Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mocha-chingri....Banana blossom 'n shrimp

Banana blossom is called Mocha ('cha' pronounced as in chair) in Bengali. I  had posted a recipe, Mochar ghonto, with this not so common vegetable almost a year back. If you remember, I referred to it as a 'Bizarre food'. And to prove me correct, the original Bizarre food guy Mr. Andrew Zimmern  in one of the episode of his show listed 'Mochar ghonto' as a bizarre food from India. The vegetable looks very different and tastes completely different from any other regular veggies, and most people find the cleaning procedure for the vegetable as the most time-consuming and difficult. It takes a fair bit of patience to make the vegetable ready to cook. And that is one of the reason why I last posted a recipe with this vegetable almost a year back :). But the taste of the cooked product at the end takes away all the pain. 

I  have tried my best to explain the process of preparing the banana blossom ready to cook in steps below. I find spreading out a few old newspaper sheets on my work surface  extremely convenient for  a easy clean up while I work through the blossom . If you peel of the red brown bract of the blossom you will find the actual banana flowers hanging together as a cluster of lightly yellow colored florets attached to the top.

Each such floret needs to be separated and cleaned. If you take a single floret, you will see  the pistil, a stiff stalk like structure in the middle and a scale at the bottom, both the pistil and the scale need to be discarded. And this is the most laborious part.

As you keep removing the red-brown bracts, there will be a point you will reach the heart of the banana blossom, the bracts look white and you can't separate the bracts anymore.

Separate the banana blossom heart from the stalk. It can be chopped and used with the rest of the florets or cut it into quarters, and dipped in some batter(usually chickpea flour batter) and deep fried.

So the cleaning process involves, removing the red brown bracts, separating the florets. Then from each floret, removing the pistil and the scale. I  have tried to make it simple for you with this picture below.

After separating the florets and cleaning them, chop the florets. Take a large deep container, fill it with water and add 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder to it. Dip the chopped florets in that water, at least for 4-6 hrs. This will allow you to get rid of the bitter  metallic tasting sap of the banana blossom.

Drain the water and cook the chopped florets in a pressure cooker. Add the chopped florets and water in a pressure cooker and cook till 3 whistles. Switch off heat and wait till the pressure releases. Drain all the excess water and let it cool down.

Using a food processor or your hand, mash the boiled banana florets. Take the mashed florets and lightly press in between your palm to discard excess water. All these steps is to eliminate the metallic taste the highly iron-rich banana blossom has. Now this is ready to cook. You can make various dishes, dry curry with coconut, or you can make cutlets or like I did today, a dry curry with shrimp.

Mocha-chingri or banana blossom with shrimps, is the dish I made today. A dish very close to my heart. My aunt, I call her Ranga-kakima, cooks the best mocha-chingri I have tasted so far. She is a culinary artist when it comes to traditional Bengali dishes like ghonto, sukto, chochori etc. As a kid whenever she used to ask me what I want to eat at her place, this mocha-chingri used to be one of the frequently demanded dishes. And obviously before cooking this dish today, I called her and took notes, but again I can never recreate the same taste as she does. Hats off to our grandma, mother and aunts, who inspire us to cook for our family with utmost care and love, the added magic to any dish to make it special.

Things needed to make Mocha-chingri:

  • Banana blossom / Mocha (boiled and mashed): 1 small
  • Shrimp: 1/2 lb
  • Potato: 1 medium
  • Onion: 1/2 cup
  • Bay leaves: 2
  • Dry red chilies: 3-4
  • Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 2 tsp
  • Ginger (grated): 2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 3-4 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 2 tsp
  • Ghee (clarified butter): 1 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Oil to cook (preferably mustard oil)

Steps of making Mocha-chingri:

1. Clean and devein the shrimps. I used fresh shrimps and kept the head and tail for better flavor. Frozen shrimps can also be used. Thaw the frozen shrimps and wash well. Smear the shrimps with salt and turmeric powder and keep for 15 min.

