Thursday, December 6, 2007

Raw Banana Cutlets

While the coconut tree is often described as “kalpavriksha” (wish fulfilling tree), I think of the banana tree as the real kalpataru, with almost every part being of some use.

The ripe fruit liked by most people and probably one of the cheapest fruit available in India, is one of the first foods fed to babies being weaned and is enjoyed by children and adults alike. The raw fruit is cooked – mostly in South Indian cuisine – and eaten like a vegetable.

Ripe or raw, the fruit is packed with Vitamin B, Vitamin C and potassium while having a high proportion of fibre too and a very low fat and sodium content. It is used by people to gain weight as well as lose weight. It can help constipation as well as help in stopping diarrhea.

Maybe a fruit of contradictions, but is also a ceremonial fruit and the neivedyam (ritual offering) to the Gods, whether on festive occasions or for daily prayer, always includes it.
Pics above and alongside are from wikipedia
The flower too is cooked; vazhapoo poriyal (foogath) and vadais are quite popular in Tamil cuisine, though I hated the whole process of plucking and cleaning the flowers which used to make my hands so sticky – that no amount of scrubbing with buttermilk or Teepol (does that even exist now?) used to get them clean.

The tender core of the banana stem is also cooked (vazhathandu poriyal) and is supposed to be very beneficial for the kidney. In fact, the juice of the stem is recommended by even mainstream allopathy doctors for flushing out kidney stones.

The banana plant (often mistaken for a tree because of its tall stem) is still one of the first plants to be planted in the backyard of a house in South India. The leaves are used on festive occasions as plates for the traditional meal to be served on (completely eco friendly!) and also to adorn the threshold or puja room. No wedding preparation begins without the banana stem, complete with the flower and a bunch of unripened fruit hanging from it, being first tied to the entrance of the hall where the ceremony will take place.
The leaves were also used till recently, to carry packed food while travelling; in cooking they are used to wrap and steam food, a process which imparts a distinct flavor to the dish cooked in it.

The banana plant is also a source of fibre which has been long used in production of traditional textiles and yarns, most notably in Japan. Banana fibre is also used in making banana paper usually for artistic purposes. More on banana here

Plaintains are a starchier and coarser variety of the same genus but are different from bananas. For a delightful discourse on the differences between bananas and plantains, look here and images and more info at IFR

There was a phase some years back when I was obsessed with cutlets, I used to try all kind of cutlets – my poor guests didn’t know what they were eating half the time, but they used to put on their bravest smiles and reach for the plate being waved in their faces!
So amid, the arvi (sticky potato) tikkis and rajma patties there came a time when there appeared raw banana cutlets. This was one of the cutlets which didn’t make one wonder what it was made of – the starchiness inherent made it taste a lot closer to potatoes than the others.

I initially followed a recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor, but over time I have just followed my own preferences and made it with whatever is convenient and at hand. I usually add crushed roasted peanuts and stay away from the “potato to bind”, since it’s not that difficult to shape them and keep them from falling apart by using some breadcrumbs or flour.

This recipe goes to Weekend Herb Blogging – which is being hosted this week by Simona @ Briciole

Raw Banana Cutlets

(Makes 5-6 cutlets)

Raw Bananas – 2 medium sized
Flour (all purpose/whole wheat) – 2 tbsp
Bread Crumbs – ½ cup
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Peanuts – roasted and crushed – ¼ cup
Coriander leaves – handful – cleaned and chopped
Amchur (raw mango) powder – ¼ tsp or 1 tsp lemon juice
Salt – to taste
Oil – to shallow fry or grill

1. Pressure cook the raw banana for 4-5 whistles (15 minutes approx) till it is cooked. Just about 1/4 cup of water in the vessel is enough.
2. Cool and peel the skin, mash the bananas with fingers or back of a fork.
3. Add the chopped coriander leaves, chilli powder, cumin powder, amchur and salt. Mix well and then add 1 tbsp of flour and ¼ of the bread crumbs.
4. The mixture should come together in your hands, if it sticks, add some more flour a tsp at a time till you are able to shape cutlets with your hand.
5. Shape about 6 equal cutlets, roll them in the remaining bread crumbs and keep aside.
6. Heat a tava (griddle) and add about 1 tbsp oil to it, arrange the cutlets on the tava. Drizzle about a tsp of oil over the cutlets and cook them on a medium flame for about 3-5 minutes, turn them and cook for another 3 minutes, drizzling another tsp of oil if necessary.
7. Alternatively, you can grill them in a pre heated oven at 180C for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, smearing oil on both sides before putting them in.
8. Serve warm with mint chutney.


Mansi Desai said...

I've just eaten raw bananas in curry-style..this looks like a nice way to consume them!

Cynthia said...

I never used to like raw banana until one day I had it in a salad in St. Lucia, since then, it has been pure love all the way :)

Will try your cutlets.

bee said...

Great post. Its a versatile plant indeed. Have had all dishes that you describe and it brought back memories. Thanks. Jai

Miri said...

Thanks Jai! I would love to have the vazhapoo vadai sometime, but me making it won't happen I think, hate the mess...

Cynthia and's a nice way to have this veggie...I have never had it in a salad though!

Simona said...

Very informative post. I am so intrigued by your dish that the only thing I can think of is: I'd love to be one of your guests!


Very nice recipe,information miri!!

Miri said...

You're most welcome Simona - I love having guests over :)

Laurie Constantino said...

This was a very interesting an informative post. I'm wondering though, by raw bananas, do you mean unripe bananas?? Sorry I'm confused!

Kalyn said...

Very interesting. I didn't know that so many parts of the banana plant could be used in all these different ways. Wish I could taste it.

Miri said...

Hi Laurie,yes unripe green bananas are used in this recipe. The ones we get here are picked quite raw so they don't really ripen into anything that can be eaten as a fruit.

Plaintains are different from bananas, though in the US plantains are referred to as "bananas". Read more on the difference in the link to Jugalbandi which I have included in my post.
Hope this helped

Laurie Constantino said...

Yes, thank you very much, it did help a lot. I think my confusion is that I think of both ripe and unripe bananas as being raw. But now I understand.
So if I see very green bananas (not plaintains, but bananas that will shortly turn yellow), do you think I could make this recipe?

Miri said...

I think that would work.....they just need to be really hard and unripe.

I understand what you mean by the raw/cooked vs ripe/unripe meaning - different language usage always fascinates me!