Banana fruit clusters comprise of many ‘hands’ in which each ‘finger’ develops into a banana fruit. The banana hands develop gradually starting at the part closer to the banana ‘tree’ stem, often at the top of the cluster pointing towards the ground. The farther tip of the cluster is where new growth of ‘hands’ occurs. A purplish tear shaped bud made of modified leaves protecting the developing ‘hands’ that in an early stage are bunches of little flowers.
This bud is the banana blossom ‘Hua Plee’ in Thai, an exotic ingredient that Thais use fresh in salads such as ‘Yum Hua Plee‘, cooked in curry dishes and even deep fried.
The technique to prepare the bud, is quite simple:
- Prepare a bowl of cold water mixed with the juice of a few limes. Cut another lime in half that you would use for rubbing.
- Remove the outer and tougher purple leaves and the little banana flowers growing underneath each leaf, until you reach a creamy color layer of inner leaves. You may keep the little banana flowers as they can be used as well.
- Cut in half the bud lengthwise, and rub the freshly cut surface with a half a lime, to prevent oxidation and darkening. This happens really fast.
- Remove the cone shaped stem at the core of each half and rub with more lime.
- Place each half flat on a cutting board and cut as needed. For salads, work your way down from the tip of the half cone to the bottom, thinly cutting cross sections.
- Immediately transfer the pieces into the bowl of water and lime juice. This would prevent further oxidation and moderate astringency.
- When you are ready to use the blossom pieces, remove them from the bowl and squeeze to drain the water. They may have some sticky latex which is normal.
- To use the little banana flowers pull out and remove the tough and somewhat translucent free tepal.