Meditations

Fried Bananas…Thai style


Dessert is my favorite course of the meal, hands down, no question. Yet lately I’ve been greatly disappointed at the redundancy of desserts in restaurants–there’s always some version of the molten chocolate cake (aka lava cake), some variety of a cheesecake, and some derivative of an apple/cinnamon combo.

The same story goes for Thai restaurants, I am willing to bet my credibility as a Thai foodist that a vast majority of Thai restaurants you’ve been to all over North America have “fried bananas” on the menu. Regular bananas coated with the standard deep-frying batter or wrapped in spring roll wrappers, served with ice cream, and possibly drizzled with honey or caramel sauce. Ring a bell?

Admittedly they are delicious but so far away from the real version of Thai fried bananas. Having worked in Thai restaurants in N. America myself, I usually don’t give ethnic restaurants a hard time when they modify authentic dishes to fit the palate of the consumers, after all, it is a business and unfortunately authenticity doesn’t always sell (this is why you don’t see “Durian and Sticky Rice” on the dessert menu even though it’s authentic.) Which begs the question: What is it about the authentic fried bananas that would not be well received by the Western palate? Answer: Nothing.

This lady is selling fried sweet potatoes (front) along side fried bananas (back)

Or you tell me after trying the recipe. The authentic fried bananas in Thailand are sold on street kiosks, but lately they have been showing up in parking lots of big shopping malls. Most people who sell fried bananas usually use the same batter to fry sweet potatoes. You can usually find my personal favorite fried food here as well: Fried young sticky rice stuffed with baby bananas, but that’s for another article.

Gluay Nam Wa is the variety we use for most Thai desserts

The batter is made of rice flour–the best starch for crispy and dry batter–accented with shredded coconut and toasted sesame seeds. Let’s talk bananas: what we use is something called “Gluay Nam Wa” which is a short, plump, sweet and firm banana that is essentially impossible to find outside of South East Asia. It’s what we use in the majority of desserts due to its ability to hold its shape through cooking as well as its slightly tangy sweetness. The best substitute I’ve found is plantain, but make sure it is ripe enough that the skin has turned significantly black.

You can serve it plain the way it was meant to, but coconut ice cream works well if you’d like to dress it up for a plated dessert course. In fact, as long as the batter remains true to its roots, feel free to be creative with the accompaniment!

Gluay Kag (Fried Bananas)

Click Here for an instructional video with detailed explanations of ingredients, substitutions and methods

2 plantains, ripe with black skin (if you can find gluay nam wa, use 4)

3/4 cup rice flour

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds

1/3 cup packed shredded coconut meat (not desiccated, but may use dessicated as a substitute)

1/2 cup cold water

Instructions

In a pot or a deep saute pan, add enough vegetable oil so it is about 1.5″ deep. Turn heat on medium, and let it come to 350-375 F, being careful not to let it go higher. While waiting, prep the bananas.

Cut plantains in half, and slice each half into 1/3″ slices. If using gluay nam wa, keep the bananas whole and slice into 3-4 pieces. Set aside

Mix all the dry ingredients in  mixing bowl and whisk to mix well together. Add the water and whisk until well combined, batter should have a crepe batter consistency, so feel free to add more flour if it seems too thin. Use right away.

Dip each slice in the batter and quickly drop into hot oil. Rice flour batter has the advantage of being wonderfully crispy, unfortunately is makes for a runny batter that does not hold on well to food, so do not shake off excess batter or you’ll have nothing left on your banana!

Let fry until deep golden brown and crispy, about 4-5 minutes, flipping them half way through.

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