Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vazhai Poo Vadai - Banana Blossom Fritters

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lone banana tree in the far end of the house showed signs of bearing fruits. We have been here for 18 months, and the tree was just there adorning the garden, nothing much. The gardener has never tended to the plant and I have also not been very caring, other than slicing off leaves whenever I needed.
The Heavens above have been kinder to these and the plant is being forgiving of my neglect. Soon as I spotted the tiny leaf that sprouted, which will eventually shield the blossom and later fruits, I took a little more care of the plant. With so much neglect, I am grateful that there will be about twenty fruits on final count. Meanwhile, the blossom had started to drop a few layers indicating that it is ready for use and these will not become fruits. I do not know what variety of banana this would be nor did I know if the blossom will be good enough to cook. I removed it from the tree and it was a fresh and nice one. So I acted upon it quickly chopping the blossom.

There were many layers within that I have had to reserve half of it for later use. With the fresh first half I made these vadais. I had read two different recipes in two cookery books I have; however, when I did cook them, I followed neither of them; this one is a recipe that I mixed and matched ingredients from the lists in both, added some others on a hunch, and the resultant vadais turned out quite nicely. They were more kebabs/ cutlets textured, slightly crisp on the outside and a softer inside.

Vazhai Poo Vadai:
The following recipe yields 12 vadais 

1 cup chopped banana blossom *(cleaning and chopping tips given below)
1/4 cup roasted gram (pottukadalai/ porikadalai)
2 tablespoons channa dhal

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1/3 cup fresh and grated coconut
1 medium red onion chopped finely
1"piece ginger chopped
4 numbers fresh green chillis chopped finely
3 dry red chillis
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

Preparing the banana blossom: *(Cleaning and chopping)
The pink violet banana blssom is actually not a flower by itself. It contains many layers of neat rows of small yellow flowers. Each row is protectively covered by petals that change in colour from a deep pink to tender yellow as it gets closer to the core. 
This vegetable tends to have an astringent taste inclining towards bitterness, yet very delicious when cooked.
You might apply oil on your fingers and the knife, use a paper to protect your board unless you are prepared to work hard removing the black and sticky stain that the vegetable will leave behind.
Keep a bowl with water that has some curd / yoghurt mixed to it to drop the chopped vegetable in. The yoghurt prevents discolouring of the cut mass.
Remove first three to four layers of petals and the mature flowers on the top and discard.

The following inner layers hold many tiny flowers. Remove them gently and give a gentle brush on the top to open them up. You will spot the stamen in there. Pull it out from each of the flower. These may cause your end product to become bitter if left within.

Once the stamen has been removed, chop the remaining flowers and drop them in the bowl of water.
As you work deeper into the flower, the colour turns pale and yellow, the stamen is not as hard, still present. Remove them as many as you can. leaving a few of these inner most are okay as they do not taste bitter.
Keep the chopped blossom well immersed in water - yoghurt solution. They oxidize pretty quickly when exposed.
Once done with the chopping, rinse them thoroughly,in few changes of water. Place them in a cooking bowl with little water and turmeric powder, Steam until the vegetable is just about done. Drain the water and keep aside.
Meanwhile wash the channa dhal well and soak in water for about 30 minutes.
Reserve half of the chopped onions and green chillis to add to the batter later.
Take the soaked dhal, red chillis and roasted gram in the jar of the mixer-grinder and pulse to a coarse paste. Add to this, the steamed vegetable, ginger, coconut, the other half of onions, and green chillis.
Grind all of them together just until combined. Use water only if absolutely necessary. The resultant batter shall be rather stiff than soggy.
Transfer from the grinder jar to a bowl. Mix the onions, green chillis that you reserved earlier, salt, asafoetida, fennel seeds, chopped curry leaves and, chopped coriander leaves. Mix well whisking with your hand. The batter now will be thick enough to hold by hand and roll in a soft ball that can be flattened. It is alright if cracks appear as you flatten. Gently press the batter around the cracks and smooth them out.
Keep the oil for frying on the stove.
When the oil is hot, bring the heat to medium high and slide two or three of the flattened vadais in the oil.
Deep fry tossing them around in the oil until well done all over. Remove from the oil using a slotted ladle onto kitchen tissues to drain residual oil.

Serve paired with sauce or any preferred chutney. Though they are best eaten hot, they taste good consumed few hours later also. The kebab texture is more recognised when eaten later.
I personally like the vegetable cooked as paruppu usli combined with lentils, but these were surely a very welcome change to be consumed warm on a dull and wet with rain day.


  1. I have never eaten home-made ones, have ordered them at hotels where they are on the menu, and been disappointed not to get a different taste which I assume the banana flower will impart

    1. No distinct flavour was detectable in this either. More so the fennel, onions and coriander took over. I guess it is only in the normal, no fancy kari (poriyal), the blossom shows its presence.

  2. I may never have enough patience to peel these wonderful delicate things. For now I'm just content reading your recipe and drooling over your pics!

  3. Delicious and crisp vazhaippoo vadai! wonderful snaps!!


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