By Naini Setalvad
While ripe bananas are a universal favorite, many parts of the country also use the nutrient-rich raw banana as a vegetable, says Naini Setalvad
Raw bananas are greatly popular in many parts of the country, particularly in South India, which is as rich in banana plants as it is in coconut trees. While the fruit is available in many varieties, and is present in every home, the raw banana too is an integral part of South Indian cuisine. Among the Jain community too, raw bananas hold pride of place as the best possible substitute for potatoes, which they abjure, being a root vegetable. Instead, the raw banana is boiled, flavoured with spices, and used as a filling for samosas, and vadas, cutlets or dosas.
Raw banana is best known for the tasty chips it makes. But there are many lighter ways to use this versatile vegetable. It can be made into stir fry vegetables to accompany chappatis. South Indians use it to make curries and vegetable liberally flavoured with coconut. When sliced, dipped in batter and deep fried, it makes delectable bhajias.
The raw banana is a powerhouse of nutrients for the body. It contains three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose, combined with fibre. A banana gives an instant, sustained, and substantial boost of energy.
Nutritionally, the raw banana is a good source of vitamins and minerals, and contains starch that may help control blood sugar, manage weight, and lower blood cholesterol levels.
Raw bananas contain a high amount of resistant starch, a type of starch which cannot be broken down by enzymes in your digestive system. They reduce your risk of diabetes by aiding in blood sugar control, and the possibility of heart disease by helping to lower blood cholesterol.
Resistant starch reduces insulin responses and improves whole body insulin sensitivity. It also helps to lower plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels and fat storage. Raw bananas are a good source of fibre, and help to slow down digestion, thereby keeping you fuller, decreasing hunger and reducing caloric intake, automatically checking weight.
Nutritionally, the raw banana is:
• High in potassium, thus lowering blood pressure
• High in Vitamin B6 helping formation of haemoglobin, aiding in blood sugar control.
• Gives energy for a longer time and is thus extremely good for athletes.
Regular consumption of raw bananas is beneficial for overall health conditions including high cholesterol, heart disease, and gastro disorders. It enhances fat burning by breaking down stored fat to be used as an energy source which promotes weight loss and long-term weight management.
The sugar concentration in raw bananas is much lower than that of ripened bananas. This is because the natural resistant starch in raw bananas is converted to sugar when they turn yellow during the ripening process.
Mini Idli Dabeli
Serves 3; preparation time 30 mins
Ingredients for mini idlis
150 gm rice, raw
50 gm urad dal (Split black gram)
1/2 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek seeds)
Salt to taste
Ingredients for dabeli
3 tbsp green coriander chutney
3 tbsp jaggery tamarind chutney / khajoor chutney
2 raw bananas, boiled
2 tsp dabeli masala
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped coriander for garnishing
Salt to taste
Method for idli
Mix urad dal and rice together. Soak overnight with methi seeds. Remove excess water, add salt and grind using a blender. Keep this batter aside for 5-6 hours in a warm area to ferment it. Once it ferments pour batter into mini idli moulds. Steam for 10 minutes.
Method for dabeli
Pour the extra virgin olive oil in a kadai (wok). Add mashed banana, both the chutneys, salt, chopped coriander and dabeli masala to the kadai (wok). Mix well and cook for 3 minutes. Cut each idli horizontally through the centre. Place the banana mixture and pomegranate in between. Garnish with coriander and serve.
Banana mezhakparathi (from Kerala)
Serves 4; preparation time 15 mins
4 medium-sized raw bananas
Red chilli and salt to taste
1 tablespoon of oil
Peel the banana skin, cut the bananas into 1-inch rounds. Cut the rounds into thin strips. Boil with salt and red chilli powder until cooked. When ready to eat, pour oil into a well-seasoned pan and saute until crisp and brown. Can be eaten as an accompaniment with rice.
Banana erissery (from Kerala)
Serves 4; preparation time 45 mins
1 raw banana
1/2 cup whole moong
1 cup grated coconut
2 red chillies
1 teaspoon of jeera
Salt to taste
One small wedge of onion finely chopped
2 sprigs of karipatha
1 teaspoon mustard
2 red chillies
Pinch of hing
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
Peel the banana and chop them into small pieces. Wash well and cook with haldi and salt. Keeping three tablespoons of the coconut aside, grind the rest finely with jeera and red chillies. Cook the moong in a pressure cooker for three whistles or until well cooked. When the banana is cooked add the ground coconut and moong and mix well. Check for salt. In a kadai, add the coconut oil. When hot, add the mustard seeds. After it splutters turn in the onions and red chilli. When somewhat done add the remaining coconut and cook until the coconut turns brown. Add karipata and hing to the seasoning. Turn it into the erissary and enjoy. Serve with rice as a curry, or in thickened form as an accompaniment.
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