This is the male part of the flower, a rounded spike. To get at the edible part, you cut away the outer reddish petals until you get to a paler inside, which is firm but tender enough to eat.

In Cambodia they cut this up into thin slices and make a salad. Other ingredients are pounded dried shrimp, chopped crispy-cooked bacon skin, some tablespoonfuls of chopped cooked pork. The dressing is thick coconut milk, brought to the boil, then cooled and seasoned with nuoc mam (fish sauce), lemon juice, a little sugar and a paste made by browning together garlic, fennel root, allspice and shallot (kapik phat).

Sri Owen gives a simpler recipe for an everyday sort of dish in Alor (Nusa Tenggara Timur), 'where of course you can pick you jantung pisang'. You boil the pale inner part whole for 15 minutes, then cool it. Put 250ml (8 fl oz) thick coconut milk in a pan with 3 sliced shallots and some salt and pepper. Bring them very slowly to the boil while you slice the banana heart: cut it into four lengthways, then slice each piece across into thin, flat quarter-rounds. Add to the coconut milk when it boils and simmer 10 minutes. Stir often so that the milk does not curdle and keep the heat below boiling point. Serve hot with meat or fish and of course with rice.

Cooking with Exotic Fruits and Vegetables by Jane Grigson and Charlotte Knox

DATE: September 1990

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