Have you ever tried a banana flower salad? I have to admit that until I tried this salad I never really considered a banana flower or how bananas grew. It's a dish that is often seen on Thai and Vietnamese menus and has a wonderfully crunchy, fresh texture to it. So what's the best dish to make with it and how do you use a banana flower?
With all new ingredients come new tips and techniques and the key to using banana flower is to put it in acidulated water (1 tablespoon vinegar added to 1 litre of water) as soon as you cut it open. This keeps it fresh and prevents it from browning. You use the leaves minus the little fingery bits and it is delicious raw (and tastes nothing like a banana). I paired with raw snake beans, Thai basil and a coconut sauce (because while you're buying banana flower you may as well buy all the other ingredients that you can find at the Thai supermarket).
This recipe is based on a dish that we used to order a lot. Nowadays we don't get takeaway much but we used to order takeaway Thai food a lot when I was at university. The banana flower salad with poached chicken from Spice Market in Double Bay became a frequent order for us. I'm sure theirs is more elaborate but this simple, pared down version is perfect for making at home. I was so excited and waited for Mr NQN to come home so he could try it.
He came home from work and sat down a little troubled. He had seen something on the walk to work and wanted to see what I thought. He was walking down Crown Street in Surry Hills when he passed a school. There were young kids playing in the front assembly area. There was a man with his back to them and Mr NQN walked between the man and the kids and saw that the man was holding a small sign.
He looked closer and it read: "Free girls bike". Mr NQN thought that it sounded suspicious so he told me about it.
"Did you call the police? Did you take a photo of him?" I asked. Because to me it just set off all sorts of warning bells immediately. And without seeing the man myself, I said with certainty that it was definitely not right. That's not how you give away a free bike. He promised me next time he would call the police and take photos of the man.
So tell me Dear Reader, what do you think? Dodgy or not dodgy? What would you have done? Have you ever made anything with banana flower?
Banana Flower Salad With Poached Coconut Chicken
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 15 minutes plus 20 minutes resting
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 2 for dinner
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 banana flower
- 1 golden eschallot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch Thai basil, leaves only
- 1 bunch snake beans (about 10 long beans), cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2/3 cup deep fried shallots
- 1/4 cup roasted cashews
- 2 red chillies
- 150ml/5fl ozs. coconut cream
- a dozen cooked prawns
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar syrup
Step 1 - First poach the chicken breast. In a saucepan, cover the chicken breasts with water and heat to a simmer. Turn heat down low so that it is barely simmering-there should only be a few bubbles appearing as you want to softly poach the chicken. Cook for 10-15 minutes and check that the breasts are cooked through at the fattest part. Remove from water and cool.
Step 2 - Have a bowl of acidulated water ready (add 2 tablespoons vinegar to 1 litre of water). You will want to work quickly to prevent the banana flower going brown too quickly. Cut the banana flower lengthways and cut out the core. Remove the little "fingers". Finely slice the banana flower and place into the water. Leave for 20 minutes.
Step 3 - Meanwhile mix the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar syrup to make the dressing. Prepare the rest of the ingredients. Squeeze the water out of the banana flower and place in a large bowl. Add the eschallot, basil leaves, snake beans, deep fried shallots, cashews and chillies. Toss with prawns, the dressing and half of the coconut cream. Slice the chicken breast and top with the rest of the coconut cream and serve.