25 March 2010

Get full with fibre : Plantain pith curry

We tend to ingore things that are in abundance around us. I'm not talking of any grave issues affecting the nation, but about the humble banana. India is blessed with a rich variety of this tropical fruit - rich in potassium, - and this is the first to be banned from your life by most dieticians and weight loss experts. I do understand with the sugars and calories that a banana brings in, it can be of some concern for someone who wants to lose weight. But surely it can be better than a packet of chips, when hunger strikes! 

The banana tree is not called the Kalpavriksha without reason - and while most of us might have written essays in school, it nice to remember how each and every part of this plant is useful in day to day life. The leaves make for ecofriendly plates on which one can eat a five course meal. (well, almost!) The fruit of course needs no introduction - being one of the first things we learn to eat as humans while being weaned from the breast. The raw bananas (plantains) can be cooked into koftas, used as a substitute for potatoes by Jains, fried into the widely-loved chips. The flower whose intricate design is a true miracle of nature, is used to adorn the entrance of auspicious events like marriage, while also being cooked into delicacies in many Indian cuisines. The stem (which is actually a false stem, as it is a collection of leaf stalks) is full of fibre and when the outer shiny layers are pulled off, the inner pith is edible and that's what this post is about. 
Fibre is too important component of our diet to be ignored - some of it's key benefits put simply -
-It provides satiety or the fullness experienced after a meal, so you don't end up consuming too many calories to feel sated.
-It binds with the bad cholesterol preventing it from getting deposited in the walls of the blood vessels causing heart attacks and strokes.
-It protects from cancer of the large intestine and of course...
makes your mornings hassle free :)

Eating whole grains, beans, lentils, vegetables and fruits with their skins wherever possible, adds up to provide the 25 odd grams of daily recommended fibre intake. 

This recipe is one sure shot tasty way to get some of that daily fibre.

Vazhaithadu curry
Serves 4

1 kg stem or a cylinder 8 inches long
2 cups thin buttermilk (old and sour buttermilk is better)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder

For tempering:
2 tsp oil
Pinch of asafoetida
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp udad dal
2 broken red chillies

1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup moong dal soaked in water for at least 2 hours
1 tsp sambar powder (optional)
salt to taste
Fresh coconut scrapings for garnish (optional)

Oil hands before handling the stem as it stains the hands. 
Peel off the satiny outer layers with a knife until the inner rough part is exposed. This could be 2 layers or more depending on how thick the stem was to start with.
Keep a big bowl of diluted sour buttermilk on the side to immerse the chopped stem pieces. This prevents them from darkening.
To cut the plantain stem, slice it thinly - 4-5 slices at a time, place them in a stack and then finely dice it, immersing the chopped pieces in the buttermilk immediately. Do this until you have chopped the entire length of the stem into small bits. Any tough fibres that come in your way, peel them off and discard. Small fibre bits will remain and that's what will make this dish extremely healthy.
Once you are ready to cook, drain the chopped plantain stem and place in a vessel with 1/4 cup water and turmeric powder mixed well.
Place 2-3 cups of water in a pressure cooker large enough to hold the vessel containing the chopped stem.
Pressure cook this for 3 whistles and 3-4 minutes on sim. Once cool, remove and drain if required. You can also boil this in very little water until almost soft.

In a wok, heat the oil, saute the udad dal till light golden, put in the remaining tempering ingredients. After a quick stir, put in the drained moong dal and cooked plantain pith. Add sugar and salt, plus sambar powder if using. The pinch of sugar is offset the slight bitterness in the stem.
Sprinkle water and cook covered for 10 minutes with occasional stirring, so that the dal is quite done.
Check for salt and adjust, remove from flame. Sprinkle fresh coconut and serve hot with rice and mor kozhambu.

I was wondering if cutting off the stem of the poor banana tree, caused it to die a premature death. A bit of research reveals that the banana tree yields only once after which it is anyway cut off and fed to the cattle, or to banana-stem eating folks :)

Plantain pith, plantain stem, vazhaithandu, vazhaipindi, musa pseudostem are all the various terms of endearment of the banana stem.

Some interesting links:
How to cook a Musa Psedostem- this one is a must read by CY Gopinath


Jayashree said...

Lots of good info. I have this thoran and its pics in my draft.

Raaga said...

Hey... spelling mistake...Thandu, the n got missed out while typing I think.

We make something similar... it is called the Vazhaithandu mor kootu! I saw banana stem here recently and I think I will buy it soon.

Priya said...

Hi Nandita..thanks for ur wonderful comment regarding the microwave halwa, yes my microwave oven took 28minutes to cook the halwa, coz of the beets as they were little bit hard to cook, also i have explained that cooking time depends upon the microwave oven..Hope this helps, do try u wont regret..

Nandita said...

Jayashree - You could call it a thoran, except that this one has the payatham paruppu. This is a common vegetable in South Indian cuisine, isn't it!

Raaga - Mor kootu sounds good - you can post the recipe when you lay your hands on the vahaithandu

Priya - thanks for the clarification.

splendid market said...

I love reading your recipes. Living on the west coast of the US, I will probably not make many of them, not having even 1/2 of the ingredients. But I am inspired by the flavor combinations you use and am looking for more of these exotic ingredients! It is so great to see "what's cooking" on the otherside! Keep them coming!!

RV said...

I love Vazhaithandu, especially when curd is added to it. Gosh, why can't I get these vegetables here. btw,
I recently read that we shouldn't consume any fruits like banana immediately after a meal, is that true? Because it contradicts what our elders say. We are normally served with a banana at the end of the traditional meals/feast to ease the digestion

Superchef said...

I just saw a vazhaithandu thoran somewhere. This is another recipe im adding to my to-make list now!

Jaya said...

This is a very good recipe..we call this in Bengali"thor" and usually we make it with shrimp and scraped fresh coconuts..this has lot of nutrients also ..lovely post
hugs and smiles

Sarah Naveen said...

I love this curry ..looks awesome!!!! yummy yumm
First time here..cute space with yummy recipes..

dining room tables said...

I really like this blog because of all the good foods in here. Thanks for sharing!

Anil P said...

I've rarely gone as deep into a banana preparation as this one, mostly restricted to the fruit or the occasional preparation from the raw banana.

This is interesting.

Kamini said...

I've never had vazhathandu with dal - I must pass this recipe to my mother in Madras.
Now I know why it's called a "pseudo stem"!

Divya Vikram said...

Looks so healthy. Love your version.

Cynthia said...

This is the second time I am seeing a dish with the plantain skin cooked. I am generally a person willing to try anything - at least once. I am yet to muster up the courage to try this but I have to say you make it look so enticing. :)

Hari Chandana said...

Yummy recipe.. looks inviting.. nice click!!

The Housewife said...

I love Vazhaithandu! We make it poriyal style and also with yoghurt... but its so refreshing on a hot summer day. Thanks for posting :)

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