This Saturday at Urban Harvest, I started off my market haul by checking out what the Houston Regional Growers had on hand. They are independent farmers, and that tends to be the best place to stumble upon something special.
I got some beautiful, resilient chard from Ely, and Armando had a large purple flower on the table next door that I recognized as a banana blossom.
I had seen banana blossoms in my time volunteering at Blodgett Urban Gardens, but I had never cooked one. This is the first time I’ve seen one for sale, and there is a good reason why.
When the blossom is cut off the tree, it can no longer produce any more bananas. The blossom is typically cut at the end of the tree’s life, so that it can split and develop into a new tree for the next season.
Banana blossom anatomy
The petals that you see above are the flowers. When they are pollinated, they grow into bananas!
The large purple blossom is actually a lot of leaves formed tightly together. When each one is peeled back, a row of flowers is found below. The large leaves serve to protect the flowers until they are mature enough for pollination and banana production.
Once you get to the center of the blossom, you will reach the banana blossom heart. This is what is often sold in stores as a brine. I’ve seen this portion battered and fried to resemble fish.
Side note: Excuse my dirty nails. This is in fact black sap that is produced in the banana blossom. It gets all over your hands and cutting board when deconstructing the blossom!
How it all came together
It would take quite some time for me to explain how to clean and prepare the flowers and heart of the banana blossom. Vegan Miam did a great job with beautiful pictures, so check out their page to overcome this step!
After doing some research on all of the parts of the banana blossom, I decided to fry the mature flowers and sauté the heart and super young flowers with oyster mushroom. I thought the fried flowers would provide a nice crunch on my soft bread, and the sauté would be meaty and carry a lot of flavor.
A great fry starts with a good batter!
This batter was light and flavorful, and it coated my flowers really well! I used:
- 1 part rice flour
- 1 part all-purpose flour
- 2 parts Perrier water
- unrefined salt
- black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- turmeric powder
- ginger powder
- garlic powder
- garam masala powder
The brown rice flour is lighter than all-purpose. This results in a good balance of a batter that sticks to the flower and one that is light. The naturally-carbonated Perrier water also adds a bit of extra lightness, resulting in a delightful light fry.
I fried these in oil at 350ºF. I was surprised that they only took about 1-2 minutes to get golden-brown and crispy. And perfect!
Sweet and spicy peanut sauce tied everything together
I chopped and sautéed my banana heart and baby flowers with some onion and Flying Saucer baby oyster mushroom. I seasoned with everything that went into the batter, except I substituted crushed red pepper for cayenne for a more indirect heat.
My flavors slowly seemed to be leaning towards thai, along with my fluffy bun reminded me of a bánh mì, so I figured a nice sweet and spicy peanut sauce would tie everything together.
I had made peanut sauce for some spring rolls a few days before, and I tweaked the recipe a bit to make it a bit spicier. I used:
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- tbsp of soy sauce
- 2-3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2″ chopped ginger
- 2 garlic cloves
- 4 minced Thai chilis
- garlic powder
- black pepper
- unrefined salt
- splash of hot water to loosen
Now for the recipe!
I am sure by now you want to know the full recipe for putting together this sandwich/burger, so I will not keep you waiting any longer! Check out the recipe and video to learn how to re-purpose a banana blossom into something incredible!
P.S. – I called this a Bah Mi because that is how my friend says bánh mì. And I wanted to make up a name for the delicious bread I made!
Banana Flower Bah Mi
- 1 banana blossom mature flowers removed and cleaned. heart and baby flowers separated
- 1/4 lb oyster mushroom
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/3 cup brown rice flour
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup Perrier water
- 1 tbsp unrefined olive oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 4 curry leaves
Seasonings – half for batter, half for sauté
- 1 tbsp unrefined salt
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp ginger powder
- 1 tbsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp garam masala powder
Bun and Toppings
- 4 soft buns or french baguette
- 4 leaves kale
- sweet and spicy peanut sauce recipe above
- 10 chopped peanuts
Fry Banana Flowers
- Heat cooking oil to 350ºF
- To make batter, combine flours, Perrier water, and seasonings
- Dredge flowers in batter. When oil reaches temperature, drop flowers in hot oil. Try to keep them separate, but do not worry if flowers stick together. Do not overcrowd pot.
- Remove after 1-2 minutes, when batter is golden-brown. Place on a plate lined with paper towels to catch excess oil.
Stir Fry Banana Heart
- Heat a small pot of water to a boil. Add salt like you are making pasta.
- Finely chop banana heart and baby flowers. Blanch in boiling water for about 30 seconds.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves.Dice onion, and dice oyster mushroom caps and stems separately.
- When mustard seeds start to pop, add onion and mushroom stems. Remove curry leaves.
- When onion starts to turn translucent, add mushroom caps and seasonings. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until caps are meaty and flavorful.
- Finely chop kale, and massage with a touch of olive oil and rice vinegar.
- Cut open toasted bun and spread peanut sauce on the inside. Layer kale, banana flower fritters, banana heart sauté, and chopped peanuts to create 4 sandwiches.