Don’t neglect banana stems. They are nutritious and good for you.
In India, Myanmar and the Philippines, banana stem is considered a health food and traditionally regarded as a natural remedy for kidney stones.
An article in the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research in 2011 reported that in vitro studies showed significant decrease in the size of kidney stones exposed to banana stem juice.
This was due to the presence of magnesium, potassium and nitrate in the juice.
The banana stem is not a true stem. It is actually a pseudostem made out of leaf sheaths.
I managed to purchase banana stems in Little India, and my trip yielded a recipe from the grocer, who recommended I cook it with moong dal.
I did, and I rather like the dish. It has a fresh crunch and reminds me of bamboo shoots.
- 150g moong dal (dehusked and split mung beans)
- 600ml water
- 2 banana stems (1.8kg)
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 3 red onions (140g), sliced
- 2 red finger chillies, sliced
- 2 green finger chillies, sliced
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves, stems removed
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 3 tsp salt
- 3 tsp sambar powder
1. Wash and rinse moong dal thoroughly.
2. Place moong dal in a pot and add 350ml water.
3. Bring to a boil and boil over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the dal splits and is cooked. (Add more water to cover the dal during cooking if needed.) Set aside.
4. Remove outer rings of the banana stems. Cut into rounds, then cut each round into 1.5cm cubes.
5. Place banana stem pieces in basin and cover with water.
6. Take a thin stick and stir in a clockwise direction. Remove the sap around the stick.
7. Repeat process until the stick comes up clean when you stir.
8. Discard the soaking water and rinse the banana stem. Set aside.
9. In a wok, heat the oil and add the black mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the sliced onions. Fry over medium-low heat until the onions are softened.
10. Add the red and green chillies and curry leaves. Fry for a minute.
11. Add banana stem cubes and boiled moong dal. Stir-fry for a minute.
12. Add the ground turmeric and salt. Stir-fry for 30 seconds.
13. Add remaining 250ml water. Stir through and bring to a simmering boil.
14. Add sambar powder and continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
15. Serve hot with rice.
A version of this story first appeared in The New Paper on November 2, 2017, with the headline, ‘Hed Chef: Stir-fry with fresh crunch from banana stems’.