I find the title (Banana stem Pulav) a little awkward but I guess that’s what it’s called. For those who don’t know how Vazhaithandu looks, these are ivory coloured cylindrical things that are usually cut into foot-long pieces and sold in vegetable stores. Preparing the vazhai thandu is a slight pain, it’s as fibrous as a coconut on the outside. Well not so much but a little bit. But the good thing about it is that it is great for your health. It helps prevent kidney stones and also detoxifies your body. This Vazhai thandu pulav is a great way, most importantly a delicious way to include Vazhai thandu in your diet.
The very first time I tasted this pulav I had no idea it had Vazhai thandu in it (I was so used to eating it as a kootu till then). I loved the pulav. It was lovely – delicately flavoured and the vazhai thandu adds a subtle almost buttery note to it. I served this Vazhai thandu pulav alongside spicy Yam Erissery (recipe coming up soon). Serve this pulav alongside a spicy curry for a complete meal.
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins
Vazhai thandu/Banana stem – 1 about a foot in length
Rice – 2 cups (regular rice or Basmati rice)
Onion – 1 medium chopped fine
Coconut milk – 2 cups
Green chillies – 3 slit lengthwise
Cloves – 3
Cinnamon – 1 inch piece
Bay Leaf – 1
Fennel seeds – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – 1 stem
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Water as necessary
1. Rinse rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak rice in water for half an hour to 1 hour.
2. To prepare the vazhai thandu, stand it vertically on your cutting board and peel away the thick outer layers using a knife. Lay it down and slice into thin rounds. While cutting the rounds, you’ll have to combat lots of thin fibres (“Naaru”) that you’ll need to discard. Then cut the rounds into tiny pieces. Set aside.
3. In a pressure cooker, heat oil and ghee together. When hot drop in the whole spices – cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and fennel seeds. Fry till fragrant. Then add in the chopped onions and curry leaves and fry till the onions turn translucent. Then add in the chopped vazhai thandu and slit green chillies. Give it a good stir and sauté for half a minute.
4. Drain the water from the rice saving it for later use. Add the rice to the cooker and mix well. Pour in the coconut milk. Dip your index finger in so that the tip of your finger touches the rice and check the level of liquid above the rice. Make sure the liquid level is just above the first line on your index finger. Add the rice soaked water if necessary. Now taste the water and add salt. Mix well. Close with the lid and plug in the weight when it starts steaming. Immediately reduce heat to low and cook for 12 minutes. Switch off and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff up the rice with a fork. Serve hot with a spicy curry.