Fried Bananas with Grated Coconut

Fried bananas are familiar just about everywhere. In tropical Asia, however, we have a particular type of banana that is exactly right for frying, but unfortunately it is not available everywhere. When I fry bananas at home in Wimbledon I use the ordinary supermarket ones, usually imported from the West Indies. A good alternative is to use ripe plantains, which are not hard to find. Asians usually eat fried bananas not for dessert but as a tea-time or morning-coffee snack. Freshly grated coconut is often served with them to give a contrasting texture. for buying and preparing fresh coconuts.

To make your own coconut milk, put the chopped flesh from a fresh coconut into your blender and heat about 600 ml /1 pint of water until it is hot but not boiling. Add half of this water to the contents of the blender, and blend for 20-30 seconds. Pour the liquid through a fine sieve, and press out every drop you can. Then put the coconut solids back into the blender, pour on the other half of the hot water, and repeat the whole process. You will then have a pint jugful of averagely-thick coconut milk. If you are using desiccated coconut, you can get the same result by using about 350 g /12 oz of it into the blender and following the same procedure. This will give the same quantity of milk, but it will be somewhat thicker.

You can keep this coconut milk in the fridge for at most 48 hours. If the thicker ‘cream’ floats to the top, simply give it a stir (or skim it off and use it as coconut cream). Coconut milk cannot be frozen, and if you are cooking for the freezer the milk, which is usually added towards the end of cooking, should be omitted until the dish is thawed and reheated.

If you can’t get fresh coconut or haven’t the time to make coconut milk, creamed coconut is sold in blocks (sometimes in the chilled counter), like a hard, white margarine. It is very useful for giving flavour and a little thickening in a number of dishes. It needs to be cut into small pieces – either by chopping with a sharp knife, or shaving thin slices off it. These usually go into the blender with other ingredients. Alternatively, they can be added to a sauce in the last few minutes of cooking to thicken it.

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Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized fairly ripe bananas, or 2 ripe plantains
  • 90 g/ 3 oz rice flour
  • 30 g/ 1 oz melted butter
  • 225 ml/ 8 fl oz coconut milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • clarified butter, for frying
  • ½ fresh coconut, white flesh only, grated

Method

Peel the bananas or plantains and cut each one lengthwise down the middle, then cut each half across into 2 pieces if using bananas or 3 if using plantains. Alternatively, cut them into not-too-thin round slices.

Mix the flour, butter, coconut milk and salt into a smooth batter. Coat the banana or plantain pieces well with this batter, and fry in clarified butter until golden brown on both sides.

Scatter the grated coconut on top and serve hot or warm.