Banana bud dishes spice up Valentine's Day


POSTED: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My 2009 cooking mission is to try a new ingredient every month. For February I chose the banana bud.

Three reasons: Valentine's Day approaches and (did you know this?) the banana bud is considered an aphrodisiac (because of its bulb-like elongated shape—need I explain further?); second, I've been seeing piles of the buds at the farmer's market in Waipahu; and finally, Theresa Chun wrote many months ago asking for help finding some recipes and it was time to come through.

To find yourself a banana bud, sometimes called a banana flower, head for Chinatown or a market that caters to Filipino or Southeast Asian cooks. I got mine at Waipahu Festival Marketplace, 94-340 Waipahu Depot Road.

It's a formidable thing, large and long, deep red on the outside, priced at about $1.50 per pound. Left attached to a tree, it would mature into a bunch of bananas.

Dissecting it is an adventure. Think of it like an artichoke, with layers and layers of leaves, or petals. They're red on the outside, pale yellow as you get closer to the heart, and under each layer is row of thin blossoms—the actual flowers that turn into bananas.

In Filipino cooking, the bud is sliced and stirred into soups and stews. It's frequently mentioned as an optional ingredient in Kare Kare, or oxtail stew. For complete recipes, the best sources are Thai or Indian.

This one is adapted from asiafood.org.


Thai Soup with Banana Bud

1 banana bud, about 3 pounds
Large bowl acidulated water (squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon into water)
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 stems fresh lemon grass, tough outer layers removed, thinly sliced
Zest of 1 lime
1 finger-sized piece ginger, sliced
3 fresh chilies, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 13-ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped green onions

Discard 3 to 4 outer petals of the banana bud, and the blossoms. Cut off stem and about an inch at base. Cut lengthwise into quarters. Cut each quarter crosswise into thin slices (between each layer of petals will be more blossoms; cut through these as well). Place slices immediately into acidulated water or they will quickly discolor. Let sit while you bring the 6 cups water to boil in large pot and prepare other ingredients.

Add banana bud slices, salt, lemon grass, lime zest, ginger, chilies and garlic to boiling water. When water returns to boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until tender.

Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice; remove from heat. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and green onions. Serves 8.


Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 130 calories, 11 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 650 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 3 g protein.