Served raw, banana blossoms lend crunch to all sorts of South-East Asian salads, including this Thai favourite. Look for large, firm blossoms without discolouration. To prepare this vegetable, remove the coloured outer leaves until you reach the pale heart, similar to the way you prepare globe artichokes.
- 2 cups mint leaves
- 2 cups Thai basil (see Note)
- 2 cups coriander leaves
- ½ banana blossom (see Note), thinly sliced and placed in acidulated water (see Note)
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 10 g (¼ cup) toasted coconut flakes
- ¼ cup fried Asian red eschalots (see Note)
- 2 long red chillies, thinly sliced
- 375 ml (1½ cups) coconut cream
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 long red chilli, roughly chopped
- 1 lime, zested, juiced
- 2 skinless chicken breast fillets
- 150 g palm sugar, chopped
- 2 tbsp ginger, shredded
- ½ red chilli, finely chopped
- 2 limes, zested, juiced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
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.
As soon as you slice into a banana blossom, you will need to place it in a bowl of acidulated water to prevent it from going brown.
To make coconut chicken, place coconut cream, sugar, fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic, chilli, lime zest and juice and 375 ml water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add chicken, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave chicken to poach for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from poaching liquid and cool completely.
Meanwhile, to make dressing, place palm sugar, 80 ml water, ginger, chilli, lime juice and zest in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, then simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly sticky and reduced. Cool completely, then stir in fish sauce and coriander.
Shred chicken into a bowl, then add mint, basil, coriander, drained banana blossom and spring onions, tossing to combine. Arrange on a serving plate and scatter with coconut, fried eschalots and chilli. Drizzle over dressing to serve.
• Thai basil, banana blossoms and fried Asian red eschalots are available from select Asian food shops.
• To stop fresh-cut fruit and vegetables discolouring, submerge in acidulated water. Add 1 tsp lemon or lime juice, vinegar or white wine to 250 ml (1 cup) water.
Photography by Chris Chen