I love the idea of top-to-tail eating and when it comes to vegetables, banana trees are incredibly versatile. The leaves are used to wrap and flavour food, stems are cooked in Mohingar for added bulk and flavour, the fruits have endless uses and the blossoms are either made into salads or cooked in curries. They have a fairly neutral taste though there is a slight earthiness similar to fresh bamboo shoots. They work great with bold flavours.
1 banana blossom
1 onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves
2 dried red chillies, soaked in hot water
1 lemon grass stalk
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1 tablespoon rice flour
150 ml water
250g raw prawns, peeled, deveined, leaving tails
To prepare the banana blossom, have ready a bowl of salted water mixed with some lemon or lime juice. This will prevent discolouration from occuring.
Peel the outer layer of the flower which are dark rich crimson, saving one or two petals to use as a serving dish later on if you wish. When you reach the inner pale petals, cut the blossom lengthways in half. Then slice into 1 cm thickness and plunge into the acidulated water. Leave to soak while you prepare the onion paste.
Pound the onion, garlic and chillies in a pestle and mortar or chop everything very finely. Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion paste for 5-10 minutes. Add the shrimp paste, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stir into the onion mixture.
Rinse the banana blossom under water briefly, squeeze dry and add to the pan. Take a little of the 150ml water and mix with rice flour to form a paste. Add this paste and remaining water to the pan. Stir and leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes until the blossoms are just tender. Put the prawns in and simmer for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until opaque. Check for seasoning before serving.
Cooking time: 20-25 mins