I’m sure you’ve seen those tiny little bananas in the supermarket… normally called “baby bananas”. But have you ever given much thought as to what people do with these cute little bananas that look like they forgot to grow up? They’re quite tasty when fully ripe and can be enjoyed just as you would a normal banana, but did you know you can also cook them? Growing up in the country-side on the islands, our diet at times would be considered very rustic by some standards. Especially when you consider the amount of ground provisions that would make it on our dinner table. To this day my sisters don’t fancy anything we’d term “ground provisions” (yam, cassava, green banana, eddoes, dasheen.. etc), but my brother and myself are just like my dad.. we can’t get enough.
Back to the “little people” of the banana world. One of the dishes my mom would prepare using these baby bananas, is a quick boil and fry. Today I got a craving for this dish I grew up on as I strolled the aisle of the supermarket and saw these bananas in stock. Bear in mind that this is entirely from memory, as my mom was en route to New York to visit my brother so I couldn’t do the normal phone call when I need help with a recipe.
I truly hope this is not one of those dishes that’s slowly fading away from the framework that makes up our rich culinary heritage, as we make way for the fast food generation. This is very simple to prepare, hearty and amazingly tasty!
1-2 lbs of baby bananas
1 medium onion sliced
pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoon olive oil
couple slices of hot pepper (I used scotch bonnet) – optional
1 clove garlic crushed
4 oz dry salted fish (I used boneless Pollock)
1 scallion (garnish)
Couple tips before we start.
1. Try to use the bananas before they go ripe (bright yellow), the ideal colour is a greenish yellow and they must be a bit firm if you were to press on them gently. If they’re over-ripe it will be difficult to work with and will not produce the same type of texture we’re hoping to achieve.
2. You can cook the bananas in advance and even place it in the fridge, so they’re cool to the touch when you have to peel them.
Separate the bananas into singles if they came in a bunch, place in a deep pan and cover with water. Put on a medium to high heat and bring to a boil. Pay close attention to this as you must turn off the stove as soon as it comes to a boil or you’ll risk it going too mushy. Remove from the hot water immediately and allow to cool. When cool, peel away the skin so you’re left with the creamy insides of the banana. You’ll notice a couple things happening as the bananas cook… they will change colour (go black in some spots) and they will split. When they split, it’s a good indication that they’re ready to be removed from the boiling water.
While this cools, put the dry salted fish in a fairly deep bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover it. This will do a couple things for us. It will make the fish more tender to work with and it will remove most of the salt which was used to preserve it. When the water cools (as we did when we made saltfish buljol) squeeze away any remaining water and shred into flakes.
Back to the bananas…they should be cool now, using the “split” that occurred during the quick boiling process as a starting point peel back and remove the skin, then place a bowl and get ready for putting everything together.
In a pan on medium heat pour in the olive oil, then when it’s hot add the flakes of shredded salt fish. Allow this to cook for about 4 minutes so the oil gets infused with the flavour of the saltfish. Then add the sliced onions, crushed garlic, black pepper and if you opt for it.. the slices of hot pepper. This should cook for about 4-6 minutes or until the onion has gone soft and started to go brown. Now add the cooked bananas and tablespoon of butter,. Gently stir everything around and allow to cook on low heat (uncovered) for about 3-5 minutes (when you think it’s been coated with everything in the pot.
* The bananas I used were a bit too ripe (see in pictures).
* If you don’t like saltfish (we can’t be friends then) or prefer not to have it in your diet, feel free to leave it out. It’s still a very tasty dish. However I would recommend using a non-stick pan in that case and allow it to cook a bit longer to encourage the heat to interact with the sugars in the banana and form a nice caramel crust on everything.
The big question of the night is… What do they call these tiny little bananas, besides baby bananas? Now my spelling may be completely wrong as I’m trying to wor it out… “chikito“. You don’t think that the Chikita” brand of bananas got their company name from this little banana, do you?