Vazhakkai or plantain or raw banana is widely used in Tamil Nadu cooking. The green raw bananas get transformed into golden bajjis or an enticing side dish (poriyal, varuval, podimas), which finds its place in a South Indian thali.
Banana is a fruit that is cheaply available throughout the year in different varieties. A banana or two would satiate your hunger pangs and also takes less time to eat and very healthy too. It is even recommended to be given to a baby as young as 5-6 months old (Our twins’ pediatrician recommended it to be given (mashed) when they were 4 months old babies). Its tree and parts have numerous health benefits. Their usage is such that not a single part of the tree goes wasted. Each and every part can be put to various uses in our lives.
You must have seen tender banana trees adorning the entrance of houses, marriage halls or other places where auspicious events are going on. Once the event is over, the bananas, leaves and the stem decorating the entrance are distributed among family and friends. Each and every part – leaves, flower, fruit, stem are utilized either they are turned into something delicious or into some decorative/useful items. Heard even a sari was woven using banana fibers. Such is the use of the banana tree and its parts.
I rarely get the raw banana variety that is used in South Indian cooking at my place. The ones available here are the unripe bananas. Poriyal or varuval made using them does not taste the same as the ones we get in Tamil Nadu. So, whenever we get our favorite variety, we buy the maximum to be relished over the next 4-5 days. It rains bananas in our kitchen – bajji, poriyal, kuzhambu, varuval, podimas, avial, pav bhaji, chips, podi, kofta or kola urundai and the list goes on…….
- Banana tree and its parts have innumerable health benefits.
- Our elders believed that eating a banana after every meal improved digestion. That’s the reason banana is always an item that is served as part of all south Indian feasts. You consume the fruit after feasting heavily.
- Bananas are very good for anemia because of the high iron content in it. Thus, consumption of banana increases hemoglobin in the blood.
- Bananas if eaten frequently acts as an antacid and helps neutralize acidity in the stomach and hence effective in treating ulcers.
- Bananas are rich source of potassium and magnesium and contain vitamins C, A, B6 and B12.
- Bananas are also called brain tonic. Its consumption makes one very alert and is said to be very good for students.
- Tender banana inner stem is used to make delicious kootu, sambar and poriyal. They are very fibrous and source of vitamin B6 and potassium. Stem is chopped into small bits after cleaning the thread fibers and soaked in diluted buttermilk until use. It is diuretic and is very good in kidney stones treatment.
- Banana flower is rich in vitamins and proteins and useful in treating ulcer problems. Yummy and crispy banana flower vadas are very famous and its poriyal too.
- In South India, banana leaves are used for packing food items just like aluminum foil. They are also used on a platter in restaurants. They are used as a base for steam cooking and shaping vadas and sweet polis.
- Finally, if you have got a leftover overripe banana, do not throw it away. Just mash and apply it all over your face and neck. Wash your face with cold water after 15-20 mins. You will feel your skin has become soft. Bananas nourish your skin and acts as a great moisturizer.
Vazhakkai/Plantain/Raw Banana – 2 nos.
Onion – 1 big
Tomato – 1 medium sized
Coconut – 3 tbspns
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – ¾ tsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Mustard – ½ tsp
Urad dal – ½ tsp
Ginger – ¼”
Garlic – 5-6 cloves
Fennel seeds – ½ tsp + ½ tsp (for making into paste)
Oil – 2 tbspns
Salt to taste
Preparation time – 10 mins
Cooking time – 15-20 mins
Total time -30 mins
Serves – 4 people
- Cut vazhakkai into big chunks or 1” cubes. Chop onions and tomatoes.
- Make a coarse paste of coconut and fennel without adding water. Crush ginger, garlic and fennel seeds.
- Heat oil in a kadai. Add mustard seeds, let it splutter. Add urad dal.
- Once the urad dal changes to golden brown color, add curry leaves and onions. Fry till the onions they are translucent.
- Add tomatoes and fry well until the tomatoes are mashed.
- Add the sliced vazhakkais along with turmeric, chilli and coriander powders along with salt. Just add enough water for the vazhakkais to cook.
- Cook till the vazhakkais turn soft. Do not let them turn mushy. At this stage, add the coarsely ground paste.
- Fry well until the varuval turns golden brown.
- Just before removing from the stove top, add crushed ginger-garlic-fennel seeds, and give a quick toss. Garnish with coriander.
Serve it as a side dish with sambar or rasam and plain rice.
- Once you slice the raw bananas, keep them immersed in water until use. This prevents oxidation and avoids the sliced vazhakkais from discoloring.
- Vazhakkai can be sliced into thick roundels and used.
- If there is leftover, the varuval remains fresh for a day if kept outside without refrigeration.
- Instead of chilli and coriander powder, you can also add sambar powder as per taste.
- Instead of adding coarse paste of coconut and fennel seeds, you can use grated coconut.