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Thai Yai Banana Curry

March 28, 2010

Every lunch at Dokmai Garden is a surprise. Today we ate a banana pith curry that was so good, we decided to put it on the web. First we give you an introduction to the cook:

One of the collaborators at Dokmai Garden is Pi Jen. She is Thai Yai, i.e. she belongs to a Thai speaking people from the Shan States, that happened to be included under the administration of Burma during the British Empire. After Burma’s independence, the Shan States were still included in Burma against their will. Pi Jen escaped communist Burma as a 12-year-old girl, and came to Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand. She married a Thai truck driver, got a son, but later she divorced. Her son has Thai citizenship and lives in nearby Lamphun, but Pi Jen is still without Thai citizenship, inspite of 20 years in Thailand. Pi Jen is an excellent cook, strong like a man and works very hard. She can not read or write in any language, why the recipe below is based on interviews.

Recipe for 2 people

Main ingredient:

Cut down a banana “tree” with edible pith, such as the variety Gluay Nam Wa (Musa acuminata x balbisiana (ABB)). Any banana variety might not necessarily do, as many varieties have a bitter taste. The reasons for cutting down a banana “tree” (in reality it is just a bundle of leaf stalks, the tree is underground) could be thinning, or you simply use the banana tree after it has produced fruit (the “tree” dies anyhow after the fruit production). Take away the fibrous outerparts, leave the pith which is about 1.5-2 cm in diameter, or less. The stalks can be kept for up to 2 weeks in a fridge, or for a couple of days in a bag outdoors. Sometimes you can find banana pith in Thai markets.

For this recipe, you need about 30-40 cm banana pith, which you chop into 2 cm long pieces

Other ingredients:

250 ml Coconut milk

1 Tea spoon of red curry.

3 Shallots

1 Garlic clove

Some porc (optional, not necessary)

1 tea-spoon of Ka-pi shrimp paste

1 pinch of sugar

1 pinch of salt

A little bit of fish sauce (look for this in Thai food stores)

2-3 leaves of Acacia pennata (“Cha om” in central Thai language). This species is found at every Thai market.


Fry the red curry together with coconut milk, add the other ingredients except the banana pith and the Acacia leaves. Once the shallots look soft, add the banana pith and cook for another 5 minutes. Decorate with the Acacia leaves before serving.

(Today it was 23 °C at 07.50 and 32°C at 12.35).

Pi Jen

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