Thursday, 20 May 2010
Vazhaipoo kola urundai is one of my favourite dish . Plantain flowers not only look very beautiful but they are very tasty too. Each and every part of banana plant is used in cooking. Since there are lots of plantain farms near my home we get these infloresence more often. When I come from school I can easily say whether there is plantain infloresence (Infloresence is the collection of banana flowers and it looks like as shown in the first picture of the collage) in my home just by the smell of it. If you keep the plantain infloresence in your kitchen the entire kitchen smells very good. It is not like the usual sweet scent of most flowers. It is different (like the raw plantain smell, but more stronger ) and somehow the smell of these flowers stimulates my apetite.
My dad and myself are big fans for these plantain flowers. My dad had many sweet memories associated with this. He used to remember his granpa more often. He would say that his granpa is such a nice and kind human being who is very fond of his grandchildren. When he goes to the plantain farm he used to bring these flowers for his grandchildren. The reason is, you can find honey dew within each banana flower and that nectar tastes very sweet and refreshing. You should taste them....wow!!! They are one of my childhood favourites. When the plantain flowers are fresh and brought direct from the farm and most importantly in the early morning, you can find a drop of jelly-like, nectar inside each mature flower. My dad used to remember how his grandpa used to come from the farm with these banana infloresence hanging arond his neck, tied together by a rope and with a broad smile in his face. The grandchildren will be eagerly waiting for his arrival. The liquid which oozes out from the parts of plantain plant produces a nasty stain in the clothes. But his grandpa never cared about that. Still my great grandad's white shirts with banana stain is lying in my home. My dad kept them as a treasure and used to wear them during his granddads death anniversary every year, for sometime. That gave him a kind of satisfaction. My great granddad's sole aim was to see the happy smile of his grandchildren when he brings them something to eat and I must say that my dad came from a very poor family and the children rarely had any rich snacks. When my dad explains all this I loved to see the light in his eyes. He will be deeply involved in his chilhood memories of his grandad and the enjoyment they had with these flowers when they are young. I am sure those lovely memories made him to teach me and my sister about these banana nectar and where to look for them :).
How to clean the banana flower :
The first picture of the collage shows the banana infloresence. Each bunch of banana flowers are covered by the purple coloured bract. Remove each bract you will find the slim, nectar-rich, tubular, toothed, white flowers. They are shown in the second picture of collage. I should confess that I never get a fresh plantain flower from the shops here. That is why you see a black area in the flowers. They are not spoiled but they have become black as a result of long storage and exposure to air. Now see the third and the fourth picture of collage. They demonstrate you which parts of the flowers are non-edible and has to be removed. The parts that has to be removed are too thick so they cannot be used in cooking. The fifth picture shows the immature infloresence you will find when you remove a few layers of outer bracts and flowers. Just peel the banana infloresence layer by layer and you will find this immature collection of flowers at the center. They taste very, very, very yummy. When my mom is peeling the infloresence and collecting the flowers I will be eagerly waiting for this. You can just eat them raw :). The sixth picture of the collage shows the collection of flowers after removing the two non-needed parts. Now everything is ready for preparing the recipe. The more mature flowers will be on the outer layer of the infloresence and they become the banana or plantain in future and the lesser mature ones are more inside. When you buy a banana flower seperate the flowers into very mature and less mature ones. More mature flowers can be used for making this dish and the less mature ones and the beautiful immature infloresence in the fifth picture of the collage (if at all it is left without being eaten by you or your children) can be used for making yummy pulikuzhambu. This link has the best pictures please have a look.
Banana flower is rich in fiber. It is considered as an excellent remedy for painful mensturation and other menstural irregularities. It is thought to be good for lactating mothers. Beleive me this is very tasty too :).
Banana flower (cleaned and chopped finely, mature ones on the top of the infloresence)- 1 cup
Fried bengal gram dhal / pottukadalai- 1/2 cup
Onions- 1/2 or 4 shallots
Coconut meat- 2 one inch pieces
Fennel seeds- 1 tspn
Pepper corns- 1 tspn
Dried red chillies- 5 nos (adjust according to your taste)
Ginger- 1/2 inch piece
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste
Use the mature flowers of banana blossom or infloresence for this recipe. Remove the non-wanted parts from the individual banana flowers as shown in picture. Then cut them into small pieces and soak them in buttermilk. Now slice the coconut pieces. In a food processor grind together the banana flowers, fried gram dhal, fennel seeds, pepper corns, coconut pieces, dried red chillies, ginger and garlic with enough salt. The ground batter should be similar to vada batter. Now make small balls of the batter and fry them in hot oil. Repeat this process in batches. Very, very tasty kola urundai is ready to be relished.
Taste enhancing tips for this recipe : Selection of banana blossom or infloresence is very important. Look at the first picture of the collage. The blossom should have a red colour at the bottom. Then you can be sure that this blossom tastes good without the bitter taste. There are many varieties of banana and only the flowers from some banana varieties (country variety banana blossoms) taste good without the bitter taste. The removing of the unwanted parts from the flowers is a long job but be patient the final product will make you happy. The unwanted parts has to be removed only from the mature flower and in the immature, little flowers they pose no problem since they are soft and edible. The liquid oozing from the banana blossom creates nasty stain on clothes and even in your hand. Take care not to bring them in contact with the clothes and apply oil in your hand to prevent staining of your hands when processing the flowers for cooking. Soak the cut flowers in buttermilk. This helps in preventing the unpleasant, black colour that they acquire when they are exposed to air. Do not forget fennel seeds and pepper corns. They add zest to the dish. If the batter has become thinner and watery add corn flour or rice flour to make it thicker. These kola urundai make excellent snacks for young children and adults. They taste yummy with 'pappu sadham' too. Happy cooking !!!