Prasadam - Bananas, Part 3
BY: SUN STAFF
Jul 22, 2016 CANADA (SUN) A journey through India: border to border, bhoga to prasadam.
Bananas not only come in an astounding variety of sizes and colors, the variety of flavors is also surprising. There are red bananas, for example, that have a reddish-purple skin and a slight raspberry flavor. Most, however, offer the same high nutritive value and excellent taste. Bananas contain lots of fiber and three kinds of sugar: sucrose, fructose and glucose. They're also high in Vitamin B6, which regulates blood sugars, and potassium, which keeps blood pressure normal. Srila Prabhupada undoubtedly knew how beneficial bananas were when he recommended the devotees take them twice: morning and night.
In a room conversation in Jakarta (Feb 26, 1973), Srila Prabhupada mentioned an excellent way to eat bananas, popular in Bengal:
Prabhupada: "Rice, yes. In Bengali we call mudi. It is very popular, staple food for ordinary, everyone. In Bengal village, it is very popular because they're rice eaters. From rice they make this puffed rice. So they taking it in the morning. Puffed rice, mixed with molasses and cheese. It makes very good combination. Similarly... Puffed rice must be there, and fruits, like mango, banana, little molasses, and cheese mixed together. It is very nice."
There are so many wonderful passages in Vaisnava literature that mention bananas, giving us a greater appreciation for these golden fruits. In Sri Garga Samhita (5.2.15), the gopis met with Uddhava in a secluded banana tree forest, where he delivered a letter from Krsna. In 5.2.18-19 we read about Radha, awaiting Krsna's appearance:
etadrcam yat kadali-vanam ca tad
babhuva sarvam satatam hi bhasmasat
krsnagam acatma-tanum hi raksati
"There, in the banana-tree forest, in a cooling monsoon-cloud banana-leaf cottage anointed with sandal paste and cooled by nectar moonlight and mist from the Yamuna's graceful and restless waves, Sri Radha was burned by flames of separation from Sri Krsna. Only the hope that Sri Krsna would return kept Her alive."
Elsewhere in Garga Samhita, in the Sri Yamuna-sahasra-nama, Sri Krsna's thighs are compared to the graceful banana trees (rambhoru). Of course, most of the references in sastra refer to foodstuffs made with bananas, of which there many. In Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila (15:207-302) we read about the pastimes of Sri Caitanya, taking prasada at the home of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya:
"There were bharats made of mung dhal, of urd dhal and of sweet bananas, and there was sweet rice cake, coconut cake and various other cakes."
Similar to bharats are these Banana Vada, which are also excellent when offered in a bath of spiced yoghurt.
Potatoes, 2 large
Bananas, ripe, 4
Jalapenos, minced, 4
Ginger, minced fresh, 3 Inches
Coriander, ground, 5 Tablespoons
Mustard Seeds, 2 Teaspoons
Sesame Seeds, 2 Tablespoons
Pomegranate Seeds, 2 Tablespoons
Turmeric, 1/2 Teaspoon
Cayenne, 1 Teaspoon
Ghee, 2 Tablespoons
Lemon Juice, 4 Tablespoons
Sugar, 2 Tablespoons
Salt, To taste
Peel and boil the potatoes. Mash them along with all the other ingredients except the ghee, mustard and sesame. Make a chaunk with the mustard and sesame and heat till they splutter. Add chaunk to the vada mixture, then form the mixture into patties. Fry in ghee until golden brown, and drain on paper. Offer plain, or serve in yoghurt.
In Caitanya-caritamrta Antya 6.55-58 we read about the famous Cida Dahi Utsava festival at Panihati, which we happen to be celebrating at the time of this writing. In the narrative, we read about the excellent chipped rice preparations made with bananas:
"Seeing the crowd increasing, Raghunatha dasa arranged to get more eatables from other villages. He also brought two to four hundred large, round earthen pots.
He also obtained five or seven especially large earthen pots, and in these pots a brahmana began soaking chipped rice for the satisfaction of Lord Nityananda.
In one place, chipped rice was soaked in hot milk in each of the large pots. Then half the rice was mixed with yogurt, sugar and bananas.
