We have a saying back home that if a house has a Banana plant, a neem plant and a cow, their food needs are almost fulfilled. Almost all parts of the banana plant can be used in cooking- the flower, the green plantain, yellow bananas and the banana stem. The banana leaf is used to serve food. Neem tree purifies the air and cow provides milk through which milk products like Ghee, Yogurt and Cheese are made. What more do you want?
If you ask me what else I need, I’d say another 4 pair of hands. Just to clean the banana flower and to pick out the necessary parts to cook. But the taste of banana flower is worth all the trouble. It is rare to find a banana flower here but I guess due to the freeze conditions, the Indian grocery shops have got a lot of fresh banana flowers. When I saw this post by Linda during our recipe marathon, I wanted the banana stem kootu. I almost shouted in joy when I saw them last week and quickly grabbed one to make this kootu and a vadai(lentil donuts).
Plantain flower or the stem is good for health, especially women, it helps in regulating the cycles and also in fertility. If possible, cooking either the stem or the flower once a month will give good results.
Ingredients: (Serves 2-4)
Banana flower(small)- one flower
Turmeric Powder- 1/4 tsp
Sambar powder- 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Cooked Chana dal or Tuvar dal- 1 cup
To grind to a powder/paste:
Red Chilies- 4
Coconut- 5 tbsp
Chana dal- 2 tbsp
Coriander seeds- 3 tbsp
Oil- 1 tsp
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Urad Dal- 1/2 tsp
Chana dal- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- few
Asafoetida- 1/4 tsp
Toast the ingredients given under the section to powder. Cool and grind to a fine powder.
Cleaning the flower and removing the unwanted parts is the important step in cooking banana flower.
Peel just one outer layer if it looks too soggy. Start from the firm layer. When you peel one layer, you can see a line of small, match stick shaped mini flowers. Just take them out. This is what we have to use to make the kootu.
Keep repeating this steps, peel a layer and collect the match sticks shapes. When the layers become so dense and cone like and you cannot peel anymore, stop peeling. You can chop and use the remaining cone.
Once you have collected a bunch of those stick shapes, slightly squeeze each one(yes, you have to do this one by one). You will see a thick black head out of the bunch of fine strands inside the stick like structure.
Pull out the entire head(it is very light and easy). These black heads should be removed as any recipe will be bitter if they are used as it is. Discard these black heads.
Now proceed to chopping the stick structures (without the black heads). Mix a pinch of salt with turmeric powder in a cup of water and keep it handy. As soon as you chop the flowers, quickly transfer them to this bowl. This way the flowers won’t turn black in color. Proceed to chop the remaining flowers and transfer them to the bowl.
Once you have chopped the required amount, rinse the chopped flowers well with plain water. Place them in another bowl, add salt to taste, a pinch of turmeric powder, sambar powder and pressure cook it for one whistle.
Once it has cooled, drain the blackish water that the flower has cooked in (water given out during cooking).
Heat oil in a pot and add asafoetida and mustard seeds. When they splutter, add chana dal, urad dal, red chilies and curry leaves. Mash the cooked dal with a cup of water and the ground spice powder and add it to this pot. Let it simmer for 3-5 minutes. Now, add the boiled banana flower petals and let it simmer for another 7-10 minutes.
Once it all comes together and is thick, switch off, check for salt. Serve hot with rice. You will be hooked on to the taste once you make it. As usual, my favorite way to eat this kootu is with rasam. May be I should change my name to rasa priya 😀
Some banana flowers will be bitter in nature even after removing the black heads. We can’t help it.
Make sure that you have a paper towel or a plate to hold the flowers when you peel them. The liquid inside can leave a mark on the carpet of even on the clothes if you wipe your hands on them.
You can also apply some oil on your palms when separating these flowers.
These lamps made out of flour and ghee (clarified butter) are traditional in South India and are often made on a Friday as an offering to Gods.