I adore bananas, and while I was recently vacationing in Mexico, I had a sudden craving for their sweet, refreshing taste, which is nothing unusual for me. However, what happened next is quite an unusual story.
Namely, I went to the nearest grocery store to buy myself some sweet bananas. After a short clueless walk around the store that screamed, “I am not from around here,” I finally found some strange-looking and rather small greenish bananas, or at least I thought so.
They were a bit peculiar and did not seem ripe enough, but I did not want to look any further, so I decided to settle with what I had found. After all, I prefer unripe bananas during the summer as they taste a bit refreshing.
When I returned to my hotel and had my first bite, I immediately thought about how strange the Mexican bananas taste. They were hard to peel a not nearly as sweet as our American bananas; I felt at that time.
Little did I know that the fruit I had just tasted had not been a banana at all-it was a plantain, the so-called cooking banana often prepared and eaten in the South American countries.
How To Make Plantains
The following day, I had commented on my foul-tasting bananas, and my Mexican friends explained (when they finally stopped laughing) that I had actually tried a plantain, which is a less-sweet, starchier equivalent to the banana.
So, my vacation acquired an educational note, too, as I had learned fascinating new things, including how to make plantains. I will tell you right away: They taste delicious when prepared and eaten the right way!
Are you intrigued? Stay tuned and find out more about plantains- the tropical superfood with banana-like features!
Plantains are genuinely members of the banana family, and that is why they look so similar to the dessert bananas in the first place. However, when it comes to taste, the similarity ceases to be.
Plantains taste less sweet and have a starchy texture similar to potatoes. For this reason, they are usually cooked before being served or eaten. In my experience, they are not to be eaten raw at all, although my friends told me that when they turn yellow and black, plantains become much sweeter and can, at that point, be enjoyed raw too.
Do not expect the plantains to taste the same as bananas even when fully ripe, though, as they have much lower moisture content in comparison to the dessert bananas.
1. Where do plantains come from?
Although they are a staple food in South America, especially the coastal areas, plantains are actually native to India and indigenous in Oceania and Southeast Asia.
2. How do the plantains look?
You can guess by now that plantains are very similar to the unripe dessert bananas. They are green at first, but later on, they become almost black in color, and that means that they are ripe. At that point, you can eat them raw, too as they will taste very sweet.
Their skin is much thicker than the banana skin is, and it usually has brown spots and rough areas too.
3. Who can grow plantains?
People who live in tropical areas with constant warm temperatures and no strong winds.
4. Where to buy the plantains?
Although I have never tried them before visiting Mexico, I have found out upon returning home that plantains can be found in our stores rather easily. In South America, you can find plantains all year round in almost every supermarket.
5. How to choose the best plantain?
If you want to prepare or eat the plantains right away, you should choose the ones that are slightly firm to the touch and mostly black with a few yellow areas here and there as those are the sweetest ones you can find.
The entirely black plantains are safe to eat too, but they will be much softer and a bit mushy, which makes them a bit tricky to prepare.
My Mexican friends advised me to purchase the green plantains and let them ripen a bit. It takes a couple of days, but you can use them at their right point.
6. How to peel the plantain?
I forgot to mention that I had really struggled to peel off my plantain (which I mistakenly considered being a banana at that time). The plantain skin is much harder to peel and often requires a knife to finish the job.
If you want to do it properly, you first need to cut off both ends of the plantain and then slice the peel downwards. Make sure that you do not cut too deep and damage the actual fruit. At this point, the skin should be easy to remove- simply pull it off, and it should come down in one piece.
7. Are the plantains good for you?
Calorie-wise, cooked plantains can be compared to the cooked potatoes. If you compare the plantains to their look-alike fruit, you will discover that they have more calories.
Namely, dessert or table bananas have 89 calories per 100 grams (one medium-sized banana), while plantain has about 50% more calories or, to be more precise, 122 calories in 100 grams. Consequently, it would be perfect if you ate the plantains sparingly, especially when on the weight loss diet.
On the bright side, plantains are a rich source of valuable fiber, and essential vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and B-6. There are numerous valuable minerals present in this fruit as well, and the list includes magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorous.
In fact, the plantains are so rich in potassium (499mg of potassium per 100 grams) that they can help you control your blood pressure and heart rate as well as provide you with the energy you need to get through the day.
How to Make Plantains? The easiest way to cook the plantains
As usual, the most convenient way is not the most healthy way to prepare plantains. You can probably already guess that the easiest & quickest method you can use to make the plantains is to fry them.
Plantains are similar to potatoes, so treat them as such and turn them into salty and crispy chips! Plantain chips are an excellent introduction to the subtle and distinctly savory flavor of this fruit.
In order to turn your plantains into crispy chips, you will need:
- Salt to taste (you can add some spices if you like too)
- Vegetable oil
You will also need:
- Frying pan
- Silicone spatula
- Paper towels
The procedure is quite straightforward, and if you ever fried potatoes you will have no trouble mastering frying the plantains as well:
- Slice the plantains into thin slices- the thinner you cut them, the crispier the chips will be. In general, they should not be thicker than 1/4 of an inch, but you can always adjust the thickness to your personal taste as well.
- In the meantime, pour the oil into the frying pan and let it heat real good.
- When the oil gets sizzling hot put the sliced plantains in and fry them for a minute or two. As soon as they turn golden brown flip them to the other side and wait a minute or two more. That should make them super crispy!
- Once done, take the fried plantains out and onto a few stacked paper towels that will absorb any excess oil.
- Transfer your freshly made plantain chips onto a plate, sprinkle some salt over them, and they are ready to be served and eaten! Simple, isn’t it?
If you like this simple plantains recipe, you will be glad to know they can be so much more than this crisp & salty snack food. For all of you with a sweet tooth, I have found and tested an excellent Martha Stewart recipe for Caramelized plantains.
Remember though that plantains are already rich in carbohydrates and high in calories, and the added sugar will only make things worse healthwise. Of course, there is no harm to sin now and then as long as you do not overdo it!
If you want to stay disciplined, Martha Steward has two alternative recipes: Baked plantain chips or Mashed plantains! Both recipes are excellent, so try them too!
I know that many of you already knew what plantains are, but maybe you did not know how to make plantains. Now you know everything, and you are ready to enjoy them!
If you have some interesting plantain recipes, feel free to share them with us!
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