Banana Blossom with Coconut and Chile
Chef Derek Sarno, Director of Plant-Based Innovation at Tesco, & Chef Chad Sarno
Authors of The Wicked Healthy Cookbook
Photos: Eva Kosmas Flores
The Wicked Healthy Cookbook is finally out! How’s it going?
It’s exciting to see our first cookbook finally out in the world after three years of working on it, and you should never judge a book by its cover, but the cover is a pretty exciting piece. It’s different, not what you would typically see on a cookbook of plant recipes, and sets the stage for the whole movement. It’s changing the perception around what people think vegan food looks like. It’s not a bunch of smoothies and salads. Plant food is badass, flavorful, hearty, sexy, satisfying, juicy, and delicious. Like I always say, “No need to kill shit for flavor.” The recipes we chose were a combination of what we each do best and what people have requested over the years. We also included dishes and family recipes that were passed down to us, like our Nana’s Red Sauce.
"Plant food is badass, flavorful, hearty, sexy, satisfying, juicy, and delicious."
Banana Blossom with Coconut and Chile Recipe
1 banana blossom (about 1 pound)
1½ tbsp everyday olive oil
3 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp julienned fresh ginger
1 Thai chile, sliced into paper-thin rounds
1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk or coconut cream
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 lime, halved
3 to 4 cups cooked rice vermicelli noodles or rice
¼ English cucumber, cut into thin planks 2 inches long and ¼ inch wide
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Handful chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, minced
Thinly sliced Thai chiles, optional (if you like it spicy)
Lime wedges, for squeezing
Rinse it well, and begin removing each layer of leaves, collecting the small banana blossoms within as you separate the leaves. Discard the tougher, outer layers of leaves. Continue removing leaves, retaining the tender inner leaves and small blossoms.
Stack about 5 tender banana leaves at a time and cut the stack crosswise into long thin strips. Fill a large bowl with water and a big squeeze of lemon. Drop the squeezed lemon half into the bowl. Place the strips in the lemon water. I usually discard the small blossoms, but if you don’t mind tedious work, remove the inedible stigma and small petal from each blossom as shown. For very tiny blossoms, simply pinch off and discard the tips. When all the small blossoms are cleaned, chop them and add to the lemon water. Add about 2 tablespoons salt and massage the leaves and blossoms under the water, pressing them between your fingers for a few minutes.
This process removes bitterness, and the water should become discolored. Drain off the water, then fill the bowl with fresh water, lemon juice, and salt. Repeat massaging and pressing under the water for a few minutes more. Drain off the water and pat the leaves and blossoms dry (image E). This unique ingredient is now ready to be cooked.
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil to evenly cover the bottom, then add the shallots and stir until they are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chile, and prepped banana blossom. Shake the pan to spread evenly and sauté until the blossom takes on a bit of color and softens, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring to avoid burning the garlic.
Lower the heat to medium and stir in the coconut milk, tamari, and ½ teaspoon salt. Continue stirring until the coconut milk reduces slightly in volume. (Stirring helps keep the coconut milk from separating.) Remove from the heat and squeeze in the juice from one lime half. Taste and add more tamari, salt, and/or lime juice as needed.
Divide the noodles among 2 to 4 noodle bowls. Ladle in the coconut banana blossom mixture, and add cucumber, lettuce, cilantro, green onions, sliced chile (if using), and lime wedges for squeezing.