Archive for May, 2009

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Recipe: Banana Blossom Salad with Chicken

May 1, 2009

On Thursday I took a cooking class that lasted from 9am-4pm to learn how to cook Khmer dishes, and it was fantastic. There were only six of us students and our teacher took us to the market to tell us all about the different kinds of fruit and herbs. We also learned how the meat is all freshly killed at about 2am that day; anything that isn’t sold the day it’s been killed is turned into sausages. Some of the meat was really fresh. As in, still squirming around on the tray. Like these fish (yes, even a couple that were chopped in half were still moving. Sorry if you’re squeamish):

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When we got back to the open-air kitchen on the rooftop, we learned how to make four amazing dishes.

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Some of the other students enjoying fried spring rolls with a sweet and sour dipping sauce (my poor health freak eyes were bulging from the sockets at all the oil these spring rolls were fried in. But they were tasty!).

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Fish amok in a banana leaf cup

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Sticky rice with mango slices and caramel sauce

We also made banana flower salad with chicken (more of that below). It was all so delicious! Most of it was fairly easy to make, and I think that if you hunt around a little bit it shouldn’t be too difficult to find most of the ingredients no matter where you live. Or you can be creative and come up with local substitutions!

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We also received a recipe booklet at the end of the day. I’ll share more recipes with you as the month goes on, but this was my favorite dish that we made: the banana blossom salad.

Banana Blossom Salad with Chicken or Tofu (Serves 2)

Ingredients

1 banana flower

2 tbsp of mixed herbs (mint, basil, fishwort, Asian coriander)

150 g chicken breast, cut into pieces

1 chili pepper, julienne

juice of 1 lime

Dressing:

1 chili pepper

1 bird chili

juice of 2 limes

3 cloves of garlic

2 shallots

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp palm sugar

1 tsp salt

1 cup water

Method

1. Poach the chicken breast and set aside to cool off. Remove the leaves of the fresh herbs from the stems.

2. For this salad you can only use the young (inner) parts of the banana flower, so first take off the pink-purple outer layers. Cut the young flower leaves into thin slices. To prevent them from browning, immediately rinse the slices in diluted lime juice for 5 minutes, then take out and set aside.

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3. For the dressing, cut chili pepper, bird chili and garlic, put them in a mortar and grind a little (NOT to a paste!). Put the ground peppers and garlic in the water and add shallots, fish sauce, lime juice, salt, and palm sugar to taste. Mix well.

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4. Take the chicken and shred it into very small pieces. Put the banana flower leaves in a bowl, together with the chicken, mixed herbs, chili, and the dressing. Mix well and enjoy!

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A note about this dish…

Make sure that your herbs are fresh! Dried herbs won’t do. I’m not sure how easy it is to find banana flowers, but you could easily use something like zucchini sliced into thin strips. This is a salad that you could probably add all kinds of vegetables to in very thin strips and it would still be delicious. One of the other students was vegetarian so he used tofu (and left out the fish sauce and shrimp paste, adding more salt to compensate) and he said that it was great that way as well, so it’s vegetarian-friendly! What’s not to like?

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