Plantain Two Ways

Plantain is such an under-appreciated vegetable in so many cultures. Even here, in the Caribbean, they make tostones, fried plantains and that’s it. But we, South-Indians have so many plantain recipes. And seeing plantains so often in the supermarket, in the farmer’s market, or simply on the street side shops, makes me very happy.

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Vazhakkai, has so many uses in the South-Indian kitchen. We make so many sides, bajji, pan-fried, sautéd with spice powder, steamed, and I’m sure so many more preparations. I’m gonna try all of them, as plantains are in season here now. In fact, in South India, we use every part of the banana tree. We cook with banana stems, blossoms, plantains, bananas, we eat on banana leaves.. I remember a time when we used to go to our grandmother’s house for summer vacation, and there were a few banana and coconut trees in backyard, and we used to cut banana leaves just before lunch to eat on them.

But here, in the Cayman, it’s still here. If you go down south, to the older, non-touristy parts, every house has a couple of banana trees and coconut trees, sometimes neem trees and mango trees. (New life aim to live in one such house).

In the past one month (it’s been a month since we moved here? :O), with my limited kitchen utensils (no, our shipped stuff is still somewhere mid-atlantic), I’ve tried out 2 recipes using local plantains. One is pan-fried, and the other steamed. Will give both recipes here. I am also currently ripening one plantain to make platanos maduros. More on that later. Now to the recipes.

Pan-Fried Plantain (Vazhakkai varuval)

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Ingredients :

Plantains – 2
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Chili powder – 1 tsp
Salt, to taste
For tempering –
Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – few
Asafoetida – a pinch

Method :

  1. Peel and slice plantain thinly. You can use a mandoline for this.
  2. Marinate it in a mixture of turmeric, chili powder and salt for salt.
  3. Heat a wide pan, add oil and temper mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida.
  4. After the mustard seeds splutter, add the marinated plantains to the pan, and try to spread them so they’re in an even, single layer on the pan. (If your pan is too small, and the plantains look crowded, pan-fry in two batches).
  5. Pan-fry them, on medium high heat, turning once or twice, so it cooks evenly on all sides.
  6. When it’s cooked through, and you have the desired level of crispiness, remove from pan and serve.

Vazhakkai podi (Plantain spiced powder)

The traditional recipe, of course, doesn’t use flaxseeds. I’m adding it here because, flaxseed is super healthy with fibre and omega3, but has to be eaten powdered and raw. Also we should consume it immediately after grinding. So this podi is only meant for serving right away, not to be kept for later and eaten. But, even if the nutrients deteriorate, it would still be good kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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Ingredients:

Plantain – 1
Urad dal – 2 tbsp
Chana Dal – 2 tbsp
Red Chili – 2
Curry leaves – few
Flaxseed – 1 tbsp (optional)
Tamarind – 1/4 tsp of extract, or tiny bit of raw tamarind
Salt – to taste
Asafoetida – a pinch

Method:

  1. Steam the plantains with their peel on, in a steamer or in your pressure cooker for 10-15 min.
  2. Remove off steamer, and peel the plantains. The peel should slip off easily. Grate the plantains on a box grater and keep aside.
  3. Roast the dals, red chiles and curry leaves in a tsp of oil till golden brown.
  4. Grind the roasted stuff, along with a bit of tamarind, salt, and asafoetida coarsely.
  5. Add the grated plantain, spin the blender a few more times, till you get an even mixture.
  6. Vazhakkai podi can be eaten mixed with plain white rice and ghee. Or you can use it as side for curd rice, idli, dosai.

Nombu Adai

Steamed Sweet and Savory rice and black-eyed peas cakes, served with butter

Karadaian Nombu (Karadai literally means savory adai, cannot imagine anywhere else a festival would be named after food) is celebrated widely in Tamil Nadu, in honor of a mythical character called Savitri, who brought back her husband to life. So the women fast for the entire day, praying for their husband’s long and healthy life, and ending the fast by eating these tasty and healthy adais. You don’t have to fast or pray, but these adais are mighty good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

There are two versions, the sweet one, made with rice flour, jaggery, black-eyed pea (dry beans, has nothing to do with the hip-hop band), and coconut. The savory one, ginger & green chilis replace jaggery. Usually they are served with fresh, unsalted butter.

Coconut and black-eyed peas
Sweet Adai

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 1 cup
Jaggery – 1 cup (or 3/4 cup if you don’t like it very sweet)
Water 1 1/4 cup
Cardamom (powdered) – one pinch
Fresh grated coconut – 3 tablespoons
Black eyed peas – 1/4 cup
Roasted cashew nuts – 5 – 6 (optional)
Ghee to grease the pans (or butter)

Method:

1. Dry roast the rice flour for a few minutes. Don’t let it change color, this is just to remove moisture if any.

2. Dry roast the black eyed peas, and pressure cook (or boil in water) for about 10 minutes, till cooked but not mushy.

3. Dissolve jaggery in water, and filter it twice (sometimes jaggery may have impurities)

4. Bring the jaggery water to a boil, add cardamom, and then the rice flour and stir without lumps.

5. Mix in peas, coconut and cashews (if using).

6. Once the mixture has cooled a bit, flatten it into patties. (this dough makes about 12 – 15 adais)

7. Steam the adais in a idli cooker or a bamboo steamer (or your favorite steaming method).

8. Serve it hot with butter.
Savory rice and black-eyed peas cake - ready to be steamed

Savory Adais

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 1 cup
Water 1 1/4 cup
Fresh grated coconut – 3 tablespoons
Black-eyed peas – 1/4 cup
Green chili – 1 (chopped finely)
Ginger (chopped fine) – 1 teaspoon
Salt – to taste
For tempering – oil (1 tsp), mustard seeds (1/2 teaspoon) and curry leaves (a few)

Method:

1. Dry roast the rice flour for a few minutes. Don’t let it change color, this is just to remove moisture if any.

2. Dry roast the black eyed peas, and pressure cook (or boil in water) for about 10 minutes, till cooked but not mushy.

3. Heat oil in a pan, and temper the mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Add the ginger and chili and fry for a minute.

4. Add water and bring it to a boil, then the rice flour and stir without lumps.

5. Mix in peas, and coconut and salt to taste.

6. Once the mixture has cooled a bit, flatten it into patties. (this dough makes about 12 – 15 adais)

7. Steam the adais as before.

8. Serve it hot with butter.

Tips:

1. Prep the rice flour and black eyed peas for both the recipes at one go. It’s much easier that way.

2. Try serving the savory adais as an appetizer with mint chutney!

3. Jaggery is usually available in Indian stores, but if you don’t find it, use dark brown sugar. It won’t taste the same, but it will definitely taste good.