The very mention of this snack brings the waterworks out of a Malayalee mouth, yet this is a universal snack enjoyed by people in the African and Asian continents and may be other places I am not aware of. The Keralite will content that this snack epitomizes the taste only when made with home grown Plantains aka, 'etha pazham' or 'nenthrakkaya'. I'd have to agree and yes of course my judgment is clouded:-)
My maternal Grandfather and then my Mom are the green thumbs in the family. I think the only one in my generation with such a thumb is my oldest brother. My Mom always had an enterprise of hers going on in parallel with our normal farm activities. First she eyes unused patches of land and decides which crop will grow there the best. Then she gathers moral, financial and labor support from my Grandfather, Dad and our Laborers in that order. It was always a pleasure to see the results of her enterprises. At times this could be a small but lushly grown peppercorn orchard, a fruitful garden of cocoa trees, a field of all varieties of plantain/banana plants etc. The best part always was taking a walk with her in the evenings for a visual enjoyment of the fruits of her labor both literally and figuratively! The way she talked of bringing it about always made for a sensible tale. She enjoyed talking about it and I loved hearing it. The most visually pleasing of course were the pepper vines as they grew entwined onto the Murikku trees which made for a very lush green background that one cannot resist but give in and drink up on. But most pleasing to the tummy was the bananas/plantains. I refer here to the small varieties of bananas as bananas and the large ones used for frying/steaming as plantains.
In her garden she had almost all varieties available commonly in Kerala. There were the 'njalipoovans', 'palayamkodans', 'kadalis', 'robustas' and many more. Don't know them by any other name. Robusta is the least favorite and palayamkodan used to be the most favorite to eat with 'puttu'. Now I seem to prefer 'njalipoovan' as that has a neutral pleasant flavor that appeals to all palates. When I visited the grocery stores here for the first time I gaped at the bountiful array of richly colored fruits and vegetables with awe. The amazement slowly gave way to disbelief when I found out that there is only “one” type of banana -yellow chiquitas- among all that variety. I even resigned myself to this sad fact. The odd plantains that sometimes showed up in grocery stores including Indian stores never were good enough to steam or fry. In recent years things have changed for the better. The local Indian store has chiquita – yes chiquita - plantains that come very close to the real thing and even the regular grocery stores sport them these days making it more convenient. Much to my delight the Indian store also has at least two varieties of the small bananas that tastes almost like the 'njalipoovan' of yore. Guess who makes a quick run to the Indian store to collect these bananas and gobble them up in no time? Isn't it great that yours truly is the only one with such a fancy for these small delights in the house and therefore the sole executor of the satisfying mission?
Once we discovered the large plantains I set about making the 'pazham pori'. We used to refer to it also as 'boli' back home which confused my husband to no end and which I changed as soon as I saw the 'real boli' from Trivandrum at a friend's place. I hope to get a recipe for that some day.
My Mom used to make 'pazham pori' often and she used to even have them prepared from a whole ripe bunch from her garden during the mid-summer vacations. They were cut into two lengthwise and kept in a bamboo basket after frying. The taste goes up exponentially the next day and didn't last much more than that. My HMom figured out this craving of mine and always take care to make this when we visit. My husband adores these too and when I make it here we have no difficulty polishing off platefuls between us. The kids blessedly are no big fans. While I sincerely regret that they find this not as delightful as I do, it also means Mom & Dad can enjoy all of it guilt free:-)
Now that you know I am crazy about bananas big or small, let us get back to business.
Here I make it a little different from how Mom used to make it.
In The Mix
large ripe plantains - 6
all purpose flour – 1 cup
milk – 1 cup
water – 1 cup
vanilla essence – 2-3 drops or 1/8 tsp
salt to taste
sugar – 4 tsp
oil – enough so the banana pieces are half submerged in it when frying
How To Do
Peel and cut the plantains in half and then each half into three pieces.
Mix all of the above except the oil together with a whisk. The amount of vanilla essence, salt and sugar can be modified according to your taste as the main intention is just to have all these flavors in there. Amount of flour can be added or removed depending on how much of it you want around the bananas. My husband prefers it covered in flour like in the 'chayakkada'/tea stall style and I prefer them leaner. This is the leaner version but if you add ½ cup more flour and keep the water and milk content the same then you get the other version.
Dip the cut plantains into the prepared mix.
Heat oil in a pan and when hot enough, add the dipped plantains one by one. Fry on each side for 1 min or so and drain on paper towels. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea and you are all set!