How To

How to Prepare Banana Blossom

A few years ago when I was visiting Manila, one of the most memorable dishes I tried was a traditional Filipino peanut stew called Kare-Kare with bagoong. Having little experience cooking Filipino food, I went to the wonderful Astig Vegan and adapted her Kare-Kare recipe and used her delectably salty-fermented vegan bagoong. One of the unique ingredients in this dish that I was excited to work with for the first time was banana blossom.  I’ve tried banana blossom on a few occasions during my travels in South-East Asia, it’s a common ingredient in this part of the world (especially in curries), but I had never worked with it in my kitchen before.

Banana Blossom

Common in South-East Asian cuisine, banana blossoms (aka banana flower or banana heart) are tear-shaped maroon or purplish flowers hanging at the end of banana clusters. They can be eaten raw or cooked and are used primarily in salads, curries or soups. Fresh banana blossoms are available at most Asian groceries. There is also a canned version since it is not a common ingredient in the U.S. Note: I found fresh banana blossoms at an Asian grocery in SE Portland (Oregon).

Banana Blossom

When choosing a banana blossom, select a firm one with tightly packed petals and they should be a purple-red. There should be no signs of decay. If not using, wrap it in a cling film or plastic wrap to keep the petals closed completely and store it in the refrigerator.

Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom

The tough reddish leaves on the exterior are known as bracts. These can be used as serving plates or otherwise discarded. Beneath these ‘bracts’ leaves a row of delicate yellow-tipped florets that can be removed and immediately soaked in acidic water to avoid discoloration and bitterness.

The colorful florets are eventually ‘soon to be bananas’ and are part of a tedious cleaning process: pluck the matchstick-shaped pistil (tough and not pleasant to consume) and the scale-like outermost petal (aka calyx). You have to do this for every floret. Discard them and soak cleaned florets in acidic water immediately for several hours or overnight to prevent browning and remove the bitterness. Rinse in cold water, drain and squeeze out excess water.

Regarding the taste, these florets (if not soaked in acidic or salted water) will leave a bitterness on your tongue if eaten raw (or if you are just curious). Once they are soaked & rinsed for awhile and cooked, they won’t be as quite bitter, yet tender. They are commonly used in Southern Indian cuisine such as fritters, stir-fries or fried dishes. I haven’t used the florets yet.

Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom

The intermediary leaves, that will be pale pinkish in color, are edible and tender. As you peel away the dark bracts you will reach a white or pale-colored heart once the leaves become too small to peel. Trim the conical stem and discard. Once sliced in half lengthwise, it will produce a sticky white sap. Immerse it immediately in acidic water and let sit for two hours to remove the bitter sap and avoid browning.

Pictured below is one of our favorite Japanese kitchen knives – cuts incredibly well especially through toughest ingredients and perfect for slicing vegetables and fruits paper-thin: Shun Nakiri Knife.

Banana Blossom

The texture of the tender pale heart reminds me somewhat between tender artichoke leaves and bamboo shoots. For the heart, you use this in soups, salads, curries, stews, and whatever else. Once you chopped the heart up, it looks like this, broken up in chopped florets and pieces:

Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom

I read that banana blossoms are difficult to clean due to the black sap – to avoid these stains, use any neutral oil and rub it all over your hands before handling the blossom. I used an old cutting board and a bit of oil on my finger tips to make the cleanup a little easier; however, in my experience the blossom wasn’t that messy.

Banana Blossom

Top: Not yet cleaned yellow-tipped florets. Pluck the matchstick-shaped pistil and the scale-like outermost petal (aka calyx).

Banana Blossom

Top, from left: Cleaned florets without the pistil and calyx; scale-like outermost petal (aka calyx) to be discarded.

Banana Blossom

Top: Discarded pistils. The stigma is the sticky knob at the top of the pistil. It is attached to the matchstick-shaped structure called the style.

