Cookworks Indian Special

I have a little non-book cooking adventure to take you on in this installment of Cookworks.  During my stint in India I had some of the most amazing food but one of the treats that became an absolute favorite was the “banana balls” (at least that’s what we called them).  We would usually get some biscuits or small cookies for four o’clock teatime, but every now and then our cook, Lakshmi, would surprise us with a little bowl of banana balls.  It was actually pretty special because the recipe calls for a good number of bananas, which although plentiful, are still a bit of a privilege for many Indians.

When we first arrived, we weren’t allowed to wash our own dishes or to linger in the kitchen.  The women in the kitchen waited on us to a fault.  After a few days, however, we would just say “no” and take our plates and glasses to the sink and wash everything ourselves.  The women would argue but then laugh.  With that, we had our foot in the kitchen door.  We were able to hang out with the elderly women as they peeled clove after clove of garlic, cut peppers, onions and other veggies, rolled peanuts out of their skins, and made giant metal containers of rice.  It was incredible… nothing that would pass health code… but just incredible.

So after we had a solid footing as able bodied kitchen help, we were cleared to make some magic happen.  We asked Lakshmi to give us the banana ball recipe and she agreed to show us.  Lakshmi doesn’t speak English and neither Carmen nor I speak enough Telegu to carry on a real conversation but all of us are pretty fantastic at charades.  As we went through the steps to make these heavenly little balls, we didn’t write anything down.  We relied on our trusty little noggins, which is all well and good.  I don’t believe we omitted anything but what is a little problematic is not knowing the measurements.  Lakshmi just used handfuls of this, scoops of that… basically I’m saying this recipe is a total guess in that department.

Indian Banana Balls
2 cups of coconut
tsp of baking soda
1pkg. of dinner rolls (12)
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of wheat flour
1 cup of buffalo milk (can substitute store bought cows milk)
Combine all ingredients, set for one hour, roll and fry

When I was in Iowa for the Holidays I tested our hypothesized recipe…

You want to use really ripe bananas, like for banana bread or muffins.

Put it all together in a bowl, roll your sleeves up and get squishing.  Mix it all together well – if the consistency seems a little too soft add more bread or flour or if it’s too dry add more bananas but I wouldn’t recommend adding more milk.

After letting the mixture sit for about an hour, form spoonfuls into little balls and drop them into hot oil.  I used a frying pan, but Lakshmi used a wok. I’m thinking the balls would have been more ball-like if I’d used the wok, but either way they taste the same.

When they’re fried to a crispy golden brown you pull them out and let them cool.  Then enjoy.  They’re even great cold.

For more Indian recipes and cooking tips check out these books…

The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes by Anupy Singla

Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes by Suvir Suran and Stephanie Lyness

Simply More Indian: More Sweet and Spicy Recipes from India, Pakistan and East Africa by Tahera Rawji


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