Banana blossom salad is using the flower of the banana tree and is popular in whole of South and South East Asia from South India to Indonesia. Funny enough, I have never come across this salad in South China, despite its many banana trees. Each region provides its particular ingredients: Thailand tends to use fried coconut and Thai basil, India may use sesame and tamarind and Vietnam tends to use green mango and Vietnamese mint. Banana blossom heart is rich in iron and fibers.
The art of making banana blossom salad
It is important to use a young flower. The heart of the flower is sensitive to discoloration but ice water with lime juice preserves the color. The banana flower has a bit of an astringent taste, which invites mixing in acid and sweet flavors. Usually these come from lime juice and palm or cane sugar, respectively. The salad does not use salt, but instead fish or soy sauce are used. Chilli peppers provide a spicy kick, but if you do not prefer spicy, leave them out. In this recipe we also use some green bell pepper, some carrot and some green mango. Also fresh herbs and freshly roasted peanuts provide for a rounded taste and fried onions or shallots are used for the final garnish.
There are some similarities among the dressings of the banana blossom-, the green mango– and the pomelo salad.
- mortar and pestle (alternatively use a zip log bag and a dough roller)
- herb centrifuge for drying
Ingredients to make the salad
- 2 limes
- 1.5 quart (1.4 liter) (ice) cold water
- 1 small to medium banana blossom
- 1/2 green bell pepper
- 1/2 green mango
- 1/4 carrot
- 1/2 cup raw peanuts
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh Vietnamese mint leaves
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
Ingredients to make the dressing
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tsp palm or cane sugar
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 red chilli (partially sliced) (optional)
Ingredients for the garnish
- 1.8 oz (50 g) shallot or red onion
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
Instruction to make the salad before mixing
Prepare the ice cold water and squeeze the lime juice in it
Remove the outer two purple banana flower leaves and discard
Also remove the tiny banana's that are hidden between the leaves
Usually 4 more leaves are to be removed before the leaves become creamy white. Reserve these 4 leaves to serve the salad on later
Then slice the banana flower heart perpendicular in fine slices. It should look like onion rings. After slicing several rings, immediately place these in the lime juice containing ice cold water to preserve color and keep them there until putting the salad together
Place 1 tbsp of peanut oil in a skillet, heat up and add the raw peanuts and fry at medium heat while rolling the peanuts now and then. The peanuts should be roasted, but not burned. Let cool
Remove the peel of the green mango and slice one half in thin slabs. Then cut them in fine match sticks, around 2 inches long
Peel the carrot with a peeler to remove the outer skin. Then use the peeler to cut stripes of carrot and cut these 'peels' in longitude direction with your cooks knife. Also here make them not longer than 2 inches
Clean and slice a half green bell pepper in very fine slices and cut cross wise such as making them one an a half inch long
Wash and dry (using a centrifuge) the herbs. Vietnamese mint is also known as Vietnamese coriander, rau ram (in Vietnamese), or laksa leaves and its botanical name is Persicaria odorata. It is not part of the mint family, but of the pink weeds
Crush the cooled peanuts in a mortar and pestle into rough parts, not too fine
Remove the banana flower rings from the ice cold water, squeeze them with your hands to eliminate excess water and use them right away in the salad
Instruction to make the dressing
Chop or mince the garlic clove(s)
Mix the lime juice, the sugar, the minced garlic, the fish sauce and the chilli (if used) until all sugar is dissolved
Instruction to make the final salad
Slice the shallot or onion and fry in the peanut oil until crisp, but not burned. Let cool
Mix all the ingredients together and combine with the liquid dressing and let sit. I find combining the ingredients for several hours will cause the taste to be mellow and refined
After several hours, serve the salad on the reserved banana flower leaves and then garnish with the fried shallots or onion.
Method: no heat treatment
Food allergy & intolerance information: peanuts
- If you would like to make it non-vegetarian, add some cooked shrimp.
- If banana flowers are not available where you live, you could use very finely sliced white or green cabbage instead. The taste will be different, but still exciting.
- You can make endless variations, by adding or omitting ingredients. Some cook the banana heart, but thinly sliced raw and kept in acidic ice cold water will do.