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Durable Link to this BlogFriday, March 28, 2008

The Banana-Stem Curry

Fantastic Fibrous Food

Indian traditional food has never ceased to offer wonders by opening new windows to me. Yesterday my friend Dr. Radha offered a piece of Banana-Plant-Stem. Though I had tasted its curry earlier I had not tried cooking it. Ivory white and as smooth, it is full of fiber content. After pealing the outer skin fit for cattle-consumption, appears the portion for human consumption! Dr. Radha explained the mode of cooking by mixing the cut pieces with any pulses, steaming and adding spices of one’s taste. It was delicious, juicy with very little cud after chewing.

Physicians and health-experts these days recommend fibrous food to one and all. Westerners used to meat and white bread came to know about its importance quite late, after discovery of vitamins. But average Indians have been eating fibrous roots, stems, leaves, creepers, flowers, fruits over ages. Drumsticks, jocularly known as "Gents Fingers" as against okra called "Ladies Fingers" in India, are a delicacy in South Indian curries. But the leaves and flowers of that tree are also relished wherever available. Bamboo shoots are much sought after and form essential part of offering during Gouri-Ganesha festival. As children we hankered for sugarcane pieces, which we peeled from our teeth chewed and sucked.

The "Supashastra" of Mangarasa, a cookery book of 16th century describes five varieties of Banana stem curry by cooking the finely sliced pieces in milk, tamarind juice, adding pulses and spices. Freshly minced stem could make raw juicy salad, after marination in lime juice.

Life has changed in India. A quick bite and fast food have become order of the day. No time to sit for a leisurely meal of rice and fibrous vegetable curries. Fish eaters have no leisure for crab-meat curry of Konkani variety wherein the meaty part is cooked with slight crust of claws to retain the taste.

Full of vitamins and easy for evacuation, fibrous vegetables like banana-stem are being forgotten. It is not usual bazaar stuff. Only when the tree is felled or cut, flower pod and stem are exchanged or sold among those who relish. It has pleasant, slightly bitter taste.

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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