The other half was mixed with condensed milk and a special type of banana known as canpa-kala. Then sugar, clarified butter and camphor were added."
These preparations are reminiscent of a traditional preparation called Payesh, a soft, sweet milk pudding with bananas:
Banana Pistachio Payesh
Basmati Rice, 1 Cup
Pistachios, unsalted, 1/2 Cup
Butter, 1 Tablespoon
Cardamom, ground, 1 Teaspoon
Cinnamon, 1/4 Teaspoon
Nutmeg, 1/4 Teaspoon
Sugar, 3/4 Cup
Milk, 3 Cups
Heavy Cream, 2 Cups
Bananas, just ripe, 2
A few Raisins and/or bits of mango
Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes, rinse and drain. Blanch the shelled pistachios in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and remove the skins. Chop coarsely. In a heavy bottom pan, melt the butter on low heat and add cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and sugar. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then add the rice, milk and cream. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the rice is tender (about 20 minutes.) Cool the pudding, then stir in sliced bananas and pistachios. Chill for at least four hours (or overnight) before offering.
In the Govinda-lilamrta, verse 52, Mother Yasoda is requesting yet another banana preparation, Karambha, a term which refers to the cornmeal.
"Oh Rambha! Prepare karambha by mixing ripe bananas and sugar with yogurt and cornmeal in a golden bowl."
A similar dish is made by mixing banana and sugar with groats or flour and curd, as in the following recipe:
1 cup of Curd
1-1/2 cups of Sugar
1/2 Banana (if small banana, use 1 or 1 1/2)
4-5 cups of Maida (regular) flour
One pinch of any color powder
One pinch baking soda
Ghee to Fry
Mix the curd and sugar. Add colour and the soda to the mix. Mix in the bananas so that there is no lumps remaining. Add in Maida until the dough can be made as one whole mass. (Make the dough as if you are going to make chapathis or parathas.) Let the dough rest for 4-8 hours. Take a small ball of the mixture (as big as a tennis ball) and flatten it with a glass or bottle. Dust with a little flour if dough sticks. Flatten it only until just thin enough. Fry in ghee for a couple of seconds, then turn and fry on the other side for a few more minutes.
In a room conversation from Vrindaban, July 5, 1977, Srila Prabhupada tells an interesting story about a preparation that was served at his daughter's wedding. Made from banana flour, the vegetable cutlet had the taste of lobster, and all the guests were surprised that it was vegetarian:
Tamala Krsna: "Still, there is nothing so palatable as nice prasadam.
Prabhupada: Krsna baro doyamoy. From milk you can make. From dal. Urad dal.
Tamala Krsna: Grains.
Prabhupada: Jackfruit, this banana. Then banana fruit... Banana, what is called? Flour.
Tamala Krsna: Banana flour.
Prabhupada: If it is made properly, you can taste lobster. [ ]
Tamala Krsna: "Vegetable meat."
Prabhupada: Lajpata.(?) Or a vegetable mutton. During my daughter's marriage, the hired cook, they made from this flour of banana, cutlet. Nobody could understand that it is vegetable.
Tamala Krsna: You were present at that time?
Prabhupada: No, no, I did not allow to cook fish, so the guests were given that vegetable cutlet. And they could not understand.
Tamala Krsna: They were satisfied.
Prabhupada: They said, "We could not understand that it is vegetable."
Tamala Krsna: They must have been laughing.
Prabhupada: Later on, after eating.
There are so many excellent vegetable cutlet recipes available, but few call for banana flour. In fact, this type of flour is quite difficult to purchase in the West. It can be made by hand, however, and it's quite easy to do. While we don't know the recipe for Srila Prabhupada's faux lobster vegetable cutlets, the closest we've managed is a cutlet made from mashed peas and ripe avocado, sautéed with a little coconut cream and lemon juice, similar to the recipe for baked avocados in one of Kurma dasa's book. Instead of re-stuffing and baking the avocados, we mash the mixture and coat with banana flour batter, for a cutlet that has a very striking flavor.
The best flour is made from unripe but older Kepok bananas, or older, ripe bananas of other varieties. Simply steam the bananas whole in their skins for about 10 minutes. This will decrease the sticky sap and improve the color of the flour.
