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Vaazhai Thandu Kootu (Banana Stalk-Lentil Stew)

September 17, 2013

ABOUT BANANA STALK:  BANANA STALK IS THAT PART OF THE TRUNK OF THE BANANA TREE – ITS CORE.  ITS A STAPLE SOUTH INDIAN VEGETABLE FULL OF FIBRE.  THEREFORE AS PER ANCIENT HINDU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE ‘AYURVEDA’ ITS A GOOD AND NATURAL KIDNEY CLEANSER AND KIDNEY STONE PREVENTOR.  BUT MUST BE AVOIDED BY THOSE WITH ULCER SYMPTOMS.

“Vaazhai thandu’ or banana stalk is mandatory atleast once a month in our diet – as it’s especially beneficial for men who have a tendency for begetting kidney stones easily.  Including vaazhai thandu/banana stalk regularly in our food will ensure that the kidney stone problem never arises and our kidneys are scoured clean.

I have posted an earlier vaazhai thandu or banana stalk recipe under the name ‘vaazhai thandu paruppisli’ under ‘Vegetarian’ section.

Repeating here:  There was a time where there was no south Indian home without the banana tree in the backyard.  We consider it the most auspicious tree even today,.  A pair of banana trees laden with ripe fruits are tied to gate posts in every wedding hall as symbol of fertility.  Every single part of a banana tree is useful.  South Indian wedding feasts are served ALWAYS ON WASHED CUT BANANA LEAVES.  We practise such an eco-friendly culture but sadly one day all this will come to a grinding halt with our aping the west in everything.  We are already done with lotus leaf cups for deserts substituting them with paper/plastic cups while china/crystal plates are slowly replacing the good old banana leaves.  Still atleast as of now no south Indian wedding is complete without the banana trees or banana leaves or the banana fruit (which is given as part of thamboolya (go-home gift)).

So when the banana fruit and raw banana (vegetable) are used as food, cut and washed banana leaves thus become our plates.  Even the banana flowers are peeled and used as vegetable.  The used banana leaves after feasts are collected for later on feeding cows and calves.  What a great re-circulation idea as thought of by our ancestors over thousands of years back!The banana stalk as we see here is also edible and most nutrious and fibrous.  A banana tree does not have a wooden trunk.

Even chopping the mother banana tree is considered a sin in our culture.  The mother banana tree always falls on her own in wind and/or rain after spawning numerous younger saplings around herself.  That’s the only way she will go if not for being cut down for a wedding.  Cutting down a banana tree or killing a cow is a sacrilegious act for us, equal to cutting down a human.

‘Vaazhai adi vaazhaiyaaga’ goes the standard tamil blessing which loosely translates into ‘fertile like banana tree for generations….’

‘Marundhe unavaaga…’ goes another tamil adage which means ‘food as therapy…’  Vaazhathandu/banana stalk proves it true.

Now to the recipe:

Ingredients:

(Vaazhai thandu – or banana stalk must be available in all Indian grocery shops because it is extensively used in south Indian kitchen.)

Ingredients:

Vaazhai thandu (banana stalk) – medium size one

Lentils – kadalai paruppu (tamil)  ( bengal gram in english) (channa dal  in hindi) – 1/4 cup

and

payatham paruppu (tamil) (green gram in english) (moong dal in hindi) -1/2 cup

One small size onion

One tomato

3-4 green chilis

Garlic flakes – 7 or 8

Turmeric power – 1/2 tsp

1 tsp oil for tempering

Salt to taste

Asafoetida powder  (hing powder in hindi and perungam powder in tamil) – 1/2 tsp

Water

For garnishing:  curry leaves, coriander, mustard seeds 1/2 tsp, cumin seeds 1/2 tsp, dried red chili – torn and de-seeded – 2.

A handful of coconut scrapings (optional) for garnishing

THIS DISH IS ALMOST FAT FREE OR OIL FREE EXCEPT FOR A SINGLE TSP OF OIL FOR GARNISHING

Method:

Wash and soak the channa dal and moong dal (the 2 types of paruppu or lentils) together in water for about 30 minutes in a pressure cooker.  Add the turmeric powder.

Now the banana stalk needs to be prepared.  It’s easy to slide a knife into the outer layer of the banana stalk or vaazhai thandu to remove the outer sheath smoothly.  The outer sheath is a bit glossy in vaazhai thandu (banana stalk) always.   We have finally the core centre of the banana tree or the portion of the vaazhai thandu or banana stalk for final use in our kitchen.

Slice the vaazhai thandu or banana stalk now along the cross section into circular discs.  In between two concentric slice we can see extra fibre that can be removed or retained as per our wish.  Mostly i remove it so it won’t get in between our teeth.  Even then, the vaazhai thandu or banana stalk remains maximum fibrous and healthy enough to consume.  This we will realize when we feast upon this dish!

Now cube the circular discs of vaazhai thandu or banana stalk into small size.

Add chopped onion, 5-6 garlic flakes, 2-3 sliced green chili and sliced tomato to the soaked dal.  Add the cubed vaazhai thandu/banana stalk atop.  add more water if necessary.

Pressure cook fine until the dal is done very well.  Usually the moong dal (green gram) cooks fast whereas the bangal gram (channa dal) is slow.  Cook to 4-6 whistles in the pressure cooker or until you get the desired consistency.  The vaazhai thandu/banana stalk will never get mashed the way potato does, so not to worry.

Open the pressure cooker only when the steam is done away totally.  Now the basic vaazhai thandu kootu or banana stalk-lentil stew is ready.  Mash lightly with a long handled-spoon to make it a smooth stew.  Add salt and mix evenly.  Sprinkle a dash of hing/asafoetida powder and mix well again.

Take a small karai/shallow pan and add a tsp of oil.  When the oil starts vapourising add the mustard and cumin seeds, de-seeded torn dry red chili, 1-2 crushed garlic cloves,  curry leaves and hing powder for tempering.

Add these sauteed ingredients to the cooked vaazhai-thandu kootu/banana-stalk lentil stew and stir well.  Garnish with cut and washed coriander leaves (and coconut scrapings – optional).

Now Vaazhai Thandu Kootu or Banana Stalk-Lentil Stew is ready to serve.  Can be had with rice or any type of nan/roti.  Serve hot.  This serves about 4-6 people.

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From → Vegetarian

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