Saturday, March 29, 2014

Vazhaipoo (Banana Blossom) Paruppu Usili

I am almost done with my Spring Break.  Have been enjoying the slower pace of life – don’t have to rush in the morning and am getting caught up on all the chores that had piled up.  We had a couple of soccer games to go to and a dinner with friends.  Other than that, I have had time to read, start on some spring-cleaning, and spend more time in the kitchen.

My husband took my younger son skiing on Wednesday and I had the whole day to myself.  Since I was feeling a bit sick both Monday and Tuesday, I ended up making quick and easy dinners for the family.  So decided to spend some time and make an elaborate meal for them.

The local Asian market had vazhaipoo (banana flower or banana blossom).  I had not made paruppu usili with vazhaipoo in ages.  So decided to make that along with parangikkai vathal kuzhambu, peerkangai kootu, and lemon rasam for dinner.

Vazhaipoo takes a little extra time to prepare.  I have taken some step-by step pictures to show you how I did it.

Banana Blossom curry

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 1 medium size vazhaipoo (banana blossom)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. yogurt
  • a bowl of water
  • 4 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafoetida)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I made it:

Wash and soak the toor dal in some water for  about ½ hour (This is the amount of time it took me to prepare the vazhaipoo)

In the mean time, prepare the banana blossom:

In a bowl add water, yogurt, and turmeric powder.  Mix well.

Remove the tough outer layer of skin covering the vazhaipoo.  You will see a set of florets arranged beautifully in two rows. 

In each floret, you will see a black stigma sticking out.  

 Carefully remove this along with the translucent outer skin as shown in the picture below.  Discard.

Chop the rest of the florets and put them in the bowl of water, so that they don’t discolor.

Repeat the above step, peeling back the tough skin to expose the florets as you go, till the florets become tender and it is difficult to remove the stigmas.

Chop these florets as is and put them also into the water.

Once you have reached a point where you can’t peel back the skin anymore, stop.  Some people use the inner core of a banana blossom, but I have never tried it.
Steam the chopped flowers in a microwave safe bowl.  I steamed it in the same water it was soaking in.  It cooks really fast – so about 5 minutes should be more than sufficient.  Drain and set aside.
Drain the water from the toor dal.  Grind it to a coarse paste with red chilies, hing, and salt, adding very little water.

Distribute the ground paste onto idli plates, or a stainless steel bowl and steam for about 7 – 8 minutes.  Alternatively, you can steam this in the microwave in a bowl, stirring occasionally, till the paste is crumbly.
When the steamed paste has cooled a bit, crumble well with your hand, so that there are no big lumps.
Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds and red chilies.  When the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves.

Add the ground dal and stir well.  Let this mixture cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up lumps.

When the dal looks dry and starts getting slightly crispy, add the steamed vazhaipoo.  Mix well.

Cover and cook for 5 - 10 minutes, adding salt if necessary.

Serve with mor kuzhambu, vathal kuzhambu, or rasam

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