Well hellooooo there!
I was waiting for you. Yes, you.
Have you met Plantain yet? No??
Well…..You…..meet Plantain. Plantain……You.
Plantain looks like Banana but he’s different.
Plantain and Banana, they’re cousins. They spent the summer holidays at each others’ places growing up. They played dress up and astronauts and explored outer space together in a space-ship made out of the cardboard box that the new fridge arrived in.
They played street cricket together and fought over who gets to bat first. Too often they played silly pranks on that prissy little girl next door who always wore pink.
But as grown-ups, Plantain and Banana are quite different. Plantain is the chunkier, starchier, denser cousin. The earthy green or brown to Banana’s sunny yellow. Plantain is thick-skinned and not easily insulted.
Plantain sometimes thinks Banana needs to Man-Up.
Plantain won’t give in without a fight. He needs a good cookin’ before he’ll be eaten. He does spices really, really well and takes on almost a potato-ey quality if he’s cooked properly.
While Banana makes himself very available, Plantain likes to play hard to get. But we know he hangs out in Asian and Indian grocery stores. We know he’s worth the hunt.
Plantain works really, really well in this stir-fry, a satisfyingly starchy dish I learnt to make from my Mother-in-Law.
Ohhh!!! I almost forgot!! My post on Cherry Lassi (remember that?!?) has been entered in the SA Writers Centre Food Blogging Writing Competition. I know, it’s just a tad exciting and scary. I would be ever so grateful, if you like the post, if you would vote for me by following this link. Thanks in advance sweet-peas!
Plantain Palya: South Indian Plantain Stir-Fry
3 cm piece of dried tamarind
1 tsp Rasam Powder
For the Tempering:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp urad Dhal (uncooked)
1/2 tsp channa Dhal (uncooked)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chilli powder
8-10 fresh or dried curry leaves
Tear up the tamarind and place in a small bowl with about 1/2 cup boiling water. Mash the tamarind with a fork and leave to soak.
To prepare the plantains, scrape the green or brown outer skin off by using a knife to grasp the edge of it and peeling it off. Leave a thin layer of the fibrous coating (under the skin) as this helps prevent the plantain from falling apart as it is cooked. Slice the plantain once lengthways, then slice transversely into 1- 1 1/2 cm pieces. You should end up with little semi-circles of plantain that are covered on the curved edge with the fibrous layer.
For the tempering, heat the oil in a large non-stick frypan. Lower heat and add cumin and mustard seeds, then dhals. When the seeds have popped, add turmeric and chilli powders, then fry for 2 mins. Add curry leaves and fry until browned. If using fresh leaves, there will be some major sizzle so you may need to cover the pan.
Add the plantain and stir to coat in the oil and spices.
Mash the soaking tamarind again and strain through a tea strainer, reserving the water. The tamarind can be stored in the fridge and used again within a couple of days in the same way. Sprinkle the tamarind water over the plantain and stir through.
Add about 1/2 cup water and cover. Allow to cook, covered, stirring every few minutes. After 3-4 mins, sprinkle 1 tsp salt and stir through. Cover again and continue cooking over moderate heat, stirring intermittently. Cook until the plantain is tender but still firm.
Sprinkle rasam powder and stir through, allow to cook for a couple more minutes. Taste and add more chilli powder and/or salt if required. Stir through. At this point, if there is still a fair bit of moisture content in the mixture, you can uncover and continue frying while stirring gently. When most of the water has evaporated, drizzle about a tbsp of oil over the mixture and fry until the plantain is the texture and firmness of cooked potato, and all the moisture has evaporated. If the moisture evaporates before the plantain is adequately cooked, add a little more water and cook/reduce further.
Serve with chapatis and a sprinkle of chopped coriander.
This recipe requires a visit to an Indian grocery store. There, you’ll find the plantains, rasam powder (a South-Indian spice mix), dhals and tamarind. All the other spices can also be found there or at a regular supermarket. Strictly speaking, the dhals are probably optional if you prefer not to buy a whole bag of each for one dish. If you can’t find dried tamarind, about 1/2 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 1/2 cup water will do the trick, although tamarind water made from dried tamarind tastes so much better.
Leave yourself a good 60 to 90 mins to prepare this dish as the Plantain doesn’t give up without a fight.