What Is Banana Blossom?
The New York Times recently ran a story about a vegan fish and chip shop in London. You read that correctly. There is no fish served at Hackney’s Sutton and Sons, and the meatless meat is probably not what you’re thinking. Neither tofu nor seitan, the “fish” is made with banana blossom.
The tender, edible flower is popular in the culinary traditions of Southeast Asian countries and comes from the same plant that produces bananas. It does not, however, taste like bananas. Unlike banana leaves, which are tough and fibrous but make excellent wrappings for slowly cooked food, banana blossoms are soft with just a bit of crunch. More like an artichoke when it comes to flavor, banana blossoms can be eaten raw or cooked.
While it may not be at your go-to grocery store, you’ll likely find banana blossom (if not fresh, then frozen or canned) at a local Asian grocery supply store. If you do buy frozen, be sure to find out if the flowers were preserved, as this will affect their texture and cooking time. Canned banana blossom in brine is typically the version used when the intended preparation is imitation meat.
Banana blossom isn’t always prepared for vegan dishes, however. When sliced finely, fresh or canned banana blossom makes a bright addition to salads, and pairs especially well with heat, like the yum kai hua pli at Uncle Boon’s in Manhattan. The dish, a Thai salad of banana blossoms, fried shallots, roasted chiles, and spicy rotisserie chicken, is best paired with a few slices of buttery roti and a cold beer.