A couple month’s ago we were out shopping on the weekend and decided to grab a bite before heading home. We opted for a small local chain called Straits Restaurant which offers modern Singaporean cuisine. Although the restaurant is not as highly acclaimed as it once was, the restaurant offers a few interesting bites.
I wanted something light and ordered the banana blossom salad for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I ended up falling in love. It’s a mixture of shredded chicken breast, asian pears, cilantro, thai basil, and mint tossed with shredded banana blossoms. I left the restaurant determined to recreate the salad. Well, today was the day …
I searched around expecting to find similar salad recipes on which I could put the same spin. I was shocked when I came across the recipe from Straits Cafe published on MSNBC. It’s rare that you get this lucky, so I knew it was meant to be.
The banana blossoms are readily available in my local Asian market. They are about 8″ in length and look like purple torpedos.
The recipe begins by peeling off the outer leaves of the blossom. It’s mentioned that you’ll come across small things that look like baby bananas … it still caught be off guard when I revealed this:
I removed the first few outer leaves and set aside to garnish my salad. Staring at the tip, I then began to slice the blossom crosswise in the thinnest strips possible. At a certain point, you begin to cut into the baby bananas. When this happens you need to peel everything and separate the leaves from the bananas. The bananas go into the disposal and the leaves you continue to finely shred. They are placed into a bowl of cold water with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, allow to soak 20 minutes.
The leaves are firm and crispy. As I cut them a gooey substance came out of them, but the soaking seems to remove this as it doesn’t remain in the finished product. The flavor is subtle, maybe slightly floral, but in my opinion is used primarily for the texture it adds.
I moved on to making the dressing — there are alot of ingredients that go into it, but it’s well worth it. Along with sugar and vinegar, you will use cilantro, rau ram (I used mint), garlic, lemongrass, chili paste, lime juice, and fish sauce.
The dressing is phenomenal on its own and could be used many ways (will have to explore this another time). Half of the dressing is poured over precooked, shredded chicken breast and marinated for 20 minutes. I poached two breasts ahead of time and allowed to cool before marinating.
Once 20 minutes has passed you can begin the salad assembly. I used two of the leaves to construct a bowl. I combined the chicken and blossoms with a few additional ingredients, including chopped jalapeno, ginger, asian pears, thai basil, mint, and cilantro. The remaining dressing is tossed in and the salad placed into the banana blossom bowl. The whole thing is topped with chopped roasted peanuts and fried shallots. My photo didn’t turn out all that well, so I stuck it at the end:
The salad turned out amazing – just as I remembered. The dressing is slightly sweet and tangy and with a spicy edge from the chili paste. The mint, basil, and cilantro add a vibrant burst of flavor to every bite.
In addition to the amazing flavors, the salad presents interesting texture contrasts. The chicken is chewy and tender while the pears and blossoms add crispness. Bits of roasted peanuts and savory shallots add unexpected crunch.
This salad is one worth exploring (again and again)!
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