I had seen these banana flowers last summer in Tyre, our southernmost coastal city lined with banana plantations. As it turns out, they are consumed in many countries in Asia, just not in Lebanon (or the rest of the Levant for that matter).
These flowers are mild-tasting (like a Belgian endive without the bitterness) and have health benefits (click here to read up on those).
I saw curries made with the banana flower (India), salads (Vietnam and Malaysia). Well, it is close to 90C here, so a salad was more appropriate.
You need to peel the layers of outer skin and then you run into baby bananas, which can be either discarded or consumed provided you remove certain portions like the inside pistil and leaf; I chose to discard them today. The tender leaves inside are chopped and immediately dropped into a bowl with some lime or lemon juice, otherwise the leaves will turn black quickly.
To see how a banana flower is cut, click here.
- 1 Large banana flower
- 2 Large carrots
- 2 Large parsnips
- 1 pound of large shrimp
- 1 Large shallot or 2 stalks of scallions
- 3 limes
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1 cup of yogurt
- 1 cup of assorted fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, mint)
- 4 cloves of garlic, mashed with a teaspoon of salt
- Salt, pepper, to taste, 2 teaspoons of sumac, a teaspoon of chili powder or paprika
- Rind of a lime
- Peel and devein the shrimps; grate some lime rind on the shrimps, season them with salt, pepper and a couple teaspoons of sumac. Set aside. Peel and shred the carrots and parsnips and place in a big bowl. Squeeze the juice of the limes and set aside. Mince the fresh herbs and set aside.
- Peel the outer banana leaves and cut from both ends. Cut the flower in half, remove the stalk and all the baby bananas and cut the inner tender leaves in very thin slivers. Place in a bowl with 3 cups of water and 1/4 cup of lime juice.
- Make the dressing: Mash the garlic with some salt, add the yogurt and stir, add the olive oil and some paprika (or chili powder) and stir.
- Parboil the carrots and parsnips a few minutes in a pot with 1/2 cup of water and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the veggies steam; uncover and allow the water to evaporate.
- Heat some olive oil in a skillet and quickly pan-fry the shrimps. Add to the bowl of veggies. Add the drained banana flowers.
- Pour the dressing over the shrimp and veggies and stir. Serve the salad at room temperature.
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