believe it or not, there are supposedly over 500 different kinds of bananas and it's no surprise that not all of them are the same. the long and short of it is that they can be either eating ones [fruit] or cooking ones [vegetable], the latter belonging to the group called plantains [this site goes into the differences].
plantains are very popular in the caribbean, latin america, africa and india and, as a result, there are myriad ways of preparing them.
they come in three states of readiness:
- yellow [often with dark spots or patches]
so does it taste like a banana? not really. it is more a dense starchy "vegetable" much like a cooked potato even though it does have a telltale faint fruity flavour. it should be noted that there is also a bit of a sweet-sour flavour to them the riper they get. they are also glutinous which makes it easy to cook with them without using eggs as a binder.
in the following recipes, you can see how both the green and yellow one is peeled and can be prepared to give amazingly delicious and different results and textures. the first recipe results in a crispy item and is one from my cuban friends who make it at both hanukkah and passover. the second is an indian version which gives a totally different texture which is potato like and delectably savoury and sweet at the same time.
latkes de plátano
nothing could be simpler — a thin, crispy side dish or snack easily made from the plantain itself and a few seasonings.
1 large unripe (very green) plantain
1/4 tsp salt, heaped
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin, optional
to prepare the green plantain, take note that it will exude minute amounts of a sticky liquid so don't be alarmed. my friend's method is to moisten her hands and salt them to cut down on the initial tackiness when peeling the green plantain.
first, cut off the ends of the plantain and make a long horizontal cut through the skin all the way to the flesh but don't cut through it.
place the plantain in very, very hot water for 10 to 15 minutes to soak. this is to help loosen the skin.
after 10 to 15 minutes, the skin may have darkened. that is fine. remove the plantain from the water.
moisten your hands and put salt on them. now cut horizontally through the plantain in several places and peel back the skin. you may need a knife to help with this.
once that has been done, take the plantain and put it is salted cold water for another 10 to 15 minutes. discard the peels.
drain the plantain and grate it on the large holes of a grater. don't use the thin one. you'll notice the mixture will be a bit gluey.
place the grated plantain in a bowl and add the seasonings.
heat a pan with some oil over medium heat. divide your plantain mixture into 7 or 8 portions. place 4 portions in the oil when hot and fry until they are golden brown on one side. flatten them a bit as they fry; they should not be thick.
flip them over carefully and fry again until golden. remove to paper towel and drain.
serve these as a side dish or a snack. they are great with a splash of fresh lime! if you love crispy, you'll love these.
gingered plantain in a coconut and cashew sauce
this south indian recipe combines semi ripe plantains with cashews, coconut and yogurt to make a bright sweet and spicy side dish you won't regret making. its buttery flavour enhances the starchy potato like texture. using ghee adds a nutty flavour that regular butter just does not.
1 or 2 large semi ripe (yellow) plantain
1 1/2 tbsp melted butter or ghee
2 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
3 tbsp dried coconut
2 tbsp raw cashews
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, heaped
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp brown sugar or jaggery
1/3 c yogurt
1 tbsp melted butter or ghee
1/2 heaped tsp roasted and coarsely crushed cumin seeds
1/2 heaped tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp chopped coriander
heat the oven to 375 F.
cut both ends off and peel the plantain. at this stage of ripeness, it does not need to be soaked like the green one.
cut the plantain in half and then cut the sections in half horizontally.
cut each section into one inch pieces and then in half again.
place the plantain in a bowl and add the first 1 1/2 tbsp of butter or ghee and coat well. place these on a piece of well greased foil and then sprinkle the chopped crystallized ginger over the plaintain. seal the package well and place it in the oven. while the plantain is cooking, prepare the yogurt masala.
after 35 minutes, remove the plantain package and carefully open it.
in a blender or processor, grind the raw cashews and the coconut.
add the cayenne, turmeric, sugar and the yogurt. remove and place aside.
in a nonstick fry pan, add the 1 tspn of butter or ghee and fry the plantain and ginger over medium heat for about 3 minutes, it will brown a bit.
lower the heat and add the yogurt mixture and mix well. don't let it boil. you will notice that it thickens up considerably.
remove from the heat and add the salt, cumin and coriander and mix again.