This is a Panang curry of banana blossoms เเกงพะแนงหัวปลี with shallots, banana chilies and pickled shallots. It is inspired by a traditional recipe that follows the way Panang was made at the Rattanakosin period 1782-1932. Considered a very Thai dish, Panang curry or ‘Gaeng Panang’ actually has distinct Muslim cuisine influences and showcases ingredients that at first were only affordable by old times aristocracy, but made it to the working class in the course of time.

Panang Curry of banana blossoms

‘Gaeng Panang’ is a very rich coconut based curry thickened with ground peanuts and seasoned with fresh and dry herbs and spices. The curry paste is similar to red curry paste ‘Prik Gaeng Pet’ พริกแกงเผีด however adds roasted nutmeg and peanuts, which jointly change the profile of the curry to be more nutty and woody. Added tamarind puree vivifies the flavor.

‘Gaeng Panang’ is commonly made with beef , chicken or pork. In my plant based version I decided to replace the meat with a banana blossom that I roasted over wood fire to impart smokey flavor and then deep fried in coconut, Panang curry paste and tamarind batter.

The curry paste is pounded by hand in a mortar and pestle and then fried in coconut cream that serves as the oil. Midway into the cooking of the curry shallots are added, followed by banana chilies. Closer to the end of the cooking the fried banana blossoms are incorporated into the boiling curry. Fresh Thai basil leaves are folded into the curry right before serving and pickled shallots finish it off adding another element of tartness and a crunchy texture to contrast softer ingredients.

Ingredients

Center wok:

  • Coconut cream
  • Coconut milk
  • Smoked and batter fried banana blossoms
  • Whole shallots
  • Diagonally sliced banana chilies
  • Light soy sauce
  • Palm sugar
  • Tamarind puree
  • Thai basil
  • Pickled shallots

Stock:

  • Water
  • Kelp (seaweed)
  • Dry shiitake mushrooms

Frying batter:

  • Coconut milk
  • Panang curry paste
  • Tamarind puree
  • Rice flour
  • Salt

Curry paste:

  • 10-12 red dry chilies soaked in water for 15 minutes
  • Sea salt
  • Lemongrass
  • Galangal
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Makrut lime zest or leaves
  • Coriander root
  • Roasted coriander seeds
  • Roasted cumin seeds
  • Roasted white pepper seeds
  • Roasted nutmeg
  • Organic fermented soy and rice miso
Method

1.Make a stock of kelp and dried shiitake mushrooms. The kelp and mushrooms add umami layers of flavor that further enhance the richness of the dish.

2.Place the banana blossoms in a smoker or over charcoals for roasting and smoking. Remove and let cool down. Peel off outer crimson blossom petals until you reach the lighter yellowish inner petals. Cut the banana blossom lengthwise once and cut again each half lengthwise to receive four equal wedges. Remove the stem by applying a diagonal cut to each of the wedged. Remove and discard the little embryonic bananas.

3.Prepare a batter of coconut milk a bit of the curry paste, tamarind puree, salt and rice flour. The batter should be not too runny and not to dry. Heat oil for deep frying in a deep pan or wok. Dip the banana blossoms in the batter and place them in the hot oil. Fry them until they turn golden and nice. Remove and place aside on paper trowels to let excess oil drain.

4.Lightly dry roast the dry spices in a pan on low heat. Remove from the pan and let cool. Grind the spices in a dry mortar and pestle or in an electric spice grinder and set the ground mix aside.

5.Chop the paste ingredients and pound them in a mortar and pestle, adding them one by one, until they turn into a fine and homogeneous paste. Add and incorporate the dry spices mix into the curry paste and set aside.

6.Add coconut cream to the center wok when it starts crackling add and fry the curry paste on medium heat for a few minutes. When the oil separates from the paste add a little bit of the stock and let the oil float atop. Gradually add thinner coconut milk and small quantities of the stock to keep the curry moist and not too thick and oily. Bring to a gentle boil.
Season with light soy and very little coconut sugar. Taste and adjust to reach a nice balance of salty and very lightly sweet taste.

7.Add shallots first to allow them to cook and soften. Add the yellow chilies and lastly add the banana blossoms. Turn off the heat add pickled shallots and fold in handful of Thai basil leaves. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with white rice.

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