Eating the banana (tree)

Virtually every part of the banana tree finds use in kitchens across south, east and northeastern India. Here are a few recipes from Bengal

Published: Wednesday 31 July 2002

-- Flower (prepared: Mochar Ghanto) The purple or green outer leaves of the flower are inedible. The immature fruit (mocha) inside is eaten. But about one-eighth of the top portion of each mocha is inedible and should be chopped off. Mocha is likely to stain the fingers. Therefore, it is advisable to oil one's hands before peeling the mocha off the flowers. The mocha should be chopped and soaked in water. After the mocha has soaked for a while, discard the water it was soaking in.

Then place mocha in a pan, cover with water and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from fire and drain water. Squeeze excess water from the mocha as well. Now heat mustard oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add two tablespoons of coriander paste, three-four tablespoons cummin paste, one teaspoon chilli paste and two tablespoons ginger paste. Fry for a few minutes, add the mocha and mix well with the spices. Just as the mixture begins to stick to the pan, add a quarter cup of water and reduce flame to simmer. Add chickpeas (chola) that have been soaked in water overnight. Also add about six to seven green chillies, salt to taste and two teaspoons of sugar. Stir constantly, and cook till the water is absorbed. Add two tablespoons of milk, mix and remove from fire.

Now heat a tablespoon of ghee. When the ghee is hot, add four bay leaves and whole garam masala (cinnamon, green cardamom and cloves in equal proportion) and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour this mix over the mocha. Cook the mocha for a few minutes, and add about a teaspoon of garam masala paste or powder. Remove from fire. After this preparation is poured into the serving dish, it can be sprinkled with grated coconut and bori (commonly available in Bengali markets) that has been fried crisp and crushed.
Pith (prepared: Thor Chenchki) Good banana pith is soft enough to allow your nail to sink in somewhat. Pith portions are usually available in 20-odd inch pieces, and would serve about four persons when cooked. The main precaution to be observed in pith preparation is to oil one's hands before chopping it. Pith exudes a sticky juice that could severely stain one's fingers. After the pith is chopped finely, mix it with a couple of teaspoons of salt and about half a teaspoon of turmeric, and keep aside for half an hour. When this time is up, drain the excess water.

Now heat some mustard oil and put mustard seeds in it. Once the seeds stop crackling, put in the pith, one teaspoon turmeric paste, three teaspoons mustard paste and half teaspoon chilli paste. Stir to mix, cover the pan and cook for about five minutes. If the pith is of good quality, it will cook in its own water. If required, though, one could add about half a cup of water. The pith should be cooked till all the water is absorbed. After this process is through, add green chillies and grated coconut and stir.To finish, some grated coconut could be sprinkled on the preparation as garnishing.

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