored florets which is found inside.

I know what exactly you might be thinking now, “what a tedious and time consuming process”. I second your thoughts, but for someone like me who grew up eating this and who wants to enjoy the taste of this dish after so many years, could blindly go through this lengthy process. I actually had fun doing this and felt so happy when I made this dish from scratch. If you are someone who wants to try this exotic flower, next time when you see this don’t let go. Follow the instructions and it’s worth making this. This dish is really tasty, packed with many nutrients and great for your health.

What are Plantains?

Plantains are a member of banana family. They are starchy, longer than bananas with thicker skin. Raw plantains are treated like veggies, while ripe plantains can be eaten as it is or used in making many sweet dishes.

Here are some of the sweet dishes you could make with plantain:

Steamed Plantain Cake

Stuffed Plantain Fry

Sweet Plantain Fry

Plantain Pancakes

Plantain Flower Stir Fry: A Kerala veggie delicacy, recipe courtesy: My dear Mom

Ingredient

  • Plantain flower, chopped- 1 flower
  • Mung bean, cooked- 1 cup
  • Mustard seeds- 1tsp
  • Chana dal- 1 handful
  • Urad dal- 1 handful
  • Curry leaves- 1 sprig
  • Dry whole red chili- 3
  • Onion, chopped- 1
  • Salt- to taste
  • Oil- 2tbsp

To grind:

  • Coconut grated- 1/2 cup
  • Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic, chopped- 1tsp
  • Chili powder- 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
  • Water- 1 tbsp or so

Instruction:

  • Chop the separated floret and the inner ivory colored bulb and put them into a bowl of water drizzled with lemon juice.

  • Wash Mung bean taken in a strainer under running water and cook it in a pressure cooker with enough water and salt until it’s cooked well. keep aside.

  • In a blender, grind the above mentioned to grind ingredients to a paste.

  • Heat oil in a non-stick pan, add mustard seeds and let it splutter, add dry red chili.
  • Then add chana dal and when it turns golden, add urad dal and saute till it turns golden brown.

  • Add curry leaves, onions, little salt and saute till onions turn tender.

  • Drain the water from the chopped flowers and add to the onions and saute.

  • Add little more salt and saute the flowers till it turns tender and cooked.
  • At this point, add the cooked, drained mung bean and combine with the cooked flowers.
  • Now, add the ground coconut mixture and saute for few minutes.

  • Combine everything well and remove from the heat.

  • Serve this on the red leaves you have saved from the flower for a fancy plating.

  • This makes a perfect side dish for rice or with any other flat breads.

Tips:

  • In the US, I’ve seen banana flowers in Asian super markets and in some Indian stores.
  • You could find mung bean, chana dal, urad dal in any Indian stores.
  • Adding mung bean to this dish makes this even more delicious and rich, so don’t skip this.

 

Plantain Flower Stir Fry and sweet memories unwrapped
 
Ingredients
  • Plantain flower, chopped- 1 flower
  • Mung bean, cooked- 1 cup
  • Mustard seeds- 1tsp
  • Chana dal- 1 handful
  • Urad dal- 1 handful
  • Curry leaves- 1 sprig
  • Dry whole red chili- 3
  • Onion, chopped- 1
  • Salt- to taste
  • Oil- 2tbsp
To grind
  • Coconut grated- ½ cup
  • Cumin seeds- ½ tsp
  • Garlic, chopped- 1tsp
  • Chili powder- ½ tsp
  • Turmeric powder- ¼ tsp
  • Water- 1 tbsp or so
Instructions
  1. Chop the separated floret and the inner ivory colored bulb and put them into a bowl of water drizzled with lemon juice.
  2. Wash Mung bean taken in a strainer under running water and cook it in a pressure cooker with enough water and salt until it's cooked well. keep aside.
  3. In a blender, grind the above mentioned to grind ingredients to a paste.
  4. Heat oil in a non-stick pan, add mustard seeds and let it splutter, add dry red chili.
  5. Then add chana dal and when it turns golden, add urad dal and saute till it turns golden brown.
  6. Add curry leaves, onions, little salt and saute till onions turn tender.
  7. Drain the water from the chopped flowers and add to the onions and saute.
  8. Add little more salt and saute the flowers till it turns tender and cooked.
  9. At this point, add the cooked, drained mung bean and combine with the cooked flowers.
  10. Now, add the ground coconut mixture and saute for few minutes.
  11. Combine everything well and remove from the heat.
  12. Serve this on the red leaves you have saved from the flower for a fancy plating.
  13. This makes a perfect side dish for rice or with any other flat breads.
Notes
In the US, I've seen banana flowers in Asian super markets and in some Indian stores.
You could find mung bean, chana dal, urad dal in any Indian stores.
Adding mung bean to this dish makes this even more delicious and rich, so don't skip this.

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