Enjoying challenging myself to add to the WeekendNotes vast library.
Published October 4th 2021
Banana flowers are a great vegan fish alternative
Banana Blossom/flower F &C alternative plated and ready to serve, by author 2021.
From local supermarkets in a tin is the savoury and uniquely textured Thai food of banana blossom. Purchasing this treat indicates on the can to use it for curries (which sounds like the most orthodox version of this food) but also on the can is 'use as fish in vegan fish and chips'. Hence, this is a quick guide on some ways to think about making a vegan battered F & C alternative, using the white flesh of canned banana blossom. I got the wheat flour version and made my own batter out of chickpea flour and brown rice flour and a sprinkle of salt and water to my preferred level of consistency, but I'll also display a recipe from elephantasticvegan.com for a direct and advanced version.
That recipe used European ingredients like dill, (I think they're trying to simulate real fish and chips) and serves it with chips, and vegan sauces, but all I did instead was get half a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of brown rice flour per cup of chickpea flour, add water to it and stir with a spoon until you get a batter consistency, and then coat the blossoms in brown rice flour, dip in batter and deep fry, As it's a bit messy, I've left just the one photo above, and one piece is all the leftover pieces pieced together and coated in batter, hence a great way to make the plate look full and use up those extra bits and pieces. I think the way the blossoms are very stringy means it will bubble the oil a lot, so it's highly recommendable to leave some room at the top of your pan, and until getting the hang of it, cook one to two pieces at a time. Freshly picked banana flowers are not recommended although can be specially prepared for cooking, however this recipe requires canned banana blossoms available in 400-gram cans from Woolworths where one can feed three people - perhaps buying two cans to be certain.
Chickpea and brown rice flours make the dish even healthier, it's a great thing to experiment with for that reason. The linked blog versions use turmeric in the batter so there are some ideas for spicy batters, but the nutrition information on the can shows the blossoms as a little bit high in dietary fibre, but low in calories so ideal for those who want deep-fried food for fewer calories, and less than a gram of fat per 75 grams of product but also low in protein.
Consuming the dish is interesting, the blossoms are tasteless and ought to be given time to cool off, as sometimes big pieces can be high in water and depending on cooking time, can get very hot. Due to being a bit fibrous, sometimes the outer pieces can be hard to swallow so, it's an option is to peel the outer layers so you only get the rich and softer inner layers - and just batter and deep fry those.
A bit of chilli either in the batter or in an accompanying sauce/dressing would have been delightful. In fact, I just used lemon and that was nice too, but that hint of chilli somewhere in my presentation would have been an avenue worth exploring - because it goes with the exotic taste of the canned banana blossoms flesh, along with my chickpea batter. It's actually more like a deep-fried soft shell crab texture, due to the stringy texture getting softer and softer, although a bit like Asian vegetables for being fibrous rather than crunchy like shellfish.
It's not an exact substitute for fish - it's got a fun texture and interesting but it's not all that strong a flavour. I think due to the low calories, this is a pleasant surprise at least for the health-conscious, and a rare, almost permissible low calorie escape to the world of deep-fried food.