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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Thai paradox: or, how Thai fried bananas keep you thin


Everyone's always talking about the French Paradox.  You know, the one about how the French eat all that fatty stuff, cheese, pasttries, and drink loads of wine but stay healthier than most Americans.  Well, there's another paradox we should all be pondering.  We should call it the Thai paradox.  Oh, no, I'm not talking about the protesters occupying both of Bangkok's international airports, simultaneously apologizing to stranded passengers for causing them "troubles" and hunkering down for the long haul, the country and her precarious economy be damned.  That's not so much a paradox as children throwing a gigantic tantrum.  I'm also not talking about the one where the "democratically elected" ruling parties insisted on nominating the brother-in-law of the dude they had just thrown out of the country for corruption (and myriads of other unmentionable crimes, be they real or imagined) knowing full well that it would just exacerbate the tensions.  And so it did.  And so here we are.  A stand-off of epic proportion, the "final battle" as they are calling it.  How tremendously sad.

No, no, I don't want to think of any of that.  I'd rather think about Thailand at her much happier times, about her much more precious assets than those supposedly stolen by the ousted PM Thaksin.  Yes, I'm thinking about the food, that intricate, delicate, and at times deliciously puzzling cuisine that is Thai food, the main cultural asset for which, I fervently hope, the tourists will return after this mess is over so they could see, feel, and experience the real face of my Thailand.


Let's get back to the paradox in question, shall we?  You must be wondering what it could be.  Well, if you've been to Thailand, I'm sure you've seen all that deep-fried foods we eat.  It seems if we can toss just about anything in a little batter and fry that baby we're happy to eat it.  Dip it in a sweet sauce or a spicy one.  Eat it wrapped in a fresh leaf of lettuce or by its own lonesome self.  Politely eat it off a plate or conveniently and unceremoniously dump 'em in a little paper bag for the road.  Yes, just about every snack-y street food-y stuff you get in Bangkok is deep fried.  Yet, look around Bangkok, you'd be hard pressed to find an obese Thai person.  We are a nation of people with the metabolism of a hummingbird.  Don't hate us because we're beautiful, we say: hate us because we can polish off this whole bag of deep-fried bananas and still be thinner than one of your thighs.  Ok, ok, I'm just kidding.  Well, half kidding. 

And, now, apropos of - not so much nothing as - a very bad joke, here I give you the recipe for Thai fried bananas, Kluey Todd, as we say on the streets of Bangkok.


Thai fried bananas (for 4-6)

10 baby bananas or about 5 regular size bananas (use green ones that are not fully ripe yet)
1 cup rice flour (125g)
1/4 cup All-Purpose flour (30g)
1/2 cup sugar (60g)
3T dessicated coconut (20g)
2T sesame seeds (20g)
1t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
about 1 cup of carbonated water (whatever brand of fizzy water you have on hand will do)
oil for deep frying (I use canola, but any mild-flavor high-heat oil will do)

Peel the bananas, cut each in half and then each half into 1cm-thick pieces.  In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, then whisk in the fizzy water slowly to incorporate.  You might need a little more or a little less water, just add enough so that the consistency of the batter is like cream, but not so thick it's more like yogurt.

Put enough oil to cover about 2inch from the bottom of a frying pan.  Heat the oil until very hot.  Flick a bit of batter into the oil to test, if it bubbles and sizzles right away and make a lot of noise, the oil is ready. 

Dip each piece of banana into the batter to coat well.  Drop the coated pieces into the oil.  Make sure it floats up and sizzles right away, if not, wait a bit longer for your oil to get hotter.  The hotter the oil and - paradoxically - the more oil you put in the pan, the less oily your fried bananas will be.  Fry all the coated banana pieces until golden brown all around.  Serve immediately.


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