Pan fried green bananas are not something you find in Indian restaurant menus. Sliced thin and fried golden brown with salt, turmeric, chile powder and a pinch of asafetida. and if the oil is coconut, all the more flavorful.
In fact this dish isn't all that common even in South Indian homes. Green banana 'kari' is one of those dishes that people absolutely refrain from serving a house guest. The starchy vegetable is mostly relegated to menus for days that call for austere introspection and remembering the ancestors. You're most likely to find it on the menu on Amaavas (New moon day) served up with a 'moar kuzhambu' , a thick stew made with yogurt and fresh coconut, with different vegetables thrown in for the sake of variety ( given that the bananas are invariably done the same way).
I have no idea why this is a constant menu and could not find any suitable explanations as to why this is done. Perhaps one of you readers can enlighten me.
The green bananas are a treat to savor when spooned out fresh out of the cast iron wok in which they're pan fried. but once they become cold, the starch tends to harden and become mealy and that is the end of the dish. Reheating does not do much to bring it back to its original texture.
Given that this is such a traditional 'homey' dish, I simply had to work on this unsung vegetable and much to my delight, a gnocchi fashioned on similar lines to the potato version, worked perfectly in the initial 'feasibility' experiment. The added bonus, the pan fried gnocchi taste just as good when cold. I made this dish two ways, One similar to a classic pasta presentation, and the other served up with traditional rice noodles.
Green banana gnocchi in a coconut and yogurt sauce.
For the gnocchi: (makes about 40 pieces)
2 raw green bananas (the Cavendish variety , NOT Plantains or the other kinds from the Indian store)
3 tablespoons Cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne chile powder
1 pinch turmeric
table salt to taste.
Oil for pan frying
Cut the green bananas in half and boil (enough water to submerge the vegetable) for 15 minutes (the flesh will begin to 'peep' out of the peel). remove fro. the water and allow to cool till they can be handled with the fingers. Peel off and discard the discolored green peel.
Add the salt and corn flour. Mash to a crumbly consistency.
Pinch off marble sized bits of dough and roll into a pill shaped 'gnoccho'. Run each bit over a gnocchi press or the back of a fork to get the classic striations.
Heat the oil in a non stick pan. add about 10 pieces at a time and pan fry until golden.
Coconut Yogurt sauce:
For the masala paste:
1 tablespoons split pigeon peas
1 tablespoon rice
2 tablespoons cumin
1-2 arbol chiles
1/3 cup fresh frozen coconut
Soak in 1/2 cup of warm water for about 15 minutes before grinding into a paste.
For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups fat free yogurt (preferably slightly tart)
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
1/2 cup diced tomatoes , (or your choice of vegetables such as butternut squash, okra or chopped greens)
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon split white lentils (Urad dal )
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 red arbol chile
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
Whisk the masala paste with the yogurt, salt and water until the mix is smooth and lump free. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil and add the mustard, Urad dal, fenugreek and the arbol chile. When the mustard sputters, the fenugreek, chile and the lentils turn a golden brown, add the vegetables and saute until soft. Add the yogurt mixture and making sure that the mix does not boil, heat until the sauce loses its 'raw' aroma.
Serve the gnocchi either directly over the yogurt sauce ,
or mixed with the sauce over the rice noodles (prepared as per the instructions o the package).