Banana Blossom Salad (Nyuom Traiyong Chaek)
1 banana blossom (1- 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cups water
1 large whole chicken breast (about 3/4 pounds)
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves,
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 pound mung bean sprouts
1/2 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted and coarsely ground
1/3 cup dressing
Remove the tough outer leaves of the banana blossom and discard them, along with the undeveloped "baby" bananas inside. Carefully pull away the next several layers of leaves, regularly cutting into the stem to make it easier to break them off (the aim is to keep the leaves whole, if possible). Lay several leaves on top of one another and slice the leaves crosswise into 1/8-inch-wide strips. To keep the leaves from turning black, immediately place them in a large bowl with the lemon juice and water to cover, turning occasionally.
Continue in this fashion, releasing the leaves, discarding the undeveloped bananas and cutting the leaves into strips, until you reach the heart at the center. Cut it in half length-wise, remove as many of the babies as possible, and slice the remaining leaves crosswise about 1/4 inch thick.
In a medium saucepan, bring the 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the chicken breast, return to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the meat is tender.
Remove the chicken from the pan and let cool slightly, then shred the meat with your fingers.
In a large salad bowl, toss all of the vegetables and herbs together with the chicken. Setting aside a handful for garnish, mix in the ground peanuts. Add the dressing and toss. Sprinkle with the remaining peanuts and serve immediately.
Recipe excerpted from The Elephant Walk by Longteine De Monteiro (1998)