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.]