19 January 2008

Green bananas

I mentioned in my last post that I bought some lovely free-trade bananas a while back. Problem is, "a while back" is over two weeks ago, and the bananas were still as bright green and rock hard as the day I picked them up.

A little research on the web revealed that sometimes, bananas just don't ripen, and will go bad without going through the stage where they get yellow and nice to eat with breakfast.

So suddenly, my Saturday afternoon project became "make something edible out of green bananas." I had no idea if this was even possible, but again, the internet to the rescue. (It's gotten to the point where, last night, my husband, who is skeptical of my reliance on google to answer any unanswered question, suggested that I would someday be driven to google "What to do when your husband thinks you google too much.")

I discovered that green bananas (distinct from plantains, although some recipes use them interchangeably) are, indeed, a legitimate substance for cooking, especially in southeast asian cuisines. You can make soups, salads, curries, and fries out of them, or just cook them up with some coconut milk and enjoy.

I opted for this recipe, which calls them "green banana kebab" but are basically little fritters. It suggests boiling the bananas in their skins, but suggests an alternative, microwaving them for 6-7 minutes. This I did. They came out steaming hot, and fell out of their skins like sweet potatoes, but less sweet. They were starchy and bland-tasting. Boy, handling a familiar food in a way that feels and smells and tastes completely different from how you usually prepare it creates a considerable cognitive disjunct!

Once I started mashing them, though, I realized they were still way too hard, so I popped the peeled bananas into a pot of boiling water for about ten minutes. (Again with the disjunct: BOILING bananas just felt so WRONG.) They still came out dry and starchy when I mashed them, but at least they weren't hard. I added some soy milk because the bananas seemed way to unlikely to merge together to form little cakes.

At this point, I was still pretty sure my experiment was going to be a disaster, but I have to say, quite proudly, that the finished product was tasty, spicy, and delicious with a little ketchup. If I hadn't been wrangling bananas for the previous hour, I would have guessed they were made from potato. I'm not sure that I would make them again unless I had the green banana problem, but to aid anyone out there who is looking for a green banana recipe, here's what I did. Oh, and I'm calling them beignets, because the Belgians seem to call any fried frittery thing a "beignet." And I am a fan of alliteration.

Green Banana Beignets

(adapted from Mamta's Kitchen)
makes about 16 fritters


6 very green bananas (not plantains)
1/4 cup (or more) unsweetened soy milk
1 red onion, finely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 green onion, green portion finely chopped
2 teaspoons coriander
1/2 teaspoon spicy chili powder (or more to taste)
salt to taste
vegetable oil for frying
one egg, beaten
bread crumbs (I made mine out of a dried baguette, grated in a box grater)


1. Boil bananas in their skin until tender. Or, prick with a fork and cook in a microwave on high for 7-9 minutes.
2. Cool, peel and mash bananas by hand or with a masher. Do not use a food processor.
3. Add milk until bananas will hold together when pressed.
3. Add onions, ginger, garlic, all the spices, salt and mix well.
4. Form into small round patties.
5. Heat a couple of tablespoons oil in a frying pan.
6. Dip each piece in the egg, one at a time, roll in bread crumbs on both sides, and fry in a non-stick pan. Cook four at a time in a medium pan, and add more oil between batches.
7. Fry all beignets, until golden brown and crisp on both sides.
8. Serve hot, with chutney, salsa, or ketchup, plain or on a bun.

Can be kept in the fridge or frozen. Reheat in a medium-hot oven.

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