As with JFI rice, with Banana as the theme of this JFI, I was perplexed not knowing what recipe to post. Not because I did not have any original recipes, just that growing up in a Kerala village wholly dependent on the vegetables grown in our backyards (the most common being banana), we had a regular supply of bananas all through the year. And we had varieties and varieties of bananas and then some. Some were meant to be used only as vegetable, some as fruit and others as both vegetable and fruit. There would always be one or two full bunches of banana hanging from the hook in the ceiling in all households. Raw banana went into every preparation, be it molakootal, mezhukkupuratti , kalan or avial and just about everything else. Hence the dilemma.
And what was the first solid diet of infants? It was again our good old nutritious bananas, sun dried and powdered. This powder was mixed with buttermilk and cooked over a slow fire to get a jam-like consistency. We called it koozhu. Children grew healthy and strong eating this home made baby food. There was no fear of adulteration, non-availability or having the need to carry boxes and boxes of baby food while travelling. In the event of the powder not available readily on any particular day, the bananas were cut into small bits, ground and cooked. A special type of banana called kunnan was used for baby food. Nendran banana was the next alternative.
What part of the banana tree is not used? The stem, the flowers and the raw fruit are used as vegetables. Ripe fruit is of course an all time favourite. The leaves are our age-old disposable plates and don’t forget our yummy elai adais. Banana as a fruit or vegetable has many medicinal properties. The other parts of the banana tree, like the stem and flowers are also used as medicine. The juice of the banana stem is especially recommended for diabetics.
After much deliberation, I decided on Puliyekuthi Poduthuval and Puzhukku. Puliyekuthi Poduthuval literally means a poduthuval in which puli (tamarind) has been used. Puzhukku means steam-cooked or boiled. It is a very simple but mouth watering preparation. Commonly used as a side dish to Kanji, we also use it as a side dish with rice.
Puliyekuthi Poduthuval is a typical Kerala Iyer speciality whereas Puzhukku is an original Kerala dish.