Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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Chek Ktih
Coconut Banana Dessert

 

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Namvar bananas  

This simply prepared dessert/snack is very common across Cambodia. Although traditional recipes call for Namvar’ banana, an Asian banana, other types of bananas can also be used. The fact that bananas are plentiful in Cambodia makes this a most affordable dish for everyone. 

I hope many of us like bananas. This is because this fruit, which is said to have originated in Malaysia around 2000 BC, has earned a high reputation of being one of the most nutritious fruits in the world. 

Have you ever wondered, while watching tennis tournaments on TV, why those tennis aces eat bananas during their breaks?  It is because they are not only full of calories and nutrition, they are also an immediate and prolonged source of energy.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Namvar bananas1 5, peeled, each halved lengthwise and halved crosswise into 4 pieces (soaked in salted water)
Coconut cream 1 x 400 ml tin
Water 1 cup (240 ml)
Milk2 4 Tbsp (optional)
Tapioca pearls 5 Tbsp
Sugar cup (100g) - or to taste
Salt 1 pinch
Roasted sesame seeds 1 Tbsp for topping

 

Did you know …

Due to a long list of enzymes and anti-oxidants present in a banana, its health benefits are numerous. They range from something as simple as curing a hangover to protecting our heart, nerves, kidneys and bones. Next time you have a hangover, simply eat a couple of bananas, or, for a faster effect, you can make a banana milkshake by blending 2 bananas, 1 glass of milk and 2 teaspoons of honey. What a tasty medicine! 

Pet owners might want to hear this. Dogs are, like us, omnivorous meaning they can eat either plants or animals. If you want your pet to have a healthy skin and beautiful hair, try feeding it regularly with bananas – then wait and see …

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Ambaung bananas
Available in the West
(Note: The Asian version of these bananas remain green even when ripe)

 

 

Method

1 - To roast the sesame seeds, heat a wok or skillet over medium heat until very hot. Add the sesame seeds and dry stir-fry continuously for 2 minutes. Then turn the heat and continue stir-frying until they turn light golden brown. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4, spread the seeds on a roasting tin and cook for 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and use the end of a rolling pin to lightly crush the seeds to release their aroma. Leave for 30 seconds to cool, cover and set aside.

2 - Place the tapioca pearls3 in a sieve, rinse under gentle cold running water whilst stirring with your fingers for a few seconds. Place the sieve on a bowl and set aside.

3 - In a medium saucepan, add the coconut cream, water, and milk, if using, and bring to the boil over medium heat making sure that it doesn’t boil over. Add the tapioca pearls to the mixture, and cook for about 2 minutes stirring frequently. 

4 - Add the banana pieces, sugar and salt, and bring back to the boil. Then, lower the heat to simmer for about 5-6 minutes until the bananas are cooked through but not too soft. Remove from heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes. 

5 - Spoon into individual serving bowls, sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and serve. You can also serve this dish cold if preferred. 

Tips

(1) Namvar bananas which are Southeast Asian bananas, are available from Asian grocery stores in frozen form. Do not use the tinned variety – they do not work well with this dish. If unavailable, use 3 normal long bananas (yellowish – just ripe), peeled, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3-4 sections to make 6-8 pieces from each banana. You can also use plantain bananas but they should be ripe. As they are much bigger, adjust the recipe accordingly. 

(2) Traditionally, this banana dessert dish turns slightly grey in colour. Adding some milk helps the sauce remain white as well as enhancing the flavour. 

(3) Some recipes suggest that the tapioca pearl should be soaked before use. However, in my experience, I find the soaked pearls will sink and tend to stick to the bottom of the pan when cooking.

Variations

There are a few variations to this dish. For example, for a snack, some prefer eating it with steamed glutinous rice (see recipe). However, all variations have one thing in common – choosing the appropriate ripeness for the banana types. 

For an alternative way of serving this dish, top it with a splash of creamy coconut sauce and a sprinkling of roasted split yellow mung beans instead of sesame seeds. This can be achieved by:

a - Coconut cream sauce is made by bringing to the boil a mixture of 5 tablespoons of additional coconut cream, 1 level teaspoon of rice/plain flour and 1 pinch of salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. It should have the consistency of a double (heavy) cream. Cover and set aside.

b – Soak the peeled and split yellow mung beans (available in package form at Asian grocery stores) for at least 1 hour and drain. Roast in the same way as the sesame seeds (see step 1 above). They will take a bit longer to turn golden brown.