Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Raw banana dry curry - an aromatic experience

Raw bananas also called plantains or green bananas are used extensively in Indian cooking. While all varieties that are suited to be eaten ripe are not good for eating when raw, there are some varieties grown with the purpose of consuming when green. Given the bland taste, mellow flavor and texture, green bananas make a good replacement for potatoes in many dishes including cutlets. While I love this vegetable, I bring them not so frequently and only when I know I can use them up immediately as they tend to go brown and mushy on me if I leave them longer than a day. All that transport and travel would have made the green bananas spend their better youth in some long distance trucks and they are just barely holding up their color and shape for some unsuspecting customer like me to bring them home before they lose all that artificial vitality and slump. 

I did get some good ones this week and made this dry curry, green bananas are sauteed with an aromatic spice powder and coconut and seasoned. You can make this a little bit soft if you like by adding some water and letting the banana cook a little longer but we like to eat this as a side dish with anna-saaru (Rice & rasam). I have noted a couple of variations at the end if you are interested. 

I met an acquaintance the other day and we were generally talking about stuff while book reading came up in the conversations. I think in this super electronic times we are living in, book reading (I mean holding a real paper book, feeling the pages and smelling a new book) is becoming a thing of the past. I am kind of old fashioned in that respect, no audio or electronic books for me, I keep my paper books on my night stand always. Though the reading has come down dramatically for both self and BH from the old times, we still love to cuddle up with a book whenever possible. I found a few good ones recently and thoroughly enjoyed them. One of them was 'The Reading Promise' by Alice Ozma. The book itself was a reminder that no matter what other media takes over, there is no replacement to holding, touching and feeling a paper book.

This is a heartwarming journey of a daughter and her single parenting father through the books they read as part of a promise. It is a story of a promise that gets kept through the years, a commitment that is fulfilled under many adversities of life. Told by the daughter as a memoir the book paints a wonderful, touching father-daughter relationship and their shared love for literature and reading.  It is a funny, witty read with enormous insights into the life of a dedicated father who inculcates the love of reading in his child while imparting beautiful life lessons.

The book begins with slightly contradicting memories of father and daughter about how they started ‘The Streak‘ and takes you through funny anecdotes about their secret boy hating club of America which meets strangely in the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, losing a pet, becoming a motherless family, helping Dad make the biggest sales in his school book fair,  understanding adult grief and helping her dad to feel better about his own father’s death, getting her first C grade on her favorite subject but realizing her countless blessings. What shines through all the chapters is the father’s unwavering commitment to being the best parent he can. It is about being curious and always striving to learn something new.

I was reminded of my own little girl at various points in the book for her love of devouring any book she lays her eyes on, it is changing slowly with the electronics she is surrounded by but I am happy to see reading is still her first love.

After a good read, here I am, back to a lazy day luncheon with some anna-saaru and raw banana (Baalekaayi) palya.
What do you need to make raw banana dry curry? 
3 raw firm green bananas
3-4 dry red chilies (adjust to taste)
1.5 Tsp salt (adjust to tatse)
1 Tsp crushed jaggery
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tsp chopped cilantro - for garnish
To roast and powder:
2 Tblsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
2 Tblsp coriander seeds
1 Tblsp cumin
small piece of tamarind or 1 Tsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin
2-3 curry leaves

How do you make raw banana dry curry? 
  • Wash and peel the bananas, cut in half vertically and chop into thin slices. Put them in a vessel containing cold water until you are ready to use them.
  • Heat a pan on medium heat, add coriander seeds, cumin and pieces of dry red chilies and dry roast them for 3-4 minutes until you get a nice aroma from the roasted spices. Add the tamarind piece and roast for a minute. Keep aside to cool. 
  • Heat oil in a  wide pan on medium heat, add mustard, cumin and curry leaves. Let mustard crackle. 
  • Add the chopped banana slices in, mix it well and let it cook for a minute. 
  • Add salt, turmeric and cover the pan and let the pieces cook for 5-6 minutes or until the pieces are tender but hold shape well. 
  • Powder the roasted spices into a fine powder, add them to the cooked banana pieces along with grated coconut and jaggery. Give it all a good mix and continue to cook for a couple of minutes and switch off. 
  • If you are using lemon juice instead of tamarind, add it at this stage to the curry just before switching it off. 
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm as a side dish.
  • I make thin slices for this dish since it cooks fast and also has the right bite while eating. 
  • Smear a couple of drops of oil on your hands and the knife before cutting the raw banana to avoid and easily remove the sticky stuff.
  • You may add finely chopped onion (about 2 Tblsp) while seasoning for flavor. 
  • You can grind the roasted spices along with coconut and 2 spoons of water to make it slightly wet curry.
  • Roasting tamarind removes any moisture content and helps in dry grinding into a powder. If your tamarind is soft/wet make sure you roast it a little longer to make it feel dry. 
  • If you want to use tamarind concentrate, add it directly into the pan when you start to cook the banana slices. 


Priya said...

Adding jaggery sounds very new for me, is there any specific reason for it.Btw the curry looks delicious.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

raw banana my favorite veg. that too with bellaa! wonderful curry. it goes with moong dal samabar very well.

Julie said... Priya told adding jaggery is new to me too,looks delicious!!

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Nagashree said...

Thanks for stopping by ladies.

Priya & Julie - Jaggery balances the red chilies & tamarind, it is a usual practice of my mother & MIL to add jaggery in curries like that. Try it out next time :-)

Kannada Cuisine said...

Love this one. Somehow I always end up getting a big mush at the end.

Nagashree said...

@Kannada Cuisine - let the baalekayi cook in its own steam and just for 5-7 minutes. Adding salt will help the cooking process. Excess water tends to overcook & mushy the pieces.