Banana Flower Salad (Goi Bap Chuoi Chay)
In case you were wondering, banana flowers really are the flowers of the banana plant. They are also known as banana blossoms or banana hearts. The taste is reminiscent of artichoke hearts. They are consumed throughout Southeast Asia and also in India as well. In fact, I bought the banana flowers I used in this dish from an Indian market.
Gỏi bắp chuối chay literally means vegetarian banana flower salad in Vietnamese. It's a popular dish in the Buddhist community where many recipes, due to dietary restrictions requiring vegetarianism, are made to simulate meat. Banana flower salad is thought to imitate the flavor of gỏi gà, Vietnamese chicken salad. Other recipes use ingredients such as tofu skin or fried soy gluten that are chewy and resemble the stringy texture of meat.
This is a dish that is not only exotic but tasty as well. You might not make it every day, but it's definitely something you should try.
Yields: 6 servings3 banana flowers (see tips)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canned straw mushrooms in water, drained and sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup peanuts
1 (1-inch) chunk ginger
2 cloves pickled garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon Vietnamese mint, chopped
1 tablespoon Thai basil, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar cane vinegar (or more lime juice)
1 tablespoon rau răm (see tips), chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh coconut (optional), freshly grated
1 red Thai bird chili, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 drizzle toasted sesame oil (optional)
Steaming the banana flower: Fill a pot filled with water and bring it to a boil. Add salt and the juice of 2 lemons. Add the halved banana flowers. Bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until tender. Remove them for the water and let cool a bit until you can handle them without discomfort. Cut them into little shreds. Set aside. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of lime juice.
Peanuts: In a mortar and pestle, slightly crush the peanuts. You still want to have visible pieces of peanuts for a crunchy texture.
Gỏi sauce: In a bowl, combine the rest of the lime juice, sugar cane vinegar, mushroom seasoning salt, pickled garlic, ginger paste, the remaining brown sugar, soy sauce and the canola oil. Mix well.
Assembly time: In a large bowl, combine the shredded banana flower, the straw mushrooms, fresh coconut, red Thai chili and pickled shallot with its macerating liquid. When you're ready to serve, drizzle the gỏi sauce. Add all the chopped herbs. Toss well. Season with more salt -if needed and white pepper. Sprinkle the peanuts. Finish with sesame oil.
Eat with chopsticks and enjoy!
You can add any other crunchy ingredients such as bean sprouts, but I think the banana flower and peanuts already have a nice texture by themselves.
Soy sauce brings saltiness to the dish and a nice amber color. My favorite soy sauce is Da Bo De. It has a very nice flavor and is not too salty. You can find this particular sauce in downtown San Jose, at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, in San Jose.
Make ginger lemongrass drink with the remaining ginger paste.
You can use fresh garlic instead of the pickled garlic but the garlic flavor is going to be a lot stronger. You can find pickled garlic in any Asian store.
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the sauce. You can find it at gourmet specialty stores or in most Korean stores. I get mine at Marina Foods -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.
The lemon juice prevents the banana flower from blackening.
You can find banana flowers in most Indian and Asian markets. It looks like a corn husk. It's also sometimes called banana heart or banana blossom. For a sweet and non-bitter taste, pick young-looking banana flowers with fresh leaves for an easy shredding (bắp chuối bào).
You can use the same sauce / "vinaigrette" and drizzle it over shredded hearts of palm or even artichoke hearts, which are more popular ingredients than banana flowers in Western cuisine.
You can find straw mushrooms in Asian stores or online.
If you don't have a mortar and pestle to slightly crush the peanuts, just use a rolling pin.
To prevent the herbs from darkening, chop them at the very last minute, toss them into the salad and serve immediately.
Vietnamese mint has a very different flavor from regular mint. It also has darker vein marking on the leaves. It's commonly used in Asian salads such as Vietnamese chicken salad (gỏi gà in Vietnamese) and in spring rolls (gỏi cuốn in Vietnamese).
Rau răm are a Vietnamese coriander leaves used in South Asian cooking. I buy them at the Asian market. If you don't have any, just double the amount of regular cilantro.
Did you notice the Thai basil flowers in the picture? Basil flowers are not edible but they are perfect for garnish. I get them from my herb garden.
We just happened to buy a lot of fresh coconuts from the Asian market. Everyone drank the delicious juice and I gathered all the coconut "meat" for the gỏi bắp chuối chay salad.
Published By: on September 25, 2009.