Issue 04: Banana
I don’t have fond memories of bananas and the reasons are plenty.
My nightmares about the yellow fruit came about mostly because I was fed medicine ‘enhanced’ with its flavour as a child. I was born into intensive care because my Mom’s cravings for bananas during pregnancy caused excessive phlegm in my tiny throat. She (who seems to be the perpetrator for my banana hate) would always push a soft banana into my gummy little hands for a snack, and peeling it to find the occasional black mushy spot puts me off.
Plus, many ghost stories at school always involve a banana tree some way or another. Even the name BA-NA-NA sounds ridiculous. But the worst would be my five-year-old self dreaming about the infamous Bananas in Pyjamas chasing me down the stairs with the intent of murder. Simply put, I hated them to the very stalks of their heads.
The strange thing is I still eat bananas regularly, perhaps with the unconscious possibility of taking revenge. There’s always a bunch of them sitting on the kitchen table, and now Dad takes over the giving-away-of-bananas job. Every morning, a strange oblong thing sits beside my homemade sandwich and it will do its duty by stinking up my bag on the journey to work. Rarely but surely, I do crave for banana cake for tea at times.
It must be odd to devote a month to one’s most detestable foods. But its difficult to run away from them, they are inexpensive and are in abundance in the tropics. Bananas might not be prevalent in Chinese cuisine, but it is often found in Malay and Indian cooking (for this I’m glad I live in Singapore). The humble goreng pisang – fried banana fritters is a very good example of banana cooked. However, we usually eat them raw most of the times so we were intrigued by the thought of incorporating it into desserts.
There is a wide variety of bananas available in the market. The most common one would be the Cavendish, often referred to as the official dessert bananas, are longish and medium in size. They are usually sold green, but almost-ripe pale yellow ones are also available. Keep them in room temperature, away from heat and direct sunlight. When the ugly brown spots appear, that is when the bananas are getting very ripe. The pigmentations will slowly close in together to form into a perfectly brown overripe banana. Usually I would throw them away when this happens, but to avoid wastage, overripe bananas can be used in cakes and ice cream. To prevent sliced bananas from browning, use fresh lemon juice or acidulated water.
The fruit is versatile; it can be used in mousses, fools, pies, muffins and breads. Pair it with rum, coconut milk, orange, cardamom, toffee, vanilla or chocolate to bring the dish different layers of textures. Our crêpes dish featured caramelised bananas and a good scattering of orange zest, it was a delight on the palate. Even a banana daiquiri can bring you to the beautiful beaches of Bali or the Caribbean. As The Doctor said, bananas are a good source of potassium and that they should always be brought to a party.