Sunday, 20 November 2011




Do you know what kind of snack packets you are most likely to find in the bags of Malayalees travelling abroad to meet their relatives or friends? Nendran banana chips, of course. Nendran is a type of banana cultivated in Kerala. Perhaps the tastiest of all bananas, Nendran has in fact been the staple fruit and vegetable of Malayalees from ancient times. Almost every portion of the Nendran plant is used by Keralites. The fruit, the flower pod and the pith can transform to wonderful lip smacking dishes. The leaf is used to serve meals on and to wrap fish and other dishes for steaming, roasting or packing. The stem is used as mulch and also as a source of fibre to make handicrafts when dry. The dry leaf stems are used as rope. Fresh leaf stem pieces are used to brush on cooking oil to grease pans. The uses of Nendran indeed seem endless. The recipes too are many. Nendran banana chips are so delicious that even toothless old people can be seen pounding the chips to powder and gobbling it up with a big smile.


     1)    Fully mature unripe Nendran banana – 1 or 2 combs
     2)    Salt – 1 tablespoon
     3)    Best quality coconut oil – 1.5 litres (to deep fry)
     4)    Water – 150 ml.

To Make:

          Peel the bananas with a small sharp knife. The peel is around half a centimetre thick. Cut off both the sharp ends of the banana. Now make a skin deep gash down the length of the banana. Insert the tip of your knife into the gash. Twist and slowly pry off the skin. Do not throw away the banana peel. You can make many delicious dishes out of it (banana peel upkari recipe follows). Peel the rest of the bananas and set aside.

          If the resin from the peel sticks to your fingers, just rub in a few drops of coconut oil. In a small mug, put in a tablespoonful of salt. Pour in 150 ml. of water and stir well until it dissolves fully. Set a large wok on high heat. Pour in the coconut oil.

          As soon as the oil is hot, you can start making the chips. Holding a stainless steel chip maker above the hot oil with one hand, grip the banana firmly and push it back and forth quickly and carefully across the slicing board letting the chips drop into the hot oil. As you reach the end of the banana, take care not to slice your fingers. Once you get the hang of it, it is quite safe and easy. Slice in around one banana or a banana and a half for the first batch. Stir frequently to fry all the chips evenly and to prevent them from sticking together.

          As the chips get fried, you will notice the bubbles getting lesser. Now tip in a teaspoonful and a quarter of the prepared brine. Stir well. You can hear the frothy roar of the brine as the water evaporates, depositing the salt evenly on the chips. As soon as the bubbles coming out of the chips become very less, lower the heat to minimum and quickly lift out the chips with a strainer or a wide perforated ladle. Drain off the excess oil and put them in a stainless steel container with the lid open to cool.

          Now slice in the second batch of chips and turn up the heat. There will be some residual salt in the oil. So you will need to put in only one teaspoonful of brine for each of the later batches. It is important to put on the lid of the container only after the chips have cooled down to room temperature so that they will remain crisp for up to a month. You will definitely love these chips.

Chip Maker


     1)    For the chips to be crunchy and crispy, it is important that you

     a)    use only fully mature unripe Nendran banana
     b)    fry them on high heat
     c)     salt them only at a later stage in the frying process
     d)    lift them out when fully fried i.e. When the bubbles become less, yet early enough not to let the residual heat burn them
     e)    fully drain off the excess oil
     f)      cover the container with lid only after the chips cool down to room temperature
     g)    remember to turn down the heat as you lift them out of the wok and again to turn up the heat as soon as the new batch of chips are in the oil and
     h)    never overheat the oil or let it smoke.

     2)    For getting sweet and sour Nendran chips, use quarter ripe bananas (where the smoked bananas are just a little soft but the skin is still green). Fully ripe Nendran bananas have golden yellow skin and are not good for chips.

     3)    Commercial Nendran banana chip makers slice up hundreds of bananas and pre-treat the raw chips for an hour or so in a solution of water, salt and yellow food colour before deep frying them in huge (1 metre diametre) woks over smouldering coconut husk burning clay ovens.

     4)    Some roasted oils (not all) tend to froth so much as to spill over. It is good to test the oil with a small sample. It is also better to use a larger wok.

     5)    If you find the heat of the oil and the ensuing steam too much to bear, you can slice the chips into a basin of water (to prevent them from sticking together) and later drain and slip them into the wok. This way, you can fry the chips with greater ease but the flavour, crispiness and the nutrients will be comparatively lesser.

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