Futzing around with banana blossoms

This post was meant to be dedicated to an experimental recipe with banana blossoms for Friday lunch. I’d never noticed banana blossoms before last Thursday’s visit to the hypermarket, but there they were, looking so exotic and adventurous sitting next to all the cucumbers and tomatoes and been-there-done-that-veggies that I just couldn’t resist. I had to buy them, even if I had no clue how to use them. I’d just figure out how to cook them when I reached home *silently cheers for google*

My strategy with ingredients new to me is called The Pinball [as of two seconds ago].

The Pinball is like a fast and furious and massive cyber mind suck of all the goodness of ideas and information available on the ingredient on the web. It involves speed reading through everything I find, super fast, not dwelling on any one thing for too long before I bounce off to another site, ping ping PING! clicking like a madwoman, online recipes, flavor descriptions, photos, anything and everything under the wiki sun flying about in my mind, zapping on lights and sparks as potential flavor combos hit it off with my brain cells…until JACKPOT! I have my own [albeit extremely jumbled] concoction involving said ingredient. It’s frenzied, inspirational…wizardry at its best.

Pinballing a new ingredient can be hugely successful and inventive. Or it can result in the most convoluted disasters of all time. Especially if you speed read through the technicalities of how to peel apart and use a banana blossom, only absorbing bits and pieces of the information [i.e. the fun bits that hit a few neurons and zapped on my pinball lights. there were other complex bits that didn’t hit anything, and hence passed through my head like water].

Result = banana blossom chicken curry, made with…all the brutally bitter parts of the blossom that you’re meant to…throw out.

Moral of story = NEVER speed read through the technicalities.

The person who pulled the plug on my gloriously headless pinballing was Rajani, who had spotted my excited tweets about the banana blossom creation simmering on my stove. She tweeted back with tips on how to use banana blossoms, and as the tweets hit my screen, I could feel this warm tingliness rush all across my face. [Oooooooooh, you’re meant to throw out those outer tough leaves? Ooooh, it’s those little flower things inside that you have to use? Ooh, just the outer petals, without the stamen? Oh shit.]

Yes – the pinball strategy can backfire. And when it does, you just have to wear your mortified jackass face and slowly back away from the lunch table.

So anyhow, I mucked up. I used the bracts – tough purplish leaves which honestly looked too gorgeous to throw out – and trashed exactly the part that you’re meant to cook, the blossoms. [you think: duuh...they must be called banana blossoms for a reason?! I think: yeeah. pinballing really messes with your head sometimes.] If I had taken the time to read through the fine print of banana blossom cleaning, I would have plucked out the stamen and used the leftover white part of the blossoms…

…as wisely shown on this site that Rajani shared with me. Complicated, too much work, going to have to find a restaurant from where to outsource this stuff already cooked.

Misery. This post was meant to have those glamorous photo shots of my banana blossom curry…coriander and cumin and mustard seeds crackling in hot mustard oil, gorgeous caramelized onions, tender chicken cubes that had been tenderized with raw papaya (a technique stolen from a soon-to-be-blogged-about South Indian restaurant called Aapa Kadai), curry ladled over rice, blossoms straying in the background, maybe a sprig or two of fresh coriander.

Instead, you just get my photos of the uncooked ingredient in question, pre-blossom bract curry downfall.

[In case you’re wondering, the parents and I actually did manage to stomach the bitterish chicken curry without too much agony. I sold it off as a dish that was meant to have an intentionally bitter twang. Sort of like bitter gourd. Don’t think the parents bought that explanation, but they ate it anyway…and live to tell the tale.]

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

12 thoughts on “Futzing around with banana blossoms

  1. Rohit Angle says:

    FUn read.. interestingly i bought Banana Blossoms this weekend too.. but my mom is here visiting, and she is gonna make them.. Goan Style! :) Can send you the recipe if you are interested.

  2. saleem says:

    At least we had something different to eat for lunch – was not bad, would have loved it if were a bit more spicy.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Rajani – I think I provided more entertainment than your bollywood film that day!

      @Rohit Angle – yay! thanks for stopping by, so awesome to hear from you. I absolutely DO want the recipe :D

      @saleem – daddys are such sweethearts. thanks dad, you’ve redeemed me.

  3. Your Maa says:

    Beta I am not suprised at all! you know what I mean na? Anywayz, it turned out well and was actually palatable! This is how new recipes evolve! Keep trying esp. on Fridays as I can Really Relax without the tension of What New to Cook on the weekend?

    1. Rashmi says:

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Auntyyyy you are the BESTEST Love You, Rash

  4. Yasmin says:

    This post made me laugh from start to finish (not in the mocking way!). You have such a wonderful way of writing up your posts. And who cares if the curry didn’t come out the way you hoped it would? There’s always a second time especially now that you know what to do with it. I say go for a Banana Blossoms part 2 ;)

  5. shafeena says:

    As always ! your pictures are incredible ! Though the dish didn’t turn out well !! And look you have such a nice mom !! i hope ayaan grows up to be this way ! Experimenting with food and stuff :D

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Maa – hrmph. fine, I can be a klutz. but thanks for showing me the bright side…t’is true that such klutzy mishaps lead to new and amazing culinary discoveries! Thanks for the words of encouragement, your Friday chef always stands by ready to try something new (and hopefully not blow up the kitchen!)

      @Yasmin – Glad my disasters are continuing to provide entertainment to all! ;) I think banana blossoms part 2 is quite a while away…need some recovery time. For next Friday, maybe I will pick up that intriguingly shaped veggie sitting right next to the blossoms in the supermarket…

      @shafeena – thank you! I think I should stick to photographing food rather than cooking it ;) That’s a beautiful name by the way, Ayaan, me like.

  6. Rashmi says:

    FoodNymph – You are an absolute GENIUS…Witty, funny, your photography skills are ingenius & of course, I’m always sooooooooo hungry after reading your blog…Keep up the posts, they make my day !

  7. abigail says:

    Funny! and I’m really sorry your banana blossom curry was a semi failure. We call this "puso ng saging" (banana heart), I remember one time visiting the market back home I asked the lady if we can weigh the blossom right after I peeled away the hard part since I won’t be using it anyway :)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Rashmi – hehehe…sweets, most people would feel nauseous after this post considering my goof-up, but I\’m glad you\’re working away hungry and happy ;) and yeh, mom is truly the bestest, she deserves the nobel peace prize for extraordinary patience!

      @abigail – ha! smart – and makes so much sense. 90% of this thing goes to waste, so why pay for it all. More grocers need to think like you!

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