Vietnam’s banana flower salad packs a much bigger punch than a typical plate of mixed greens. Banana flowers (thick purple lumps that will later turn into bunches of bananas) are peeled and thinly sliced then mixed with green papaya, carrots, and cilantro along with chicken and a heavy-handed pour of a salty fish sauce dressing and crunchy peanuts.
This salad is highlighted by the hot-tart play of chili and lime off the crisp rings of the banana flower, it is a refreshing dish that is perfect for a hot summer day. If banana flowers are unavailable, a good substitute is peeled and shredded green papaya.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 20 mins
2 banana flowers, thinly sliced (see directions)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1⁄4 cup shallot, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1⁄2 cup of fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup fresh Thai basil, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice lime for the bowl water
1 lime for the bowl water
1 large bowl of room temperature water
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 red Thai chile, chopped
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet. Sauté the shallots until golden brown. Leave them in the oil, and set aside to cool.
Squeeze fresh lime juice into the bowl of water. This will be used to prevent the banana flower slices from turning brown.
Peel back the dark purple layers of the banana flower until you reach layers with just a hint of purple. Using a mandoline, slice the banana flower into thin rings, beginning at the point and slicing about three-quarters of the way down. The rings will look similar to onion rings. Immediately soak the rings in the lime water until ready to use. Set aside.
Once the oil is cool, mix in half of the mint leaves and half of the Thai basil with the sautéed shallots.
Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Heat lovers will want to add more chili.
When you slice the banana flower, you will end up with small bits from the center of the flower. Strain these out using a spoon. Don’t worry if you don’t get all of them. Remove the banana flower from the water, and combine with the shallot/mint/basil mixture, chopped peanuts, and remainder of the fresh mint and basil.