Monday, April 1, 2013
Pisang Tanduk in Two Ways
Pisang Tanduk is a cooking banana, a variety of rhino horn plantains. They're starchy and not very sweet when raw so you generally cook them. The Tanduk banana (I guess "tanduk" means horn in Malay) is big. Really big. We found one in a speciality market in Tokyo last month, and it was the length and girth of my forearm. Sorry to say, I didn't think to take a picture of it in time, but it really looks just like a regular — but big — green banana. A Malay grower has a post and a couple of good pictures here.
There's not a whole lot of information out there, but it seems that when green you can use it much like potatoes in stews and curries. If you wait until it ripens it'll turn slightly sweet and be good for more snack-like dishes. Ours was still green so we waited. And waited. Aaaand waited. It finally turned yellow this weekend, three weeks after buying it.
We've never even seen a plantain in our lives, and we really didn't expect anything edible to come from this experiment. We peeled the banana and cut off six chunky slices, about 1.5cm thick, for tempura. Then we thinly sliced the rest (using a cheese slicer) for banana chips.
For the chips we heated the frying oil to 170°C and simply dumped the sticky banana slices into it one by one, a dozen per batch. We did try to rinse a few slices in water, then dry them off (you do that for potato chips), but it didn't seem to make any practical difference. When they just started to partially brown we picked them up and dumped another batch into the frying pot. The time is a little tricky; you want them still mostly yellow with a little golden browning, but if you're too quick they'll still be partially soft. Wait a little too long and they'll lose the yellow colour and some of the banana flavour.
The tempura was just as easy. Mix up a bit of tempura batter, dip the slices, and dump them in the oil (which we set to 180°). After a few minutes the exposed bits of banana will start to brown nicely while the tempura batter is turning just slightly golden.
Both turned out really excellent. The chips are crispy but not hard, with just a hint of sweetness and banana flavour. They're nothing like the crunchy, heavy "banana chips" sometimes sold as snacks. They're already tasty from the pot, but toss them with a bit of salt and they turn great. Ritsuko really liked to also add a bit of brown sugar to enhance the sweetness, while I prefer them with just the salt. We ate more of them than we really should have yesterday, and we still have a whole jar full; one banana gives you lots of chips.
The tempura was, I think, even better. A very pleasant balance of sweetness, savouriness, and saltiness (dip them in a bit of salt when you eat). The surface is slightly crisp and fluffy while the inside is soft and just a little creamy. There's just enough flavour to give it character and never becomes overpowering. You could make this as part of a tempura dinner, or as a really good side dish with fish or fowl. I suspect it's a little too delicate to mix well with a heavier meat dish, though veal or ham might work nicely.
We did this as a one-off experiment, and really thought we'd fail. As it turns out, though, both the chips and the tempura was delicious. We'll certainly make this again when we can. Finding Tanduk bananas in Osaka is difficult of course, but not impossible; if nothing else we can probably order one through a greengrocer. And it's good enough that we should.