The Banana flower, also known as Kele ka phool, Banana Blossom, Ngapyaw photo, Puso, or Kehel Mal, is a large, purplish blossom that grows from the end of a bunch of bananas. The leaves enclose scented flowers, and the inner tender leaves are used in cooking. It is considered a vegetable in several tropical and Asian cuisines.
However, be cautious when cutting the banana flower as the cut ends release a sticky sap that can stain hands and clothes. It is advisable to rub oil on your hands before cutting the banana flower. First, remove the tough outer leaves or bracts and steam the remaining flower whole until tender, which takes about 15 minutes. Allow it to cool and then chop or slice as required. Alternatively, you can chop the banana flowers and soak them in buttermilk until used to prevent excess sap from sticking and avoid the flowers from turning black.
Choosing and Preparing Banana Flowers:
- Choose a fresh flower: Look for a banana flower that is firm, with tightly packed layers of bracts. Avoid flowers that are wilted or have begun to turn brown.
- Cleaning: Peel off the tough outer layers of the banana flower until you reach the tender, pale-yellow inner layers. Rinse the inner layers in cold water to remove any dirt or debris.
- Soaking: Soak the banana flower in a bowl of cold water with a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of vinegar to help remove any bitterness. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Removing the Stamen: Once the flower has soaked, remove the tough, stringy stamen from the center of the flower and discard.
Cooking with Banana Flowers:
- Salads: Thinly slice the banana flower and add it to a salad with other fresh vegetables and a tangy dressing.
- Stir-fry: Cut the banana flower into thin strips and stir-fry with other vegetables and your favorite protein.
- Curry: Combine the banana flower with coconut milk, spices, and other vegetables to make a flavorful curry.
- Fritters: Mix the banana flower with chickpea flour and spices to make fritters that can be fried or baked.
Nutritional Benefits of Banana Flowers:
Banana flowers are low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants. Banana flowers have also been used in traditional medicine to treat a range of health conditions, including menstrual cramps, ulcers, and kidney stones.
Banana flowers are a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can add flavor and texture to a variety of dishes. With a little preparation, you can enjoy the unique taste and health benefits of this edible flower in your cooking. Whether you add it to a salad, stir-fry, curry, or fritter, banana flowers are sure to impress your taste buds and your guests.