I won’t start with a rant on why Banana stem aka BaaLe Dindu (Kannada), Arati doota (Telugu), Vazhai Thandu (Tamil), is good for you nor take you on a guilt trip on why you aren’t inculcating healthy eating habits by including it in your diet etc etc. Instead, I will introduce you to this lip smacking chat-pata recipe which makes Banana stem extremely palatable and exciting to consume. You won’t even know it is there, in case that is what you are looking for.
In South Indian cooking, Banana stem has always been an integral part. It is cooked as a vegetable and eaten with rice.
But let’s be honest. Banana stem is an acquired taste for the uninitiated. Whoever eats it does so out of habit or out of the awareness of the countless health benefits it offers. In my own aunt’s words, which I can never forget, “eat banana stem at least twice a month; it is great in eliminating hair and stones from the stomach.”
Sometimes even when something is über beneficial, how it tastes could come in the way of incorporating it in our daily diet. The trick then is to make it palatable to be accepted by a larger population.
This Baale Dindu Peanut Masala recipe hands down promises exactly that. Actually, less of a recipe and more of a great combination of ingredients that anyone can simply put together as per their taste preferences.
You won't believe if I say that Baale Dindu Peanut masala is a street food in Mysore Click To Tweet that I happened to discover by chance during one of my holiday visits last year. It is quite common to find it listed in the menu of Churmuri gaadis (push carts) or hole in the wall “chaat” stores. Though I ordered it out of curiosity, the taste blew me away. I was awestruck at the unique option it presented to eat Banana stem more frequently and with little or no resistance. Since then I have been waiting for the opportunity to share it with you folks.
The two most important parts of this recipe are buying a fresh and tender banana stem and prepping the banana stem. Get these two steps right and the rest is a cake walk. Even better if you can make ahead some homemade Congress Kadalekayi
It is amazing how resourceful the Banana plant is. Nothing goes a waste. Every part of it is useful – the fruit, leaves, the blossom, even the stem. Once the banana plant blossoms and bears fruit, that is the end of its life cycle. Instead of throwing it away, it makes complete sense to utilize the stem as well. The stem however is very fibrous so it is necessary to clean the fibers properly. After cleaning, the stem is cut into smaller pieces and soaked in buttermilk or diluted yogurt or lemon juice water for sometime to avoid discoloration.
Somehow ancient Indian food wisdom has it figured out about the excellent health benefits it offers. Astringent ( the dry, chalky, puckering taste that you feel) – one of the six tastes as per Ayurveda which is missing in our diet these days is offered by the humble and often shunned Banana stem. Juice of the Banana stem detoxifies the body (blood purifier) and is known to eliminate toxins in the form of urine. Especially good for those with a propensity for kidney stones.
There, I couldn’t help giving you some health facts and tidbits.
Armed with these facts and a beautiful recipe, I hope you’ll give this a try, and surprise yourself!
Banana Stem Peanut Masala
- 6-8 inches long Tender Banana Stem / Baale Dindu the stem I used was 3 inch in dia
- 1/2 cup Congress kadalekayi
- 1/2 cup Hesarubele / fried mung dal
- 1 medium Onion finely chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
- 1 small bunch of cilantro finely chopped
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp peanut oil
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder optional
- 1/2 tsp mysore saaru podi or per taste
- salt to taste
- puffed rice / murmura optional for topping
We will use only the innermost part of the stem for this recipe. So, cut out the outer porous layers by making a lengthwise slit on the stem and ripping the layer apart. Do this until you find the innermost tender stem. Porous layers are fibrous and hard to chew, swallow or digest, hence not used.
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a bowl of water and keep aside.
Place the washed stem on the cutting board and slice into discs. Drop the discs into the bowl of lemon water to avoid browning. You could even use butter milk or a spoon of yogurt in place of lemon juice.
Remove any fibers or porous layers that come off while slicing and discard.
Now finely chop the discs and transfer them to the bowl of lemon water again until use.
Strain finely chopped banana stem and add to a mixing bowl followed by finely chopped onions, grated carrot, freshly grated coconut, chopped cilantro, peanut oil, salt, Saaru Podi and red chilli powder as per taste.
Squirt juice of half a lemon and give it a good stir. Let it sit a few mins to soak in the flavors. Taste and adjust spices if required.
When you are ready to serve it, sprinkle Congress kadalekayi and fried mung dal (aka Hesarubele) generously. Garnish with cilantro and serve fresh in individual bowls or paper cones.
You can even top it with plain puffed rice.
Always buy the most tender looking banana stem, without scars. The best way to examine for tenderness is to look at the ends for layers. More outer porous layers indicates mature stem. Look for a shiny greenish white or cream colored stem with minimal outer porous layers.
Chop the banana stem when you are ready to serve the dish. This dish is best served fresh
Hesarubele / fried mung dal is easily available in stores.