03 October, 2008

Banana Blossom Palya & Nostalgia...

Banana Blossom Palya

Wearing a long silk skirt with matching blouse, little Gowri was playing with her friends. Trying to push back the curls escaped from her thick, long braid and lifting her skirt little high to tie it tight on her narrow waist, this 8 year old was busy concentrating on catching a butterfly fluttering around. Little did she know that it would be her last day where she was allowed to play on street with her friends!!!

Just when she was about to catch that colourful butterfly, she saw her mother rushing towards her. To her annoyance her mother had come to take her back home. “Come with me little darling. You are getting married next month. You can’t play on streets anymore”, said her Amma. And to top it her friends started clapping their hands and chanting “Gowri is getting married. Gowri is getting married”. Large pearls of tears threatened to appear on her large beautiful black eyes which she tried hard to hide from her mocking friends. “I don’t want to get married Amma. I want to play”, she shouted and ran to her house.

Mother tried to console her daughter with a promise of getting her new set of gold jewellery and new Kanchipuram silk saris of her favourite colours for her wedding. With in few weeks her wedding took place with 14 year old boy whom she had never seen or met before. Sitting on a wooden plank next to her soon to be husband in brightly decorated Mandap, little Gowri was more interested at looking colourful flower decorations around her. With never ending marriage ceremony with hundreds of Sanskrit sholaks and chanting, she started to doze off in between her wedding ceremony. She didn’t realise when she was lifted from wooden plank and placed on her father’s lap and she was hardly awake when her husband tied sacred yellow thread around her neck. She was not a girl anymore but a married woman and became Gowramma from Gowri.

That’s the story of my Mudi Ajji (translates old grandma:) or great grandmother which took place in late 19th century. It was a time when child marriage was accepted norm in Indian society and children were married before they reached puberty. My great grandmother was one of those child brides and before she reached mid-twenties she was widowed with a small daughter on her lap. Still she managed her home and property with little help from her only brother. She was indeed one remarkable lady whom my mother and her siblings shared a very strong bond while growing up.

All I remember of her is a small woman with heavily wrinkled hands and face and moving slowly around big house with bended back. Little did I know about her strong determination, integrity and courage to survive in all men’s world!!! I do remember those shining, twinkling eyes which would compete with small diamond earrings she wore and toothless grin which would brighten the room. And I still remember her love and passion for cooking and you could taste her love in every mouthful.

One of her favourite recipe to cook was Banana Blossom Palya which is nothing but a simple stir fry served along steamed rice, simple Rasam and big dollop of her love in a form of Thuppa/Ghee. With many banana trees in a backyard Banana Blossom would make regular appearance through out the year. Mudi Ajji would sit on a wooden plank containing razor sharp crescent shaped blade and chop this creamy banana hearts into very small pieces. “Shruck, shruk, shruk….” the rhythmic sound coming from chopping the vegetables on that blade was fascinating to me. With in few minutes she would have finished chopping dozens of Banana Blossoms and take it to dark, steamy kitchen where magic was created every time she cooked. And within few minutes, heady aroma of spices from the curries would waft from big copper Kadais/woks placed on a wood burner stove. This Banana Blossom Palya mixed with perfectly cooked, steaming rosematta rice in its stock called as Ganji/Congee with big dollop of Ghee melting on top and big tender mango pickle in the side was one delicious memory which I relish even today. Crunchy onions and banana blossom taste are heightened with spicy chilli, tangy tamarind and crisp, aromatic tadka. Memories, sweet memories… make me nostalgic whenever I think of her…

Banana Blossom

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Banana Blossom Palya (Banana Blossom Stir Fry)
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 15 mins
Serves: 3-4
Recipe Source: Great Grandmother

1 Banana Blossom
1 small Onion, finely chopped
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
1-2 cups Sour Buttermilk or ¾ cup sour Yogurt mixed in a cup of cold water
2-3 Green Chillies, slit (Adjust acc to taste)
1 tsp Tamarind Paste
1 tsp Jaggery/Brown Sugar
¼ cup grated Coconut, fresh/frozen
Salt to taste

For Tadka/Tempering:
1 tbsp Oil, preferably Coconut Oil
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 tbsp Chana Dal/Split Bengal Gram
½ tbsp Urad Dal/Split Black lentils
1-2 Dry Red Chilli, halved
A Pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
Few Curry Leaves
Banana Blossom Palya

Apply a tbsp of coconut oil to your palm and rub well. Applying oil to your palms help in preventing the sticky sap oozing from banana blossom sticking to your hand which leaves nasty black colour for few days. Remove the outer tougher covering and discard, till you see the creamy part which is called as Banana Blossom Heart. Don’t discard the florets. The mature florets will have black stigma and transparent covering which needs to be taken out before chopping. No need to remove the stigma and transparent covering on the tender ones. Now chop this banana heart and florets into very fine pieces. Place these chopped pieces in a bowl containing sour buttermilk till required. This helps in preventing discolouration.
Heat oil in a pan/wok and add mustard seeds to it. When mustard starts to pop and splutter, add channa dal, urad dal and halved red chillies. Sauté till dals turn golden brown. Now add hing and curry leaves and mix well.
Mix in finely chopped onion and sauté on a medium flame till they turn light golden brown, about 2 mins. Add slit green chillies and turmeric and mix well.
Drain butter milk completely and add these chopped banana blossom to the pan. Add tamarind paste and jaggery and mix well. Stir fry continuously for another 7-10 minutes at medium flame till banana blossom is cooked well.
Mix in salt to taste and grated coconut and cook for another 3-5 mins. Serve this delightful stir fry hot with rosematta rice, rasam and ghee and enjoy.


