Vazhaipoo "Meen" Kuzhambu
Every part of the Banana Plant is useful - the stem, leaves, flower and fruit. There are quite a few varieties in the Banana family. While most varieties of the fruit need no introduction, there is one that is more used as a vegetable. Vazhakkai Poriyal is one of the 'must' serve vegetables for important functions at home. The flower and stems (tender) are used to prepare various delicacies like Kootu, Usili and Poriyal, unique to Southern states of India.
The oft prepared recipe in the Tamil cuisine is the Usili. Vazhaipoo Kootu along with Murungai Keerai and Kuzhambu (Gravy) is also unique to Chettinad. The florettes are first batter fried and at the time of serving it is soaked in a spicy gravy (Kuzhambu). They absorb the gravy and tend to look like tiny Anchovies; hence the name - "Meen" Kuzhambu".
The only downside to cooking with the Banana flower is the time taken to prepare it for cooking. The tough purplish leaves encasing the florettes need to be removed first. Then the stamen needs to be picked off each mature flower. But well worth the effort. The tender ones, deep inside need not be picked. I read here that they can be used in salads!
Gently remove the small flowers and keep aside.
Pick the stamen and (plasticky) petal from the mature flowers and discard.
Gather the cleaned florettes together for cooking.
Banana Florettes - 2 handfuls, picked as mentioned above.
Bajji Mix - 3/4 cup
For the Kuzhambu:
Small Onion - 15 to 20
Garlic flakes - 8 to 10
Tomato - 1, big - chopped
Oil - 2 tablespoons
Mustard - 1/4 teaspoon
Urad Dal - 1/4 teaspoon
Peppercorns - 1/4 teaspoon
Sombhu - 1/4 teaspoon
Jeera - 1/4 teaspoon
Fenugreek - 1 pinch
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Turmerric Powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Sambhar Powder - 2 teaspoon
Tamarind - lemon sized
Coconut - 2 tablespoon
Sombhu - 1/2 teaspoon
Khus-Khus - 1 teaspoon
Cashewnuts - 6
Mix the Bajji mix with water to a thick batter.
Heat a little oil in a small Kadai.
Dip the florettes in the Bajji batter and deep fry until golden.
Drain well and keep aside.
Grind coconut, sombhu, khus-khus and cashewnuts to a smooth paste.
Soak tamarind for about 10 minutes. Extract the pulp and keep aside.
Take turmerric powder and sambhar powder in a small cup and mix with a litte water.
Heat oil in a kadai and splutter the mustard seeds, urad dal, sombhu, jeera, fenugreek, and peppercorns.
Add onions and saute. When it changes colour, add the garlic and curry leaves.
Then add in tomatoes, and saute until it becomes soft.
Add in the sambhar powder paste and stir fry for 3 minutes.
Add tamarind pulp and about 2 cup of water.
Bring it to a boil and then simmer until the raw flavour disappears.
Now, add the ground paste and simmer for 10 minutes.
Keep covered until serving time.
Just before serving, re-heat the Kuzhambu. Add in the fried Vazhaipoo Bajji and serve hot.
Linking it to Tried & Tested @ Classic Chettinad Kitchen
Here is a beautiful post by Sharmilee on how to clean Vazhaipoo.