I’m a little crazy when it comes to my food prejudices and superstitions. Then there are times when I will swear off carbohydrates because I think I’m getting too fat. And out of all the carbohydrates, potatoes are the ones I love to hate. Potatoes are my pet peeve.
As a kid I loved potatoes: masala, mashed, baked and fried. As I enetered my twenties I started this very ugly, very intense love-hate relationship with potatoes. I would try as much as possible to avoid french fries and chips even though I wanted to eat them. I never understood homes where the main vegetable dish, day after day, would be aloo. Especially since across most home in India, rice or rotis would be what would go with that potato dish. Rice or chappatis/phulkas/naan would be the base, and that would be complemented with lentils and a potato dish. I would always wonder- where was the balance? Doesn’t every meal need some kind of green vegetable or salad? I thought that people who made potatoes day in and day out were just lazy meal planners. Potatoes were easy and cheap and you just had to peel and dice them and fry them with minimal spices.
But we always fall back on potatoes because, well- they taste good. And potatoes aren’t as bad as we think. A regular potato is a great source of minerals, Vitamin C and Vitamin B, as well as a good source of dietary fibre. But that’s when we leave the skin on and don’t deep fry them a la McDonald’s. It’s the manner in which we prepare potatoes that kills the goodness.
I’ve always been on the lookout for a nice alternative to the potato, texture-wise. And raw bananas are a decent alternative- and they’re loaded with goodness! Agreed, they never get to be as soft as potatoes and you can’t really make a mash because they can get sticky, but for a regular stir-fry they work well. Raw bananas contain iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin B, and is also a great source of energy.
In Kerala, this dish is called kaaya mezhukku purratti. I know. It’s beyond a mouthful. Kaaya= raw bananas, mezhukku= oil or grease and purratti= rubbed or coated, so mezhukku purratti literally means ‘grease-rubbed’ or ‘grease-coated.’ In simple words, stir-fry!!
This dish is simple, inexpensive and made with readily-available ingredients, which is why it turns up on the lunch menus of many homes and small restaurants in Kerala. I cut the banana breadth-wise and quartered them, but some people cut them lengthwise as well. Both work just as well. One thing about raw bananas- you need to scrape off some of the green skin, but not all of it. However, you are more than welcome to get rid of the peel altogether.
Raw banana- 300 grams
1 small onion
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
Curry leaves- 1 bunch (or less, if you prefer.)
Salt to taste
In a wok, pour in the oil and when it gets hot, and the turmeric, onion and half the curry leaves. Stir around till the onions get brown. Then add the raw banana and a little water followed by the chilli flakes and salt. Cook till soft and garnish with the rest of the curry leaves.