When they're cool enough to handle, peel the fruits and slice them into small pieces. Soak the pieces in lemon juice (or 5% citric acid bath) for about 30 minutes, then drain. Sun-dry them on a plastic rack or in a food dehydrator until very dry – about 10% moisture content. Then simply mill the dried pieces into flour and sift until fine. Package and store in a cool, dark place and the flour will keep well.
While we could happily go on for at least three more segments on the topic of bananas, we leave our readers with the following selection of some of our favorite recipes using bananas. Please enjoy preparing and offering them to Sri Krsna, for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada.
Bengali Kanchkolar Dom
(Green Banana Curry)
4 green Bananas
2 chopped Green Chilli
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
4 Tsp Ghee
1/4 tsp ground Cardamon
1 tsp Cumin seeds
2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
Salt to taste
Peel banana and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces. In a sauce pan add two cups of water, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Add banana, boil for tree minutes. Drain water. In a little ghee, fry banana slices until both sides are brown. Peel and cube potatoes. Boil in salt water and drain. In a frying pan, heat a little ghee and fry the cumin seeds, then add green chilli, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and 1/2 cup of water. Stir and fry until oil separates from spices. Add potatoes and fry 2 minutes. Add banana, salt, sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water. Cover cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Offer hot.
Royal Cream Kofta Curry
Bananas 4 raw
Khoya ½ cup
Breadcrumbs 2 tbsp.
Paneer 1 cup
Salt to taste
Nutmeg powder 1 pinch
Turmeric 1/2 tsp.
Almonds 6 (chopped)
Ginger (ground) 1 tsp
Red chilli 1/4 tsp.
Coriander leaves, small handful
Red chilli powder 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala 1/4 tsp
Chana Masala 1 tsp
Ginger 1 inch
Grated coconut 2 tbsp.
Turmeric 1/2 tsp.
Dhania (coriander) powder 2 tsp.
Red Chilli powder 1/4 tsp.
Ghee for frying
Green Cardamoms, 6
Coriander leaves (chopped)
Garam masala 1/4 tsp.
Cut bananas into pieces. Add 1 tsp salt and some turmeric to boiling water and boil bananas in it till tender. Peel and mash and add chopped coriander leaves, ginger paste, breadcrumbs, salt and the rest of the spices and mix properly.
To prepare stuffing: Mash khoya and paneer, add nutmeg powder, chopped almonds and other ingredients and mix properly. Add 2 tbsp of the banana mixture to it and make small walnut-sized balls. Make a hole in the centre of each and stuff with the khoya-paneer mixture and reshape like rounds koftas. Roll in the rest of the breadcrumbs and deep fry in hot ghee till light brown.
To Prepare Gravy: Fry the ginger in a little ghee till light brown. Add dry masalas and peeled and chopped tomatoes (peel the tomatoes, blanch in hot water and puree). Add water as needed and fry the masalas properly. Add grated coconut, salt and 2-1/2 cups of water and boil for 10 minutes. Add fried koftas and allow to simmer on a low fire until the koftas become soft. Serve hot, garnish with chopped coriander leaves and garam masala and serve at lunch or dinner.
(Banana Cotton Buds)
Half ripe Malabar bananas 2
Coconut (grated) 1/2 cup
Sugar 2 tbsps
Chopped cashew nuts 1 tbsp
Raisins 1 tsp
Ghee for frying
A little cardamom powder
Cut the banana into two or three pieces and cook in boiling water till the peels separate a little from the fruit. Remove from the fire. Remove the peel and grind the banana to a smooth dough without adding any water. Set aside. Sprinkle water on the sugar and keep on fire. Add the coconut and stir well till the water is absorbed. Remove from the fire. Add the cashewnuts, raisins and cardamom. Oil your hands and take small balls (the size of a lime) of the ground banana. Flatten on your palm into a small disc. Put two tablespoons of coconut filling in it. Fold the edges and press lightly. Now roll with your hands, and shape like cotton buds (both the ends pointed). Heat oil and deep fry to a golden brown and remove. You will get about six Unnakkayis.
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