Angkor Wat

angkor_wat
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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Nhoam Tra-yaung Cheik
Banana Blossom Chicken Salad

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Banana Blossom Chicken Salad
served in a banana blossom outer petal

As with all fruit trees, the blossom or flower of a banana tree produces banana fruits. Therefore, using banana blossoms in salads may seem a waste. However, as some may not realise, the one used in salads is the final blossom left after the fruiting is over (see photo below).

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Banana Tree & Fruits & Blossom

In preparing the blossom for this recipe, most of the outside maroon petals should be discarded and only the tender centre part is used. This must be soaked in lime juice whilst being prepared to prevent discolouring.

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Halved Banana Blossom

Did you know … 

Banana plants only produce fruits once in their life time. Once the fruits are harvested, its trunk is cut down. Its outer barks are used for feeding pigs, and the tender heart/centre (see photo below) of the trunk is eaten as vegetable. Then, a few new banana plants will grow out of the base (of the chopped down one) for the next season. What a wonderful creation of Mother Nature! 

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Bandaul Daerm Cheik
Heart of Banana Trunk

This base of the chopped down banana trunk is not eaten even by animals in a normal situation. However, during the Khmer rouge era when people would eat anything to survive, although not very nourishing and quite disgusting, it saved many lives. It was a really tough time. Good job, as Robert H. Schuller said: ‘Tough times never last, but tough people do’.

Serves 4 

Ingredients 

Lime juice 3Tbsp
Large banana blossom1 1   
Coconut cream 1 cup
Chicken breasts

Vegetables:
Small onion 1 – peeled, halved and thinly sliced
Red pepper (bell pepper) ½ - white pith and seeds removed and cut into fine juliennes
Bean sprouts 1 handful – tailed and washed
Cherry tomatoes 1dz, halved
Mint leaves 1 handful
Coriander (cilantro) a few sprigs for garnish 

Dressing:
Sweet lime dressing 1 cup – (see recipe)
Unsalted roasted peanuts ½ cup – coarsely crushed 

Method 

1 - Add the lime juice into a large bowl of cold water. Using a stainless steel knife2, remove the outer maroon petals of the banana blossom until you reach the creamy pale centre. Cut the heart or centre into quarters and remove the hard cores and tough stamens from each. Very thinly slice each quarter and soak in the lime water until ready to use.

2 - Reserve 2 tablespoons of the coconut cream (top part), pour the remainder into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Then add the chicken breast and continue cooking for 8-10 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat, cover the pan and leave to rest for 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and discard the cream. Allow the chicken to cool. Then shred it into finger-sized pieces.

3 - Just before serving, drain the sliced banana blossom and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the shredded chicken, onion, red pepper, bean sprouts, tomato halves and mint leaves. Drizzle over the dressing and the coconut cream, and gently toss to combine the ingredients. Transfer to a serving plate, top with roasted peanuts and garnish with red chilli and coriander leaves. This can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish with steamed rice. 

Tips

1  If banana blossoms are not available, use radicchios (see photo below) as an alternative. Make sure that the hard central veins are removed before slicing.

2Although carbon steel or iron knives can be sharpened to an extremely sharp edge, they can discolours foods and leave a metallic taste. So, I recommend using a stainless steel knife which is much harder to sharpen but will not have the same negative effects.

Recommendation

If you can, treat yourself to a ‘High-carbon Stainless Steel’ knife. It has the best aspects of both carbon steel and stainless steel knives. It's highly resistant to corrosion with sharp edge retention meaning you don't have to re-sharpen it as often as you do with the stainless steel blade.

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Radicchios
which I sometimes use as an alternative to banana blossom