Banana Blossom

How to Prepare Banana Blossom

Ingredients

1 banana blossom
4 cups or 1 quart cold water
1 tablespoon salt or ¼ cup fresh lemon/lime juice/apple cider vinegar
any neutral oil

Method

Fill a large bowl with cold water and salt, juice or vinegar. This will be your 'acidic water.' Use any neutral oil and rub it all over your hands before handling the blossom. Prepare it on an old cutting board or newspaper to make the cleanup a little easier. Remove the tough reddish leaves (bracts) and florets one by one. These bracts can be used as serving plates or otherwise discarded. Beneath these ‘bracts’ leaves a row of delicate yellow-tipped florets that can be removed and immediately soaked in acidic water to avoid discoloration and bitterness.

The intermediary leaves, that will be pale pinkish in color, are edible and tender. As you peel away the dark bracts you will reach a white or pale-colored heart once the leaves become too small to peel. Trim off the conical stem and discard. Once sliced in half lengthwise, it will produce a sticky white sap, chop them up in any sizes. Massage and immerse them in acidic water for several minutes and let sit for two hours to remove the bitter sap and avoid browning. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse in cold water before using.

Fill another large bowl with cold water and salt, juice or vinegar. The florets are part of a tedious cleaning process: pluck the matchstick-shaped pistil (tough and not pleasant to consume) and the scale-like outermost petal (aka calyx). Discard them, soak cleaned florets in acidic water immediately and soak for several hours or overnight before using. Rinse them in cold water and squeeze out excess water. View floret diagram

some banana blossom recipes

1. Vegan Kare-Kare
2. Vegan Banana Flower Curry
3. Vegan Banana Blossom Stir-Fry
4. Ginataang Puso ng Saging (Banana Blossom in Coconut Milk)
5. Thai-Inspired Banana Flower Salad
6. Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad
7. Vazhai Poo Usuli (Banana Flower /Banana Blossom) Usuli
8. Banana Blossom curry (Vaazhaipoo Curry)
9. Vazhai poo Vadai/Koombu vada/ Banana Blossom Lentil Fritters
10. Vegan Banana Blossom Salad with Jackfruit Dressing
11. Kundige Palya/Banana Blossom Stir-fry

have you ever tried or cooked with banana blossom?

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25 Comments

  • Reply Sarojini 2014-06-04 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for this- fantastic clear photos and explanation! You made me want to search Birmingham for these (maybe in Soho Road?) cos if anywhere sells them outside London it should be here… I only cooked with them once, in a rural area of West Bengal, where I was shown how to pick and prepare them by a local. We made sabji (veg curry) with them as part of a large meal which also included fried karela and potatoes, rice and dal. It was once of the sweetest experiences of my life, actually :)

  • Reply flickingthevs 2014-06-05 at 1:21 am

    That’s really interesting – what does it taste like? What will you cook with it?

    • Reply vegan miam 2014-06-05 at 8:17 am

      Good first question, I must add this to my post. The texture of the tender pale heart reminds me somewhat between tender artichoke leaves and bamboo shoots. Once you chopped the heart up, it looks like this, broken up in chopped florets and pieces:

      https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2922/14166053748_8c777c3380_b.jpg

      For the heart, you use this in soups, salads, curries, stews, and whatever else.

      However, the florets (if not soaked in acidic or salted water) will leave a bitterness on your tongue, but if they are soaked & rinsed for awhile and cooked, they won’t be bitter though. They are commonly used in fritters, stir-fries or fried dishes. I haven’t used the florets yet, but I think Indian cuisine uses a lot of that.

  • Reply Emi 2014-06-05 at 5:18 am

    Wow! I’ve seen them and I’ve heard they could be eaten, but I’ve never had the pleasure. Thanks. Brilliant!!

  • Reply Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan 2014-06-05 at 5:56 am

    Never tried banana blossom before, but I’ve seen it from time to time at the Asian grocer, so maybe next time I’ll give it a shot! This is a wonderful guide and the photos are beautiful!

  • Reply erinwyso | Olives for Dinner 2014-06-05 at 7:21 am

    I love everything about this post! Thanks for the overview on how to clean these. I’ve never seen these anywhere, but will keep my eyes peeled for them now!