2. In a pan or kadhai heat oil, preferably mustard oil. When the oil is hot fry the cubed and peeled potatoes till nicely golden from all sides. Take out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

3. In the same pan, fry the shrimps over high heat for 2 mins on both sides, take out and keep aside.

4. In the same pan, add more oil, when the oil is hot, add whole cumin seeds, bay leaves, dry red chili and cook for 1 min. Add chopped onion. Cook over medium heat till the onion changes color.

5. Add grated ginger, cumin powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder and two tablespoon of water, mix and cook for 2-3 min. Add boiled and mashed banana blossom and salt, mix well. Cover and cook for 4-5 min. If it tends to stick to the bottom sprinkle little water. Add fried potato, cook till potatoes are done. Add sugar as per taste, this dish will be hot, do not add to much sugar.

6.Add fried shrimps, ghee and garam masala powder, mix well. Switch off, cover and let rest for sometime. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Print Recipe
Mocha-chinri / Banana blossom with shrimps
(serves: 3-4)
Banana blossom : 1 small
Shrimp: 1/2 lb
Potato: 1 medium
Onion: 1/2 cup
Bay leaves: 2
Dry red chilies: 3-4
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 2 tsp
Ginger (grated): 2 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Red chili powder: 3-4 tsp
Garam masala powder: 2 tsp
Ghee (clarified butter): 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Oil to cook (preferably mustard oil)
1. Clean, boil and mash the banana blossom.
2. Clean and devein the shrimps, smear salt and turmeric.
3. Fry potato cubes to golden brown, keep aside.
4. Fry shrimp, keep aside.
5. Add cumin seeds, bay leaves, dry red chili. Add onion, cook till red.
6. Add ginger, cumin powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder along with little water, cook for 4 min, add boiled and mashed banana blossom. Add salt.
7. Add fried potato. Cook till done.
8. Add fried shrimp, sugar, ghee, garam masala, mix well. Sreve hot with steamed rice.

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  1. is that ur handwriting?? i must say ur handwriting is so beautiful like ur pics :)

  2. Chitrangada ,I feel like coming to a botany class! Lol!!But in all honesty this is such a well explained post.I think u have done something similar earlier too but the pics beat that.I am little j you get fresh banana blossoms there :)
    By seeing the tapered tip and the bracts I can say that it is really fresh.
    Other than the outer most 2-3 bracts we do not discard anything.After chopping it finely we apply coconut oil and salt mix it well with hand.After half an hr it is used to make stir fry.This is done to remove bitter taste.
    I have fallen in love with the second pic.All ur pics are awesome and with shrimp makes it extra special.

    1. Meena, I don't like my older clicks, I found them horrible, so whenever I get chance try to click better. Have you tried your local Asian market, we get fresh banana blossom from there.

  3. what a gorgeous clicks...beautiful the 2nd click with water droplets...what camera do you use..lovely photography....

    1. Thanks Gayathri, I use Nikon D600, with 50 mm lens.

  4. That is an amazing picture of the banana blossom parts, beautiful. Very interesting combination and this looks spicy and nice.
    Got introduced to banana blossom a few years back in the form of a salad and I've loved it since then, but never tried something like this, thanks for a great recipe.

  5. So neatly & nicely u have explained the way to clean them.. Such a nice & wonderful recipe.. Wil try it soon :)

  6. oh what a clear the way you presented...

  7. Beautiful Chitraganda!
    Loved the snapshots with the parts of the banana flower.

  8. awesome dear.. i specially love the way explain every part of "mocha". And one more thing, I forgot the URL of your blog, so i searched in google.. and it comes at number one... exciting!!!

  9. You have clearly explained about the cleaning of banana blossoms. Very useful to people like me.. Banana blossoms and shrimp makes an interesting combination.. Delicious and inviting.. By the way, loved your clicks.. :)

  10. Thats a lovely and easy recipe...wonderful....nice shot..great explanation.

  11. Nailed it! Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.........!!!!!!!!!!