Who would have ever thought that lacklustre banana stems can also be converted into the mainstream and loved food? Well, with the Bengali Thor Ghonto one can conceive the inconceivable. It proves through and through the importance and tastier side of banana stems by blowing life into this ingredient. Just after putting some initial labour into cutting and removing the fibrous tissues of banana stems, the rest of the recipe including the cooking of potatoes and various spices follows in quite a simple way. The inclusion of grated coconuts adds more to the tropical delight and the warm wheat flour and milk mixture makes it slightly sticky.  

Tradition Of Thor Ghonto

Just like underrated banana stems, the history and origin of this splendid dish are also as well-documented. There is hardly any reference to its date of origin, although one can claim with some surety, West Bengal is its place of origin in India. South Indian cuisine has long taken pride in dishes made of unripe bananas and banana stems. Vazhaithandu Poriyal, Vazhaithandu Lemon Rasam, and Baale Dindu Kadale Kaalina Palya are some of these. Throwing some light on the name of the dish Thor Ghonto, Thor in Bengali means Banana stem, while Ghonto means a mixture of many things.

While stressing the taste of banana stems, one just can't afford to miss the nutritional quality of these. The oft-neglected and unpalatable banana stems having originally a crunchy texture and earthy flavour, are a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants such as gentisic acid, ferulic acid and more. Regular intake of banana stems helps in ensuring controlled blood sugar levels, reduced high blood pressure, and weight loss.

Preparation: 2 hours

Cooking:1 hour 20 minutes

Servings: 3

Ingredients:

500 gm cleaned and prepped thor or banana stem

100 gm potatoes

20 gm peanuts

25 gm grated coconut

40 gm mustard oil

1 dried red chilli

1 bay leaf

2 cardamoms

2 cloves

1 cinnamon

¾ tsp cumin seeds

1½ tsp cumin powder

¾ tsp coriander powder

¼ tsp turmeric

10 gm ginger paste

6 gm salt

15 gm sugar

3 green chillies (slit)

2 tbsp milk

¼ tsp wheat flour

1 tbsp ghee

¼ tsp garam masala

Method:

. Firstly, slit the outermost layer of the banana stem from one side, and remove it. Then peel off the inner shiny surface, until just the fibrous core is left. 

. Then slice the core about 2 mm thick. 

. Remove the fibres between each slice as you slice it. Keep the slices in water to reduce browning.

. Cut all the slices into smaller pieces and transfer these into a saucepan. Add about 6 gm salt and 400 ml hot water to it.

. Steam cook on low heat for about 8 minutes. Then strain the water and let it cool.

. Meanwhile, chop potatoes like cubes and slit the green chillies.

. In a pan, heat mustard oil, then fry peanuts until golden and set aside.

. Then temper the same oil with dried red chilli, bay leaf, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and cumin seeds.

. Then add the potatoes and ½ tsp salt, stir for 2-3 minutes, then cover and cook for about 4 minutes.

. Add the grated coconut and fry until golden.

. Make a slurry of cumin, coriander and turmeric powder with a little water, and add it to the pan.

. Cook the spices on low heat for about 4 minutes and add ginger paste, and stir for a minute.

. Meanwhile, mash the thor lightly with your hands, and add it to the pan. 

. Cover and cook everything for about 20 minutes. Keep stirring in between.

. Add sugar and slit green chillies and cook for another 20 minutes.

. Mix atta in some warm milk and add to the pan, cook for a couple of minutes and turn off the heat.

. Finish by adding ghee and garam masala.

Thor Ghonto is best enjoyed with plain masoor dal and rice. The fibrous stalk of bananas or banana stems is commonly available in grocery stores. Grab one of these and try Thor Ghonta at home.