  1. Sia& such a beautiful post.
    I was transfered to the 19th century seeing you great ma when she was 8 yrs.
    Yeah i totally agree as i widow it is difficult to survive in Mans world in India.
    My mom was wodowed when she was 31 and I have full respect and admiration for my mom for bringing up us alon in India.
    I don't think you can use any word for it.
    Sometimes when i have tough time i think aobut how my mom is and then my tough times look like a drop.
    I think something is wron with my computer as i coudn't see your picture

  2. Sia, this is the only dish, I suppose, which will reveal the true taste of banana flower, and I've had it only once. It wasn't made well. I've had the vadas and the daal made with it but never got to know its distinctive taste in those. Can't see the pix, there's some message from Photobucket.

  3. HC & Sra, thank you girls for letting me know abt the prob with viewing the pics. I found out that I have exceeded the monthly bandwidth on photobucket (d'oh!!!) where I post my photos and it will take 2 more days to reset my monthly bandwidth allowance. So if you are using IE, Chrome and other browsers, you will be able to view the photos after 5th Oct. But its working fine with Firefox browser and that's the one which I use.

  4. Such a beautiful post.Thank God those days are behind,it requires all the strength to survive in a mans world.These days we find it difficult,I am not thinking about those days.Even though we live in a smarter world-by all means,I feel from heart that the older people were better off,bcoz they had amazing mental strength to tackle most of the issues.We should take a lesson or 2 from them.Oh enough of my rambling.Cheers

  5. hi Sia, lovely post, brought back a lot of memories about my grandma, the banana blossoms from our backyard and how we kids drank the honey from the flowers, etc. I love this dish, and I love your recipe. I am not able to view the pics in firefox too!:-(

  6. Sia,
    Lovely post .
    This way of making banana Blossom palya is sure yummy ,well it reminds me of our own Mochar Ghonto ( banana florets curry).I am unable to see pic also .
    hugs and smiles

  7. What a lovely story, Sia.

    Btw, I use a firefox browser, but am still not able to view your pics.

  8. Even if i cannot see the pictures (I use Firefox BTW), I am able to read this beautiful post about your Mudi Ajji.
    Thank you forthis lovely recipes and for sharing this nice anecdote

  9. I am using chrome to read ur post so i cant see ur pics...but will be going to firfox now to chk out the pics....lovely post sia....catch ur post from firefox!

  10. girl! there is probs in firefox too dear...only few pics are displaying and i cant c ur banana blosoom:( chk it out n will come after a day or 2 to chk out the pics!

  11. Hey Sia,what a wonderful post, brought back memories of my gran whose smile always lit up my heart...this dish sounds wonderful..I am on firefox and yet am not able to see the pics just wanted to let you know :)

  12. I use IE still can view ur drool worthy pict.
    Gal, this post got a wonderful personal touch :) Feel like I ve seen a old black & white movie without dialogue :)

  13. Rekindling past memories in a significant manner by cooking your great grandma's banana flower recipe is such a sweet thing Sia...btw where did you find the banana flowers? they make a different kind of stirfry in Konkan with the banana flowers, which is my ancestral place. Have had it only once....but i dont even have the recipe for it.

  14. What a lovely post sia...as always you took us off with your story!...love banana blossoms!

  15. Yummy Banana Blossom Stir fry..love any dishes from banana blossom..

  16. Wow, sia! your write up visually showed your grandma. Very nice post. And the banana flower palya looks so delicious.

  17. this onam i discovered the joy of rosematta rice and can't have enough of it, and this is just such a wonderful dish to have it with. Thanks for sharing such beautiful memories and recipes

  18. i tried making this once and it was soooo bitter. bless your great grandma's heart and soul.

  19. Sia, lovely post..loved the pics(firefox-now visible) I hv never tried banana blossoms -since as a kid the taste didn't agree wt me..gotto try now.
    Ur beautiful article reminded me of my bapama (dad's mom), who passed away a decade ago, used to be very good in narrating true life incidents n mytho. stories. She too was married at 11, her elder son (my unc)n her age diff. 15 yrs!!! Ooof...but grandpa passed off in mid 80's after settling all his kids.Tks for such a lovely recipe too!

  20. Sia, lovely post. My great grandmother also has a similar story. Lovely pics and I am bookmarking your dahi bhindi too!

  21. ok i can the pic now! luv the new header

  22. A nice story to the recipe. We have some lessons to learn here!

  23. lovely! even i have fond memories associated with this dish. i hardly make it now cuz i am too lazy to prep the blossoms before cooking.

  24. hi, I can see the pics now!! beautiful, as always:-) Amazing new colours for the header. love it:-)

  25. Woah...u painted scenes of 19th century with your lovely words as usual. The curry looks beautiful. We make a similar one too. But we used to remove the thin cream colored stem in the floret too.


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