Prep 20 mins
Cook 30 mins
Have you seen those large, purple flowers hanging from the banana stalk? Do you know they taste as interesting and as good as they look? Try this dish from Sri Lanka. Banana flowers have long been used in Indian and Thai cooking. Each flower is large enough to be a meal in itself with a subtle flavor which holds stronger flavors in balance Banana flowers grow at the end of the single flower stalk produced by each banana stem. They are pollinated by bees, wasps and flying insects. The flower is a deep maroon of tightly wrapped thick sepals hiding smaller yellow or white flowers. It is these smaller white or yellow flowers which develop into bananas. For this recipe the whole flower is used.
- Raw banana flowers are bitter and have to be prepared in advance. First remove the outer two or three layers of sepals, keep the small flowers. Holding the flower by the tip cut off and discard the ‘root’: remove the first inch and a half. Now thinly slice the flower through, chopping it as you might a cabbage. The juice will stain surfaces dark brown so either rub surfaces with oil before or cut on top of newspaper. Chop the small flowers you saved earlier into similar sized pieces. Place in bowl and cover with salted water into which a lime or lemon has been squeezed. Soak for at least an hour and discard the water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to drip dry.
- Mix coconut milk with half as much water and heat with prepared banana flower, half the ginger and the lemongrass.
- In a heavy pan slowly heat the oil. Blend together the garam masala, tumeric, remaining ginger and chillies until a paste is made and add to the oil. Cook stirring until the aroma becomes intoxicating and the oils separate in the pan. Add the shrimp and stir fry until cooked all the way through. Add this to the coconut / banana flower mix. Stir thoroughly and simmer for 20 minutes, adding more water if needed, season to taste and serve.
- This soup can be prepared a day in advance and heated before serving. Allowing it to rest overnight will give time for the flavors to blend and harmonize thoroughly.