Fruit Of Antiquity: List Of Traditional and Ethnic Foods From Banana Around The World

Little Introduction about Banana

Banana being cultivated in all tropical countries across the globe is a fruit of antiquity and is interwoven with cultural heritage of many countries. It is also considered as a symbol of fertility and prosperity. The exclusivity of traditions and cultures, as well as the complex interplay of societal and environmental factors has an effect on geographical contexts and ethnicities. As immigration, tourism, and international trade have increased worldwide, the role of ethnicity has become more important and the ethnic foods market is still growing amid economic recession.Traditionally banana is a very important crop and many ethnic foods have been in use at Asian and African countries. Globally banana production rose from 69 million tonne in 2000-2002 to 116 million tonne in 2017-2019, at an approximate value of US$31 billion. (FAO). Banana contains high dietary fibre and is used as a laxative. Dried fruit is considered antiscorbutic. They are good sources of vitamins A and potassium.Banana has biologic activities such as antiulcerogenic, antidiabetic, antiatherogenic, antidiarrheic, antitumoral, antimutagenic and antihypertensive. Its year round availability, nutritive and medicinal value makes it the favourite fruit for innovative ethnic foods. 
Different parts of banana plant used are fruit, flower, and stem. Ripe banana fruit is used for treating gastric problem, since its alkaline nature, neutralises the acid conditions and helps in formation of thick protective mucus layer. Banana leaves add good aroma to hot foods during eating and are good source of antioxidant. They are a staple crop in many countries and also have good export potential and hence the ethnic foods from it can contribute for global healthy diet. With high banana production projected in the upcoming years, there is an imperative need to balance this production with proper utilisation. This article briefs the traditional and ethnic foods from major banana cultivating countries. 

In India

Photo by Arti Agarwal

Banana is the second-most important fruit crop in India next to mango and is often used as prasadh (spiritual food offering) in temple. Its affordability and varietal range facilitated copious traditional foods from it. Pazham pori, Unni appam, Valzhaika bajji, valzhaithandu poriyal and valzhaipoo poriyal are notable ethnic foods from Southern part of India.

Pazham Pori

Pazham pori or ethakka appam is a fritter made with longitudinal slices of ripened banana (var. Nendran), which is coated with sweetened batter and deep fried until crispy. It is generally eaten as a breakfast or a snack in Kerala.

Unni Appam

Unni appam/ Karollappam (Sweet Kuzhi Paniyaram) is a small round snack made from rice, jaggery, banana, roasted coconut pieces, roasted sesame seeds, ghee and cardamom powder (all ingredients in the form of batter) which  moulded into small round pan and fried in oil. 

Valzhaika bajji

Valzhaika bajji is a popular snack item in which slices of unripe banana (var. Monthan or Saba), dipped in wet green gram flour and deep fried in oil. 

Valzhaithandu poriyal

Posolar Khar Bhajie or valzhaithandu poriyal or Bale dandu palya is made from the pseudostem of banan plant where the stem is cut into pieces and made into cubes and boiled, followed by seasoning with chilli, salt, coriander, curry leaves, grated coconut, and turmeric powder. It is preferred to be served with rice.

Valzhaipoo Poriyal

Valzhaipoo poriyal is made from banana inflorescence. The floret is separated and the non-edible parts such as pistil, scale and calyx. Then the florets are cut into small pieces and seasoned with green chili, mustard, and onion and cooked in water. Later it is garnished with coconut gratings.

In Eastern Asia

The Philippines dominate the banana trade in East Asia. Mofongo, maruya, banana cue, turon and ginanggang are some common banana based ethnic foods from the Philippines. 

Mofongo

Banana Cue

Banana cue which made with deep fried bananas coated in caramelised brown sugar skewered on a bamboo stick and Turon which is made of thinly sliced bananas and jackfruit, dusted with brown sugar rolled in a spring roll wrapper and deep fried are delicacy of this region.

Nagasari In Indonasia

Nagasari from Indonesia is traditional steamed cake made from rice flour, coconut milk and sugar, filled with slices of banana. It is usually wrapped in banana leaves before being steamed, or prepared with pandan that gives it a pleasing aroma.

Tacacho In Amazonia

Tacacho an Amazonian cuisine  made from exquisite varieties of banana in which roasted raw banana is served with bits of pork. 

Uses In African Continent

African continent stands tall by brewing beer from banana. Alloco, Dodo, Missolè, Makemba, kelewele are popular West African snacks made from fried plantain. It is often served with chilli pepper and onions. 

Conclusion

There is so much diversity in traditional and ethnic foods from banana. The regional health foods have evolved according to the climate, culture, and cropping practices of a specific region. The consumer attitudes have become more positive when we consider the popularity of ethnic foods from banana. With projected growth in global ethnic foods coupled with the desire for healthier diets, flavorful taste, and adventure are additional fortunate to it. Detailed studies and simplified protocol for understanding processing in modern technology are needed for a good global reach of ethnic foods from banana. 

Story By: Amelia Keran David and Suresh Kumar Paramasivam

The authors are Junior Research Fellow and Senior Scientist, Division of Crop Production & Post Harvest Technology, ICAR National Research Centre for Banana, Trichy

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