Friday, February 20, 2009

Nendrampazham - King of Bananas

- by Janaki Krishnan
Food is one area where my husband and I are poles apart (although our horoscopes show samasaptakam, or perfect agreement between our stars!).
While I am a foodie, my husband believes that one should eat only to live. Recently, he had a minor surgery, after which he was advised to eat a nutritious diet with plenty of milk, vegetables and fruits. This is where the Nendrampazham came to my rescue. The only fruit that my husband eats with delight is this king of bananas, a big yellow variety that is also called 'Rajali Kela' in Mumbai.

Rajalis from Vasai come into the city, but the Kerala variety is sweeter
Unlike the usual small sized bananas, this fruit can only be eaten plain if you have a strong digestive system. The popular method is to steam cook it, so that it becomes an ideal food for the sick, the elderly and for young children.
For my husband, I often cut the banana into 3-4 pieces and steam it with jaggery. It takes just ten minutes to cook, and everyone loves the taste. The pleasure of unwrapping the banana with your hands and tasting the caramelised jaggery is simply heavenly.
Bananas in a kadai with water and jaggery.

Ready to eat!

My younger granddaughter likes to have bananas sliced into thinnish circles, and stir fried in ghee. She eats it with a fork, Western style. But my older granddaughter loves banana chips. These are made using the raw version of these bananas, by slicing it very thin, and deep frying it in oil.

Nendrankkai - the raw version of Nendrampazham

My mother was an expert in making banana chips (and my father in distributing it among his office friends). As a young girl, whenever we heard a hissing sound coming from the kitchen, I was sure that my mother was busy making chips. The hissing sound comes at the last stage of making these chips, when salt water is poured on the chips before pulling them out of the oil.

That is what differentiates the traditional home-made chips from the ones we buy in Matunga market. In the market, the salt is added later, after the chips are taken out of the oil.

Home-made Nendrankkai chips
There are many more ways to enjoy this versatile banana. Sarkaraupperi is made by deep-frying raw bananas, dipping them in a jaggery syrup and then dusting it with dried ginger.
Sarkaraupperi is served at our weddings. After the first spoonful of payasam is served, this is the second favourite.
No food is wasted in India, even when it is available in plenty. Dried banana is powdered, stored, and later mixed with milk and water for use as baby food. My Christian friend makes sweet and salty bhajias using ripe bananas. Even overripe bananas, with the skin blackened, are turned into halwa using jaggery and ghee.

Banana varieties in Matunga Market

Nendrankkais are also used to make many Kerala specialities - erisseri and kaalan are my favourites. Even the skin is cut into tiny bits and converted into a tempting side-dish. No wonder this banana is called 'Rajali' - it is truly the King of Bananas!


Rada said...


Why are you doing this to me?

Feeling both nostalgic and hungry, reading your post and seeing those wonderful pictures!

Sunita Mohan said...

The difference in sweetness is mainly due to the fruit being harvested before it is ripe. Since it has to be transported from Vasai, the farmers harvest it early so that it doesnt get smashed en route. At least, that is what I believe.
I grow bananas in Mumbai and my only complaint is that our clay soil hardens like cement and possibly because of that, the King is reduced to a princeling. The fruits just dont grow as big as they should :D

Deepa said...


have you seen this? They massage the banana with oil!!!! Look at the effort it takes to produce the Kerala Nendran!

- Deepa

islandgal246 said...

In the Caribbean or West Indies we call those bananas plantains. they are my favorite. We cook them ripe, half ripe and we fry them. They are sooo delicious on the side with your meal. We eat them at breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on the mood. I made a meal recently with filleted fish rolled around a strip of ripe plantain and steamed in wine sauce with onions garlic and tomatoes. I also love curry not the overly spicy ones but the mildly flavoured ones with coconut milk. My maternal grandmother was Indian, I didn't know her very well, but I must have gotten some of her genes for curries. Very interesting blog.

Sunita Mohan said...

You've got to joking! This is the first time I've ever heard of such a practice! :O
I think we're getting our collective legs very gently pulled. OMG, the images that it is bringing up in my mind! :D
Hmmm ...
Or, on the other hand the Kerala oil massages do work wonders on people. But bananas ...! :D :D :D

Anonymous said...

This is not a comment pertaining to this post. I was curious of your opinion of the movie 'Slumdog...' especially since you have the Dharavi walks and are familiar with the region. Your take in a special post would be nice. - Radha

Unknown said...

Love your blog - haven't had the chance to leave a comment before! Being a Tambram who lived in Wadala / Matunga earlier, can identify with many of the things you write. Absolutely love the Nendram chips - any trip close to Matunga and we have to get a bag from Venkateshwara stores. Love that steamed banana with jaggery recipe aunty :)

Palazzo said...

My name is Reginaldo Palazzo and I'm from Brasil Rio de janeiro City, but a living in Tarauacá - Acre.
Congratulantions for three generatinos that write here. I have a blog too and I'd like that you know ok?
By By!

Palazzo said...

My name is Reginado Palazzo. I'm from Brasil, Rio de Janeiro city, but living em Tarauacá- Acre. I had a friend who fly in Kingfisher, but returned after what happened in Mumbai. I have a blog too
Have a good day. If you want to add my MSN is

Sunita Mohan said...

Deepa, I kept thinking about the link that you had added. After the initial shock and sheer disbelief, I'm down to "what if its true?", "why not?", etc.
So in the name of science I'm planning a trip to Kerala... only to check the veracity of this claim, I assure you. While I'm there if I happen to bliss out on appam and ishtew, dont blame me! ;)
The things we do for Science!

Anonymous said...

Pl post the recipe for milagootal sometime.

Bela said...

What's milagootal

Anonymous said...

Must be some kind of sweet?

mira said...

Please post the recipe for MILAGOOTAL. Hungry and Waiting!!!

Haddock said...

One more way (and the best way to make it sweet) is to roast it on slow fire.. . . . . .ummmm delicious

Vinamra Gharat said...

Hey everyone....I need some more info about this exciting variety of banana!!
I dont need how to cultivate or to make recipes, I need info regarding plantations of this specific variety of this fruit!! Can some one give reference or some famous plantations in Kerala!!

BTW my father planted this version in current year!! The results were satisfying but he says next year will be much better (4 grade up) than this year....have a look if you want....they are not the best because some good one were sold....and BTW we are from Vasai...!!

Please do comment....


orkut : Search for ~Vinamra Gharat~

Unknown said...





Kavita Rayirath said...

The banana and jaggery recipe looks yum. Must try it. :)

Unknown said...

I guess one should eat stuff the way nature has given & not screw it by deep frying, and making in other thoughtless recipies, only steaming and roasting will keep the goodness intact.