A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a little vegan festival happening in a community centre in County Durham. Alternative Stores from Newcastle (a place I’ve shopped before) had a stall. They sell some unusual products, and I picked a few things up. One item I had never heard of before was banana blossom, which the vendor told me is sometimes used as a replacement for fish – it wasn’t expensive so I decided to give it a try.
It turns out that banana blossom is an edible part of the plant that is not uncommon in southeast Asian cooking, but is little known over here. But what to do with it? After a little searching I found this recipe for a paella, and decided to give it a try. Before going vegan seafood was one of my favourite things, so I was interested to see how good a vegan version would be.
Banana blossom is strange looking stuff! Some big leaves, some large thick sections of stalk, and some long strands that look a lot like squid!
I’m not going to write the whole recipe again here (the author did a good enough job!), but I did end up changing it a bit. I could see that the banana blossom would make a good replacement for seafood, but wanted something to replace the chorizo often found in a paella. To do this I marinated some jackfruit in a mixture of smoked paprika, liquid smoke, maple syrup, cider vinegar, chili powder and salt and pepper. The only other difference was that I had forgotten to buy chopped tomatoes, so added some tomato puree and a few cherry tomatoes.
I’m really impressed with this recipe. I expected it to taste good, but I didn’t expect that it would genuinely taste like seafood. The combination of nori seaweed, saffron, capers and lemon was amazing; it really did have that authentic seafood flavour! The addition of the marinated jackfruit was well worth it, adding some smoky spiciness. This dish was FULL of flavour, and needed no additional seasoning. This was yet another meal that has further convinced me that being vegan is easy and doesn’t require missing out on some favourite flavours and texture.