Pazham Poori (Crispy Plantain Fritters)

Deep fried foods have all the qualifications to ill-recommend them. We all know the unhealthiness, the fat, the cholesterol issues that go hand in hand with the tell-tale grease on your fingertips. They have only one virtue, a single, profound attraction. It’s tasty, seriously tasty. There is something alluring about it; your teeth breaking through a crispy carapace to give way to something, soft, tender or moist. And these plantain fritters are a case in point. I have, in my own mind, elevated such a humble, everyday, keralite snack into something decadent and forbidden. There were no such claims when I snaffled about five of these at one go, at a time when pre-teen hips could take it. Ignorance was blissful at the age of twelve.Kerala could have just as easily been called Banana Land as opposed to that of Coconuts. Big, huge, heavy bunches of these are exchanged between families as a mark of good-will or affection. So, Pazham (Pa-rhum meaning Banana) Poori (don’t ask me what Poori means) is found in most homes, cafes, street stalls and railways stations all across the state. No ‘trip’ is complete without a tea break and a fat fritter like these, served in newspapers or banana leaves.

I am not a lover of a cooked banana, unless in a bake and even then, it takes a bit to have the first bite. Mind you, its not a hard struggle. These, however, are not bananas. They are plantains; the uglier, squat, thick cousins of the more elegantly curved fruit celebrated worldwide. They tend to have dark spots, that weave over their skins like scars rather than the pretty freckles of their bonnier relatives. These are my absolute favourites. The flesh is orange-tinged, the taste earthier with an acidic backnote and it’s much firmer and less squishy than the more familiar types. And that makes it perfect for cooking purposes. Mama would steam them whole in their skins, until the skin split, slice through the length halfway, put in a stingy knob of ghee and a generous sprinkle of sugar and serve. Alternatively, she would slice the plantain into long strips, fry it in butter until caramelised and deeply golden and again sprinkle with sugar. Life was very sweet in those days.

My mother made the battered bananas for a snack at around four in the afternoon, when bellies were rumbling after a nap. She made them with coconut oil and I knew what was coming when I smelled the hot oil in the air. I’d get up from my bed, stumble to the living room and promptly crash on the sofa with the TV on, while waiting impatiently for her to bring these through, ungrateful brat that I was. And yet, I find myself making these for my own kids while they sit in front of the telly after a nap. Such is the circle of life.

Before I get tutted on tainting the health of my babies bodies, know that this isn’t and couldn’t be, a frequent treat. But I see it as nothing worse, than the much loved, deep-fried-in-dripping potato chips. The banana has some nutritional value. I use rice flour, which is lighter than wheat or the traditional maize flour and ensures crispiness. I also add in some chickpea (gram/besan) flour, to give an earthiness that counteracts the natural sweetness of the banana. A teaspoon of baking powder ensures a puffed, aerated sleeve for the banana slices and helps the batter cook quicker, which is always a good thing when deep frying. I also, to compound the cholesterol component, mix in extra virgin coconut oil into the canola oil for deep frying. Despise me, if you must.

Pazham Poori are not those greasy, soggy parcels handed out at a cheap, imitation Thai restaurant with ice-cream that’s never seen any cream in them. Golden, crisp, light skin, with a softer casing around the warmed banana itself, it is a simple, easy, pleasing recipe. If you can’t get your hands on plantain and if you are determined to try it with your regular ‘Chiquita’ bananas, then use one that’s still a bit unripe, or it will just dissolve into a gungy, sweet mush. Not good. A hot cup of sweet chai, is the very best thing to accompany it.

Can I admit to how pleased I feel? I’m sharing a little bit of my childhood with my own children. “There’s something”, as Lil Lassie says, “a wee bit special about that, Mama.” I couldn’t agree more.

Indian Banana Fritters /Pazham Poozhi

3/4 cup Rice flour
1/4 cup Chickpea / gram flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 -11/2 cup water
pinch of turmeric powder (optional)
2 ripe plantains, peeled, halved and each half cut into thick slices
canola/vegetable oil for deep frying

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, sugar and tumeric. Add water and beat until smooth and lump free. You are aiming for a pancake batter consistency. Heat the oil in a small-medium saucepan and add enough oil to give a depth of around 4 inches. To check whether the oil is hot enough, drop a blob of batter into the oil. It should sizzle immediately, though not explosively, and float to the top.

Coat your plantain slices and let most of the excess drop back into the bowl. Carefully slip it into the hot oil. Should it sink and stick a bit to the bottom of the pan, gently nudge it with your spoon and that should dislodge it. Turn the puffed fritter over to get golden on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon when a rich golden colour and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Leave to cool for a minute or two before devouring.

Note: Mix in half vegetable and half coconut oil for added flavour. These are are their crispiest soon after frying but I quite enjoy them cold and toothsomely chewy too.

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19 thoughts on “Pazham Poori (Crispy Plantain Fritters)

  1. Heather @ SugarDish(Me)

    Ohhh these look, to use your word, “delishush!!” And your photos are different here. Bee-yew-tee-ful! I love your descriptions of the ingredients while you detail their use… it’s like food poetry.

  2. Big Sis Little Dish

    Oh my you are a wicked influence! You know I read this post just to torture myself, because I am used to poori being made with wheat flour which I am horribly (and tragically) allergic to. But these are made with rice and chick pea flour. I have those! I can eat those! And I live in a Caribbean neighborhood so the plantains are good and cheap! I could make these now! I might just do!

    Erin

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Haha! Och well, I try and do my bit :-D. Yes these usually are made with maida in my neck of the woods. But I love the lightness of rice flour. Let me know what you think of it! …On a healthier note, my other favourite way is steaming them, still hot and a bit soft, split and doused in ghee with lashings of sugar…..like I said..healthier!!!

  3. baker in disguise

    Shhh.. sometimes in life you don’t think about ‘trivial’ things like cholestrol, unhealthy etc etc… :)..you just enjoy life’s simpler pleasures!! I am crazy about those plain banana chips fried in coconut oil.. I just don’t know when to stop with them!!!

  4. Bergamote!

    I loved eating plantains with honey but my mom hated that. Haven’t had banana chips for ages. Wonder if these would work with bananas. You’ve made me curious to try these out and then try out the steamed version. Love the pic with the banana leaves, in fact I love all the pics. I bought myself a couple of plates which resemble those leaves a few years back, maybe I should put them to good use by making these fritters 🙂

  5. Thanh @ eat, little bird

    I have to admit that I have never tried plantain, nor knew what it was until recently when I saw it on a cooking show. If this dish is anything like deep-fried bananas, I would love to try it! I have a weakness for anything deep-fried and coated in batter – this looks right up my street!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Cut them thick as well Liz, just to help it along a bit. In fact, I usually cut one slice, fry that one off and see if the thickness is fine and it isn’t too soft inside. I have seen plantains at Tesco’s in Aberdeen, so may be worth keeping an eye open for em.

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