Banana flower Bhaji / Kel Phoolache Bhaji / Banana Blossom Stir fry


Banana blossom, Banana flower or banana heart, is the end of the stem holding the bunch of bananas. It is tropical vegetable used in Asian cooking and is available worldwide in Asian and Indian grocery stores year round. Banana flowers are high in vitamins A and C and have modest amounts of calcium and iron.  They are a good source of fibre. Banana flowers are commonly used as vegetables for cooking in countries such as Laos, India, Thailand, China, Burma, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam,

Ingredients

  • 1 Banana Blossom, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp. urad dal (split black gram)
  • 1 tbsp. chana dal (split Bengal gram)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 top 4 garlic, chopped
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • 3 to 4 Kokum petals (Mangosteen)
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp. salt or to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh grated coconut
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander
  • ½ cup butter milk

Preparing the banana blossom for cooking and a bit tedious and lengthy process, but totally worth it. Before cleaning the blossom, apply oil to your palms and fingers to avoid them becoming sticky and black from the sap.  Also makes it easier to wash-off.

First cut-off the tip and the stem so removal of the leaves (bracts) becomes easier. Remove the deep crimson outer bracts from banana blossoms.  Beneath each bract is a row of fronds/florets, remove and set aside. These are the male flowers that did not grow into bananas. Thus continue till you reach the inner petals, or bracts, which are the edible parts. Clean the florets by looking for the Calyx (the small petal in the front) and the Pistil (the long stem with a head like a matchstick).  Remove these as they don’t cook.  Discard the crimson bracts and the pistil and calyx.  You may reserve two to three clean and deep colored bracts to serve the bhaji and use them as decorative plates to enhance presentation.

Then take a bowl of water and add ½ cup butter milk and mix.  Chop the heart and florets finely and immediately immerse in the diluted butter milk till required to prevent oxidation and discoloration.

To cook, boil water in a vessel and add the chopped vegetable and cook 10 minutes, adding 1 tsp. Salt.  Strain in a sieve or colander and keep aside. Chop the onion, garlic and green chillies.  Heat oil in a vessel, when hot add the mustard seeds, when they crackle, add the urad dal and the chana dal.  Saute till light brown.  Then add the curry leaves and kokum, garlic and green chillies.  Fry 30 seconds and add the onions and fry till translucent.  Add ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. turmeric powder and mix well.  Add the boiled banana blossom, ½ cup water, mix.  Cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir at intervals.  Then add the fresh coconut and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup coriander leaves chopped, reserve some for garnish.  Mix well, take off flame and serve hot with chapatis, neer dosa, panpole or with rice as an accompaniment.  Tastes great with any Indian bread.

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