Monday, July 16, 2012

Unusual and Beautiful, A Banana Flower Salad

A Banana Flower
Banana Flower Salad with Grilled Shrimp and Chicken
I learned to make this beautiful salad using banana flowers  in Thailand at the Blue Elephant Cooking School. I was doubly interested because we have a large  grove of bananas at home  in Kauai.  If you are not familiar with banana flowers, take a look at the top photo. This is what  banana flowers looks like. The inner leaves of this flower tastes like raw artichokes!

With each  new crop of bananas, down drops a big fat purple flower. The flower feeds the baby bananas until they are ready to pick.  I wait until the baby bananas start to fatten before I chop of the flower. Every time we have crop of bananas,  I make this incredible salad. This recipe is the Asian version of an Italian Raw Artichoke Salad.
Preparing the banana flower is the next step. Peel back all the purple leaves and discard the tiny developing bananas inside. When you get deep down into the center of the flower  pod, you will see the leaves change from deep purple to golden white. Now, you have the good stuff, in the core. I shred the leaves, as I peel back the layers, I also  taste much of them. If woody, keep peeling until it tastes like fresh baby artichoke. Soak the julienne banana flower in water and lemon juice, because they will  brown.

 When I  am in Los Angeles, I have ordered fresh banana flowers from the local markets.  If you can't find banana flowers, use raw artichoke heart. The Blue Elephant Cooking School recommended  raw cauliflower, if fresh artichokes are out of season. 

 The most unusual ingredient in my recipe is the Nam Prik Pla Sauce which is a jarred condiment. Nam Prik Pla is a smooth sauce of pulverized  peanuts, shrimp, shallots, sweetener, fish sauce and oil. The flavor is unique, there is no other substitution, at the moment! Nam Prik Pla, not so hard to find in Los Angeles. Go to Bangkok Market on Melrose Avenue. Nam Prik Pla , hard to find in Kauai! I was lucky to find a Thai restaurant on the island. I begged the owners for a jar, even tho I really needed just a few tablespoons.

The rest is easy, shred a peeled apple and add segments of  pommello or a pink grapefruit . Grill some shrimp and chicken, shred those. Make the dressing and  mix everything in a large bowl. Add lovely bits of cilantro and a little scallion for added flavor and some roasted peanuts,  almonds or macadamia nuts.

From the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant
Banana Flower Salad
(Yam Hua Pee)
Makes 4 Servings


2 Banana flower (can substitute shredded cauliflower or raw hearts of artichokes)
6 tablespoons  lemon juice
5 ounces  chicken thighs , grilled and  shredded
8 each large  prawns, cooked and coarsely chopped
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 pomello or a pink grapefruit, segments

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon dried shrimps, finely crushed
4 tablespoon  tamarind juice
1 tablespoon  fish sauce
8 tablespoons Palm sugar or brown sugar
4 teaspoons  Nam Prik Pha sauce -jarred
4 tablespoons  shredded coconut, unsweetened and toasted
4 tablespoons  coconut milk
4 tablespoons peanuts, roasted and finely crushed
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced

For the garnish:

12 shallots, finely sliced
½ cup vegetable oil for deep frying
4 hard boiled quail’s eggs


Cut the banana flower in half vertically. Remove the small, unripe bananas inside and discard. Slice the flowers horizontally into fine segments about 1 inch wide. Add 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice to water, and then immerse them for 1 minute so that they remain white.

Mix together the palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice, lemon juice, and the Nam Prik Pha in the salad bowl. Mix together all the ingredients, except for the coconut milk and the peanuts, in a bowl. Toss until thoroughly combined. Add the coconut and peanuts last and toss lightly.

To make the golden fried shallot garnish, deep-fry the shallots in oil for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Set aside.

Remove the ingredients to a serving dish and sprinkle with golden fried shallots and boiled quail egg. Serve at room temperature.

1 comment:

  1. What local markets can you get banana flower from? I've been trying to find it for more than a year!