Banana blossom salad with chicken and asian pears

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)!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Peter M March 31, 2008, 4:22 pm

    OK dude, this is a major food find…I bow! I don’t recall seeing these at my Asian market but I’ll be on the lookout for it.

    So Allen, please share with us how they taste, texture, etc. Enquiring minds wanna know!

    Finally, the salad looks restaurant grade and I sometimes get obsessed with copy-cat recipes.

  • Allen March 31, 2008, 4:38 pm

    Peter M: Haha — you are too funny :-) I definetly got a rise out of you with this salad!

    The leaves of the blossom (technical, I should be calling them petals?) are not entirely tender. From touch, I liken the texture to lemongrass, very firm and leathery feeling. As you would expect, the inner leaves are more tender than the outer leaves. I assume this is why you slice them into the thinnest strips possible, to maximize the tenderness.

    When you bite into a piece though, it’s more crisp than tough. The flavor is really quite subtle, maybe a slight floral hint.

    I’ve seen other recipes where the blossoms are used very much like a vegetable in curries etc. Although it provides nutrition and texture, the blossom provides little taste (in my opinion). I like it for the novelty factor.

    I’m not sure how seasonal the blossoms are but readily found them in the produce section this week. They were on a plastic tray and wrapped in plastic. Only $3.86 for a pack of two blossoms. Let me know if I need to ship you some :-)

  • Peter M March 31, 2008, 4:42 pm

    Thanks for the detailed report Chef Allen! lol

    I appreciate your offer to send some but I’ll find some…we have lots of Asian stores here…I introduce myself to them as “gwei-lo”!

  • Manggy March 31, 2008, 7:30 pm

    I think the photo looks great, Allen. Nice that you discovered banana blossoms. It’s a common ingredient here, but in only a few (but very popular dishes). I haven’t yet fully explored it outside the realm of Filipino cooking– I imagine it would be a great, slightly bland stand-in to endives. You see, I’ve tasted endive before here in Manila but I have no idea where the restaurant got it as I can’t find it anywhere!

  • Peter G April 1, 2008, 12:04 am

    Great Allen. I’m really enjoying the recipes you’re posting these days. I love your enthusiasm and how you were determined to make this salad straight away. I adore the flavours here.

  • Núria April 1, 2008, 1:34 am

    Hey Allen, that torpedo salad looks wonderful and with your detailed explanations I could nearly feel the flavours!!!
    The pictures are great too! Lovely dish :D

  • Chuck April 1, 2008, 1:52 am

    Very nice work on the salad! In addition to salads, we (Vietnamese peeps) use it as garnish on bun bo hue. It’s a spicy beef noodle soup, better than pho IMO.

  • Dhanggit April 1, 2008, 2:58 am

    i love banana blossoms..but i must admit my recipe with it is too simple (that’s how my mom usually cooks it)..i ‘ve always wanted my husband to taste but im afraid he wont appreciate it but with this recipe you just posted im 100% sure i’ll impress him. the only thing hard for me to do is to find an asian shop selling banana blossoms in southern france hehehe lovely photo you have too!!

  • Helen April 1, 2008, 9:16 am

    Ooh, that looks delicious. I’ve never eaten banana blossoms before but I live near so many Asian markets that one of them must have them. I want to make this!

  • Shari April 1, 2008, 1:24 pm

    Wow, that sounds delicious. Chicken, pears, cilantro, banana! I’m gonna have to go lookin’ for those banana blossoms! Great pictures!

  • foodhoe April 1, 2008, 2:03 pm

    Sounds delicious! I had a similar salad in Bangkok last year. How cool to be able to make it at home.

  • Life in Recipes April 1, 2008, 5:54 pm

    Thanks for this. I’ve seen banana blossoms at my Asian market but never knew what to do with them. Those baby bananas are so cute.

  • Kevin April 1, 2008, 7:25 pm

    That banana blossom salad looks amazing and sounds really tasty! I am definitely going to have to look for banana blossoms.

  • Christie April 2, 2008, 3:09 am

    Yum, that looks amazing! I love crispy shallots – I can almost taste them…

  • JennDZ - The Leftover Queen April 2, 2008, 2:01 pm

    That is pretty amazing! I have never heard of nor seen banana blossoms! Very cool stuff!

  • Allen April 2, 2008, 6:09 pm

    Manggy: Ahhh, so you know all about the blossoms, I should have known!

    Peter G: I figured you’d like the asian flavors in this one — you’ll enjoy it, I’m certain.

    Nuria: Haha, it is a ‘torpedo salad’ alright! Thank you :-)

    Chuck: better than pho? I’ll have to keep an eye out for bun bo hue.

    dhanggit: too bad you won’t be able to find banana blossoms, but then again .. you’re in the south of france — I envy you! :-)

    Helen: Thanks!

    Shari: Thank you!

    Foodhoe: Oh, that is very similar – now you’ll have to try making it at home.

    Life in Recipes: Thanks!

    Kevin: Thank you –

    Christie: Thanks!

    Leftover Queen: Thank you — they were fun to experiment with!

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