Our neighbors on one side have a big garden of Plantain trees, along with other plants. When we step out of our home, it's like stepping into a garden. Ever since moving into this home, I have always loved the view and the feeling it evokes. It hides the fact of city dwelling and gives a sense of being in farmland.
I can still remember the many mornings, during our early years, spent dining at our makeshift table, looking out of the window, to see lush greens welcoming our eyes. And those many mornings spent sipping coffee, right under its shelter, and those nights eating out in the open, while the trees and the cars shielded us from the stark crowded place!
Every morning, there was even a crow calling kaau kaau every day. Hubby dear would say Kha Kha, go away Konda is sleeping. This continued for many years. Konda used to be very happy that a Kha Kha was waiting for her. The crow, surprisingly stopped visiting us after Konda started school. And a crow started coming now, it waits every day at almost the same time. Peddu would come running to see it. He was so fond of it and hubby dear again says the same thing now. If Peddu is sleeping, he tells Chinnu to tell the Kha Kha, that Peddu is sleeping. It's all so much fun. You may think it's strange but it's true!
You may wonder why I am talking about the Plantain trees now. It's because I came to know that the neighbors were planning to clear off the garden to construct a building. When I asked the lady and expressed how lovely the garden looks, she just shrugged and left. Not sure of her memories and bond, but mine were cartful.
I hoped it wouldn't happen, but it finally came true. The garden got cleared two days ago. While returning home from work, I suddenly realized that I never really captured that garden, always thinking it would be like that forever! I was so heartbroken to find all the Plantain trees already chopped down.
When Anu made Spicy Banana Blossoms, I was thinking why Vazhapoo Vadai never struck me. I was thinking it was anyway too late now to get one and make it. But I was really surprised to see the flower at home. I guess this will be the last way of enjoying the garden's bounty. It depresses me to think I may never have those captured moments of beauty, they will only forever be in memories. My lost garden, though the garden was hardly mine!
Amma makes the best Vazhapoo Vada, that I have ever tasted. Everybody at home simply loves this. Though hubby dear never likes fried foods, this is one exception to the rule. So this dish is not only about lost flavours, lost love, this is going to one last love from a lost garden! I know I am getting soppy!
Banana Blossom - peeled and chopped
Bengal Gram - 1 cup (200 gms)
Onion - 1 big, finely chopped
Red chilies - 2-3
Green Chilies - 2
Salt to taste
Fennel Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a handful
Coriander Leaves - handful chopped.
Oil for frying
Buttermilk - 1 cup (optional)
Method to prepare:
For the batter
Wash and soak Bengal gram for 3 hours. Once they are soaked well and soft, drain completely from the water. Take it along with Red chilies, grind to a coarse batter. Save a teaspoon of Bengal gram to be mixed as a whole.
Chop onions, chilies into fine pieces.
Preparing the Banana Blossoms
The Banana flower has big pinkish-red petals enclosing the flowers. The flowers within are about 20 or so, clubbed together. It has a long stack with a head to it, one long outer cover, and a shorter cover. We got to remove the thick stack and the shorter cover as shown in the picture.
Repeat for all the flowers, as you go in, you will find very small flowers, in which the long thick stack is not developed. These are used as such. Once all the flowers are done, wash them well and drain them.
Normally there are chopped and soaked in the buttermilk to ensure they don't turn dark with exposure to air. But they turn dark anyway. Buttermilk is made using curds, water, and salt.
Boil a pan with 1 cup water, when the water starts boiling, add the chopped blossoms and cook for 2 - 3 mins. Drain it in a colander and when it's cool, squeeze the water completely. It should be dry when you add this to the batter. Below is the boiled and squeezed plantain flowers.
In a bowl, take the batter along with Onions, green chilies, Curry leaves, Fennel seeds, Coriander leaves, and the cooked Banana Blossoms. Mix well. The batter should hold the Vada shape when you take a ball and flatten.
Heat a Kadai with oil for deep frying. Divide the batter into the required size. Take the batter ball, using your left palm, flatten them into a disc of 1-inch thickness. When the oil is hot, sim and gently slides these into the oil.When it turns golden on one side, turn to others and cook in batches. Drain them on to a kitchen Towel.
Preparation is the same as Masala Vada, only we add the Banana Blossoms in this version.