When bananas go ripe…

by Liz on August 10, 2011

in Food

Banana bread with cardamom, nutmeg, and coconut milk.

When bananas go ripe, you make banana bread.

This recipe was inspired by my travels to Thailand, and the flavors of the banana desserts I tried in Bangkok and Phuket.

Of course, banana bread tastes nothing like Thai fried bananas, or bananas in coconut milk. But once you fall for the fragrant fusion of both, it’s hard not to crave the sweetly perfumed notes of Southeast Asian cooking. With slight hopes that I would be transported to the coastlines of Phuket at first bite, I tweaked around with a traditional banana bread recipe spotted on Saveur, by substituting coconut milk for buttermilk, and adding fragrant teaspoons of cardamom and nutmeg. Cardamom, by the way, smells like absolute heaven, a fact I’m quick to forget, but just as quick to remember when I use it to cook.

I’ve also been experimenting with Thai and other spices in my baking for almost a year because I thought it was a fun way to play around, and experiment with new flavors on a foundation of American recipes. The great thing about banana bread is you can play around with the top note ingredients. I used three ripe bananas as directed, but you can always use more. Sugar? You can adjust that too. The recipe below calls for 1 cup of sugar, but I just used half a cup. Thanks to the presence of ripe bananas, the bread was not lacking in sweetness.

Then there’s the coconut milk. It tastes great in baking, but I also know that buttermilk gives the bread a wonderful tanginess and fluffiness. The choice is yours.

ASEAN Banana Bread (adapted from Mom’s Banana Bread Recipe, Ben Mims, Saveur Magazine) Serves 6 – 8

Butter, for greasing pan
1 cup flour, plus more for pan
3⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom (more if you like)
1/2 tsp. grated or powdered nutmeg
1 cup sugar (I used just ½ cup and it was fine.)
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1⁄3 cup buttermilk (I substituted with 1/3 cup coconut milk, but I’ll leave that up to you.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2⁄3 cup chopped pecans (All nuts welcome! Dried fruits too.)
3 very ripe bananas, mashed

1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ x 5″ x 2 3⁄4″ loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set pan aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg,and salt; set aside.

3. Whisk together sugar, oil, buttermilk (or coconut milk), vanilla, egg, and egg yolk in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Add pecans (or various nuts, fruits) and mashed bananas and whisk gently to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean, 60–65 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.



Erawan Shrine | Bangkok

by Liz on January 26, 2011

in Travel

There’s one in every major city in Asia. A religious shrine of the Buddhist/Confucian/Shamanist persuasion, right in the center of a burgeoning city of unstoppable skyscrapers. It doesn’t budge, despite the hounding of real estate developers or a powerful government. Its spiritual significance makes capitalism look like a passing fad, and reminds its visitors to look beyond the materialism of shopping malls.

Erawan Shrine is situated in a small corner plot by the opulent Grand Hyatt Bangkok. Once you enter you become submerged in billows of smoky incense, burning by the shrine dedicated to Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. My Time Out Bangkok guide states matter-of-factly it was erected in 1956 to appease the spirits of those who died while erecting the old Erawan Hotel. It also quickly adds in 2006 a man received instant karma after smashing the statue of Brahma. An angry mob reacted, and swiftly beat him to death! Fortunately, the morning we visited there was no such drama: just a small throng of Thais hoping their prayers would waft gently to heaven with the clouds of incense drifting ever upwards. There were even costumed dancers in their silk finery, singing a pious melody that I couldn’t quite comprehend.

A city pilgrim deep in prayer.

Costumed dancers in performance.

Gold Elephants.


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