Kim Fay is the author of Communion, about her travels in Vietnam. Her sister, who took the pictures in the book, has a recipe for a Banana Flower Salad (below). Hear Kim on Good Food tomorrow. Here’s an interesting read on Banana Flowers.
Julie’s Banana Flower Salad
Using recipes from our cooking classes at the Metropole in Hanoi and the Cargo Club Cooking School in Hoi An as a base, Julie perfected this salad. Highlighted by the hot-tart play of chili and lime off the crisp rings of the banana flower, it is a refreshing dish that is perfect for a hot summer day. If banana flowers are unavailable, a good substitute is peeled and shredded green papaya.
2 banana flowers, thinly sliced (see directions)
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
Scant 1/4 cup shallot, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil, coarsely chopped
3 Tablespoons lime juice + 1 lime for the bowl of water
Large bowl of room temperature water
3 Tablespoons lime juice
2 tsp brown sugar
1 red Thai chili, chopped
2 tsp fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet. Sauté the shallots until golden brown. Leave them in the oil, and set aside to cool.
2. Squeeze fresh lime juice into the bowl of water. This will be used to prevent the banana flower slices from turning brown.
3. Peel back the dark purple layers of the banana flower until you reach layers with just a hint of purple. Using a mandoline, slice the banana flower into thin rings, beginning at the point and slicing about three-quarters of the way down. The rings will look similar to onion rings. Immediately soak the rings in the lime water until ready to use. Set aside.
4. Once the oil is cool, mix in half of the mint leaves and half of the Thai basil with the sautéed shallots.
5. Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Heat lovers will want to add more chili.
6. When you slice the banana flower, you will end up with small bits from the center of the flower. Strain these out using a spoon. Don’t worry if you don’t get all of them. Remove the banana flower from the water, and combine with the shallot/mint/basil mixture, chopped peanuts, and remainder of the fresh mint and basil.
7. Toss in the dressing, and serve.
Serving: 4 as a side or 2 as a main dish.