Here, I’ve paired it with soft tofu for a textural hit that’s hard to beat.
Banana blossom features in many Vietnamese dishes. It’s often added to soups and salads, as it’s excellent at absorbing flavours and providing crunch.
- 1 lemon
- 1 banana blossom
- 2 litres (2 qts) vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 1 packet soft (but not silken) tofu, thinly sliced
- 4 Vietnamese sesame rice crackers
- 1 bunch mint, leaves picked
- 1 bunch shiso, leaves picked
- 1 long red chilli, deseeded and julienned
- 1 Lebanese (short) cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 3 tbsp roasted peanuts
- 300 ml vegetable oil
- 4 shallots, thinly sliced
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) white or light soy sauce
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) coconut water
- 2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
- 30 ml (1 fl oz) freshly squeezed lime juice
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze in the lemon.
2. To prepare the banana blossom, peel and discard the outer layers and flowers until you reach the lightcoloured interior. Cut the blossom in half lengthways and remove the inner flowers. Thinly slice the blossom and immediately plunge into the lemon water to prevent it discolouring. Drain and run under cold running water for 5–10 minutes to wash off all the sap. Drain and set aside.
3. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
4. To make the fried shallots, heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan to 170ºC (340°F) on a kitchen thermometer. Place the shallot in the oil and cook, stirring continuously to break up the shallot, for 7-8 minutes until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shallot from the oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Using two forks, quickly separate and loosen the shallot - if it stays in a clump it will burn in the residual heat. Set aside.
5. Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium–high heat to 180°C (350°F) on a kitchen thermometer. Working in batches, deep-fry the tofu for 2–3 minutes until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.
6. Meanwhile, toast the rice crackers by placing a wire rack over a gas burner on low heat. Carefully place one rice cracker on the wire rack and, using tongs, very carefully move the rice paper over the flame – the rice paper will change from a clear colour to white and will lightly puff up when cooked. Repeat with the remaining rice crackers. Transfer to a large plate.
7. Place the banana blossom, tofu, herbs, chilli and cucumber in a large bowl. Toss the dressing through the salad, then transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the peanuts and fried shallots and serve immediately with the sesame crackers on the side.
Recipe from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99