Thursday, May 2, 2013

Banana Blossom and Shrimp Salad (serves 6 as part of a shared meal)


Many parts of a banana tree can be eaten including the banana blossom. There are many varieties of banana trees. This banana blossom salad was made from a banana tree that bears bananas with black seeds that resemble black peppers. This type of banana is called chuối hột in Vietnamese. The bananas are edible and some people do not like the hard seeds. My grandfather liked to eat these bananas when he was alive. As a child I remember eating these bananas and spitting out the seeds. This type of banana tree produces very good banana blossoms and they make excellent salads. When I was in Vietnam my cousin, Hui Chieu made this banana blossom salad with boiled shrimp,basil leaves and lemon juice. The result was DELICIOUS!! Thank you, H. Chieu!!

Ingredients:

1 medium size banana blossom
1 lb of fresh shrimp
1 handful of Thai basil leaves
1/2 of a lemon

Method:

1) Peel off the outer layers of a banana blossom until you reached the white blossom. Cut the blossom in half and core each half. Thinly slice the blossom and let it soak in the water. Once the blossom is sliced, wash and drain the cut blossom completely. Also see How to Prepare a Banana Blossom.
2) Cook the shrimp in boiling water for about 5 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked. Drain the liquid and let the shrimp cooled before peeling them.
3) In a large bowl, add the cut blossom and the peeled shrimp. Roughly tear the basil leaves into the bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad. Mix the contents well. Serve the salad in a large platter or divide the contents into smaller plates.
4) Drizzle some Vietnamese Dipping Sauce on top before eating.

my Ah Ma and a view from her roof top deck
--she climbed 3 flights of stair to get up here
(Vietnam, 2009)
with Ah Ma
(Vietnam, 2010)
Ah Ma in her backyard
which is full of fruit trees
including many banana trees
(Vietnam, 2013)
*I am very fortunate to know and to be able to visit my grandmother (whom I called Ah Ma in Teochew) to this day. She has outlived most of the people her age and some much younger people in her village.  At 93 her mind is amazingly sharp and she has the best memory of anyone I know. Although she can see out of one eye, her vision is better out of her one good eye than some people I know who have two or four eyes! When I visit her (which is not very often) I would sit near her and she would tell me stories about her past. On this recent trip I was not surprised to learn that she was a pro at catching frogs, fish, and crabs. As a child she often brought home a bucket full of these creatures for her mother to cook.  Her family was very poor and anything she caught were that night's dinner. No wonder many of my cousins, brothers and I love to fish and catch our own food!   At one point in her life she was young, energetic, active, quick and strong--walked for miles, swam across a lake, and even climbed mountains (in China). Looking at my grandmother now her body looks very fragile. I imagined even a little wind can blow her away. Yet she remains independent with her activity of daily living. She also washes her own clothes, towels, cups and bowls daily. I think she does this so that she does not have to be a burden to anyone and to assure that she has clean clothes and serving ware to use. In the morning she wakes up early and does her Tai Chi. She tells me the importance of moving and keeping active. How right she is!


a cluster of banana trees
Kiem (my aunt) harvesting a banana blossom
beautiful banana blossom
banana blossom and shrimp salad
mix the salad well before eating
*addendum: I added a few more photos for this posting. The banana blossom was mixed with a little lemon juice and sugar, topped with chopped culantro and boiled shrimp. I also added a drizzle of lightly fried garlic oil and a little Vietnamese dipping sauce prior to eating. This is simple and so tasty!

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