VAZHAI POO CURRY
Vazhai Poo or banana blossom is harvested from the banana tree, when the flower is distanced ' four fingers' ( abut four inches ) away from the banana bunch.
The efflorescence looks like a huge teardrop shaped bud, with each deep purple bract tightly covering a row of banana blossom bunch. Removing the bracts and finding the florets is as enjoyable as a treasure hunt. Preparing the florets for cooking is another interesting activity which can be indulged in by all the members of the family on leisurely days.
The Tamil names used to identify the inedible parts of banana blossoms are very amusing. The whole family has an exciting time finding and pulling out the stigma or 'kallan' meaning thief, encased inside each floret ! The sepals or 'paavaadai' meaning skirt, covering the florets is also removed with the same gusto !
Chopped banana blossoms - 2 cups
Green gram dal - 1/2 cup ( soak for ten minutes )
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Sesame oil - 2 tsps
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Split black gram dal - 1 tsp
Red chillies - 2 ( broken )
Curry leaves - a few
Fresh coconut gratings - 4 tbsps
TO PREPARE THE VAZHAI POO ( BANANA BLOSSOM ) FOR COOKING
Grease your fingers well before chopping the banana flower to prevent black stains on your hands.
1. Remove the bracts and separate the florets.
2. Work towards the pointed tip of the flower till no more florets can be separated. The resulting yellowish pendant shaped portion is the 'heart' of the banana flower which can be chopped and used for the curry.
3. Open the florets one by one by rubbing the tip gently, using the tips of your forefinger and thumb.
The stigma is seen like a pin or match stick in the centre.The pink plasticky sepal is seen at the bottom on the right hand side corner of the picture.
4.Pull out the hard plasticky stigma from the centre of the floret, and also the plasticky sheath like sepals which cover each floret.
5. Chop the florets and immediately immerse in watery butter milk to prevent blackening of the flowers.
TO PREPARE VAZHAI POO CURRY
1. Boil 3 cups of water with turmeric powder and asafoetida.
2. Squeeze out the chopped banana florets from the butter milk and add to the boiling water.
3. Cover and cook on low fire for about ten minutes.
4. Wash and drain the soaked green gram dal and add to the cooking florets.
5 . Cook without lid till the lentil is just done and not mushy.
6. Add salt and cook till all the water is evaporated and switch off flame.
7. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
8. When the mustard seeds splutter add split black gram dal and roast till golden brown in colour.
9. Add broken red chillies.
10. When the chillies are crisp add curry leaves followed by the cooked flowers and lentil.
11. Stir well till all the moisture disappears.
12. Switch off flame and garnish with fresh grated coconut.
Savour the flavoursome Vazhzai Poo Curry with hot rice and sambar or with curd rice.