My favorite blogger, Loving Rice, offered to dish up a recipe of anything I wanted. Fantasizing about the Andaman sea, I asked her to do something with crab. Her recipe, Banana Flower Soup with Fresh Crab, went above and beyond.
At the Asian store, I'm the foreigner. My cart is always scrutinized and discussed in various languages. The regulars have seemed to notice it isn't filled with the regular rice and soy sauce load of the other "foreigner" carts.
While going through check-out with my weekly supplies (bird's eye, kaffir lime, tamarind, lemongrass and so forth), a giant dungeness crab and a banana flower, the usual discussion began. The woman behind me started pointing to things and talking to the man behind her. She then started speaking to the cashier who turned to me and said, "She wants to know if you cook Thai food".
My husband and I smiled. "Yes! Almost every night!". The little old woman started chatting up a storm..."Banana flower! Only Thai use banana flower. So much lemongrass, lime, and chili. I'm Thai. You like Thai?" We said yes, we love Thailand and professed our excitement to explore more of Southeast Asia this year.
Soon, everyone was telling us where they were from: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, China. They asked what we liked to cook, what we were going to do with the banana flower. I showed the big crab to them and received "oohs" and "ahhs" in return. No longer am I the market foreigner.
When I told my mother about the crab, she asked how I could kill such a thing. I responded, "Easy. I'm going to turn it on its back, lift up it's flap, and drive a knife through it."
"You're so not my daughter!" she exclaimed before walking away.
Loving Rice couldn't have answered my request any better. I loved her idea of caramelizing the onion in the coconut milk. Oh, and how cool is the inside of a banana flower?
The recipe made enough for the two of us to eat it for both lunch and dinner. It's very much like a Thai version of chowder with the banana flower taking on a potato-like texture. I understand why it's considered by some to be a Thai comfort food.
If you have success at finding a banana flower, be sure to make this delicious recipe.