    • Reply vegan miam 2014-06-05 at 8:36 am

      Thank you, Erin!

    • Reply vegan miam 2014-06-05 at 12:32 pm

      Since you moved to California, you should be able to see them at Asian supermarkets 😉 I found them in Portland though!

  • Reply Katrin 2014-06-05 at 8:32 am

    I have never cooked with banana blossom before but you always make me want to try new things. Thank you for your inspiration, Rika!

  • Reply Angela @ Canned-Time.com 2014-06-05 at 10:32 am

    Really cool read Rika. Never would have known, thanks for sharing !!

  • Reply Andrea 2014-06-05 at 11:46 am

    I’ve never cooked with banana blossoms, and I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever eaten them. This was such an interesting post — I like learning about unusual (to me) ingredients.

  • Reply Katie @ Produce on Parade 2014-06-05 at 11:51 am

    Those are fascinating! I had no idea about banana blossoms. They are stunning!

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats 2014-06-05 at 12:00 pm

    I’ve never heard of banana blossoms. So interesting!

  • Reply lisacng @ expandng.com 2014-06-05 at 2:01 pm

    Never seen or eaten these but a very interesting plant! Must be kinda therapeutic to clean it :).

  • Reply Sharon 2014-06-05 at 2:51 pm

    Thank you Rika (& Doni!) for the step by step instructions and stunning photos ♥ I’ve seen banana blossom in Thailand but I’ve yet to see it here. When I find it, at least I’ll know how to prepare it now! I really want to try your Kare Kare. It looks utterly delicious! xx

  • Reply Hannah B. 2014-06-06 at 10:02 am

    Gah! This post is too visually stunning. Just gorgeous. I doubt I’ll be able to find banana blossoms anywhere here, but I wish I could. I love it when my food is naturally beautiful.

  • Reply Kelly @ Life made Sweeter 2014-06-06 at 11:14 am

    These photos are stunning girl! I’ve never tried a banana blossom but you’ve totally got me intrigued with all this gorgeousness!

  • Reply Nami | Just One Cookbook 2014-06-06 at 11:28 pm

    Soooooooooo interesting! I’m very fascinated with this ingredient and I would love to eat kare kare with this!

  • Reply The vegan 8 2014-06-07 at 12:38 am

    Wow. So beautiful! I’m embarassed to say I didn’t even know what a banana blossom was, so thank you so much for the tutorial! It all looks so beautiful and interesting to me :)

  • Reply Daniela @ FoodRecipesHQ 2014-06-07 at 10:01 am

    I did not know it is possible to eat banana blossom! Cool post, thanks for sharing it. p.s. I’m in love with this Japanese knife.

  • Reply Koko (kokoskitchen.com) 2014-06-09 at 1:08 am

    This ingredient is so amazing! It was fascinating to read this post. I literally didn’t even know what a banana blossom was. So thank you for enlightening me, and I’m sure a few others, too!! Also…like I said on FB- incredible knife!

  • Reply The Peace Patch 2014-06-12 at 6:10 am

    So fun to learn about new ingredients and how to prepare them! Your photos are extraordinary…they remind me of antique botanical illustrations, but with a stunningly dramatic twists. Somewhere in there is an art/coffee table/cookbook concept… 😉

  • Reply Kauai foodie tales | Wyobraska Tandem 2015-03-10 at 10:03 am

    […] Banana blossom – the ultimate Kauai farmers market experience, and probably not one to be […]

  • Reply Jeff 2015-03-18 at 11:15 pm

    Excellent guide, the best I have read, thanks.
    One very minor point, you say:
    “The colorful florets are eventually ‘soon to be bananas’”

    Actually the bell flowers are all male and never produce bananas.
    The female flowers are above and produce the bunch of fruit.

  • Reply Vegan & Gluten-Free Kare-Kare (Filipino Peanut Stew) | vegan miam 2015-07-04 at 8:07 am

    […] and there was no visual instructions on preparing banana blossom on Astig Vegan so I created a photographic tutorial here. I’ve had banana blossoms during my travels in Southeast Asia, but have never used them in my […]

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