Fried Plantain Bananas (Patacones) with Spicy Dipping Sauce
I've been eyeing these bad boys up at the Sunday markets for quite some time. They taunt me with their bright lime green flesh and their enticing promises of culinary journeys. And yet, I have resisted for so long. Why? I'm not exactly sure. I've eaten plantains before, mostly in India. I've just never had the guts to cook with them.
I finally succumbed to curiosity this morning, and brought two home with me. I just had to find something to do with them!
Don't be fooled. These are no ordinary bananas. Firstly, they're green - you may have noticed that.
Secondly, when used while green, their flesh is firm. Very firm. Like, they pretty closely resemble the texture of a potato. In fact, they're often used as a starchy vegetable in tropical climates, just like... wait for it... a potato!
Thirdly, when green, they're not sweet like a banana. Flavour-wise, I'd have to describe them as somewhere in the region of (yep, you guessed it) a potato, with a nod to kumara bring a subtle sweetness.
My sister and her Costa Rican born husband cooked up patacones (fried plantain chips) at a Christmas bbq one year. A quick google of plantain recipes made it clear that this is the winning favourite use for plantains, and a good place to start. This was also far too tempting for my slightly hung over appetite to resist. It was hard enough missing out on the haloumi-on-a-stick that the brazillian bbq stall at the markets does oh so well. Deep fried goodness was my only remittance.
Here, the plantains are peeled, sliced, and fried briefly in oil. They are then squashed flat, and fried a second time until golden and delicious. I served this with a variation of Aju Sauce, a spicy South American take on an aioli, spiked with lime juice, spring onions, and the aju chilli.
Green bananas? Check. Now all I need to find a Wellington source for is green papaya - anyone have the inside word on that one?
Fried Plantain Bananas with Spicy Dipping Sauce
(Serves 4 as a snack, or two hungover gluttons who would later regret eating so much)
For the Sauce:
- 1/2c mayo
- 1 red chilli, roughly chopped
- 1 spring onion, roughly chopped
- 1T tomato sauce or ketchup
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4t smoked paprika, plus more for sprinkling
- Salt and pepper to taste
Make the sauce first by throwing everything into a small food processor, and blending until smooth. Sprinkle with a little more paprika, and top with some spring onion tops. Pop the sauce into the fridge until serving time.
For the Plantain Chips:
- 2 plantain bananas
- Oil for frying
- Salt and pepper to taste
Peel the bananas. This isn't always easy, but there's a good video on how to do it here.
Once you have relinquished your banana from its skin, pop a pan with a good glug of oil in the bottom onto a medium-high heat. While you wait for the oil to heat up, slice the plantains into 1cm thick rounds.
Working in batches, fry the rounds in oil for 2 minutes each side, or until they're golden brown all over. Add more oil if you need to (I never said this was a healthy dish!). If they're frying too quickly, turn down the heat to medium-low. When the rounds are golden brown, pull them out and let them sit on a paper towel until the rest are done. Turn off the heat.
Now you're going to flatten them. You'll need something heavy, with a flat bottom. My mortar and pestle (well, not so much the pestle part) worked very well for this. If you have a thick, heavy chopping board, this will do well too. Otherwise, some kiwi ingenuity may be required.
To flatten, place a sheet of baking paper on a chopping board or flat surface. Pop a round in the centre, and top with a second sheet of baking paper. Now, gently use your flattening object to press down on the banana until it's flattened by half. After a few goes, you'll get the hang of doing this so that it doesn't obliterate the banana round. I achieved this by gently wiggling my mortar and pestle from side to side, while gently pressing down with increasing pressure. Don't smash them, or they'll just break apart.
Once the rounds are all flattened, heat your oil back up and fry the rounds in batches for another few minutes each side, until they're crispy and golden. Let them drain on a paper towel, and season generously with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately with the sauce.