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How to cook a Musa Pseudostem August 6, 2008

Posted by C Y Gopinath in Food, Humor.
Tags: , , ,

C Y Gopinath discovers how to cook the delicious dish that killed the tender coconut tree but completely re-colonized his gut.

Take a medium-sized banana. Chop the pseudostem finely and boil till tender. Spice it and eat while costive.

There, that’s how you do it. I’ve given the recipe away. You can amaze your friends too now by making Banana Tree Khich Khach at home. They’ll laugh at you, of course, and nudge each other and whisper into their respective ears, ‘Goodness, he or she doesn’t know which part of the tree is the edible one. Next thing, he or she will be serving us Coconut Trunk Quiche.”

Don’t be daunted by the mockery, because all that will happen is that God will make them costive, and that will be the end of them all. When I was little my mother took me aside one day in my grandfather’s huge sprawling rubber estate in Kerala and said, “See these trees, son. Some of these are rubber, but a lot of these are banana. And every growing boy needs to eat a banana tree now and then. It is excellent for the bowels. The rough fibres of the banana stem act like a powerful broom, cleaning out the folds and crevices of your perineum.”

My bowels nodded agreement, and that was how I first tried out Banana Tree Khich Khach, for want of a better name.

I fell in love with it , and wanted to eat it every day. I told my mother, “Mother, mother, this stuff is so good for my bowels that I want more and more of it. I don’t want no banana fritters, I don’t want no bananas, I don’t want no banana leaf, all I want is some of that ol’ Banana Tree Khich Khach.”

“Once a month is all you get,” she said sternly. “No one should eat it more than once a month, and less than once a month is asking for trouble. Besides, it is a lot of trouble to cook, and I don’t love it that much. Overbesides, your bowels aren’t that bad.”
You can get banana pseudostems in Matunga in Bombay or Karolbagh in Delhi. They look like pale white plastic plumbing pipes, shiny and smooth outside, and usually cut into one-foot segments. I dialled my mother in Chicago and asked her exactly how much a person should buy. She’s terrible with quantities, like all mothers, and she thought for a minute, while the dollars ticked by. Then she said, “About one-and- a-half talcum powder tins, to feed about five.” How perfect – a banana pseudostem does resemble a cylindrical talcum tin.

Buy the banana pseudostem carefully. Check for discolorations – there should be none – and ensure that it is tender and white. Cutting it is an art best mastered through a little practice. Oil your hands, because the pseudostem exudes a sticky pseudo-goo that soap cannot touch. Peel away about two layers of the outer skin, about a centimetres depth, to expose the tender white rind within. This is the part you will cook and eat.

Cut into discs about four millimetres thick and plop into water. My mother’s voice whispers that you should add about half a cup of sour buttermilk to that water, to prevent the stem from getting discolored.

Here’s how you cook the stuff:

1.5 banana pseudostems, prepared as described and cut into discs
1 cup tuvar dal
A little ural dal
A pinch of turmeric
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon rice
3 or 4 red chillies
1/2 coconut, grated
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 tablespoon jeera or cummin seeds

Finely chop the banana pseudostem. Pay attention to the lengths of ‘string’ that unwind as you cut. They should be assiduously removed and discarded.

Pressure cook the banana pseudostem, with one cup tuvar dal, some turmeric and some salt.

Take a tablespoon of rice, three red chillies, and fry in oil till just before the rice begins to redden. Grind to a paste with 1/2 the grated coconut

Combine this paste with the boiled banana pseudostem, add a little water if the result feels too thick, and then let the Khich Khach come to a boil over a slow fire. The banana pseudostem absorbs the various subtleties in the coconut paste, and emerges dressed for a party.

Throw a half teaspoon of mustard seeds into hot oil. When it begins to pop, add a half teaspoon of urad dal. As the dal begins to turn a lovely golden color, add a few whole red chillies, just for a few moments, and then throw the whole thing over the dish as a garnish.

It is now time to answer the question that has been distracting you.

What, you are wondering, is the meaning of the word ‘costive’, mentioned so casually in the first paragraph. No, it is not another word for the price index, but simply means — oh, I couldn’t possibly. Go look it up, everyone has Google these days. If you’re too lazy for that, try eating a little Khich Khach.