Where I live on the north west coast of Ecuador, bananas are such a normal thing to see on your lunch or dinner plate at any restaurant in town, and most home meals as well, that I don’t even think twice about it any more. I love it because bananas are one of those foods I can eat without having to worry about any of my food allergies. Lucky me! Having bananas on my plate is now so common, that when visitors are shocked or surprised by this odd accompaniment, I have to remember back long ago to the time when I was also surprised at my first experience of cooked plantain bananas served as a savory dish, and that first tentative taste. It was love at first bite.
Grilled plantains are a side dish or a snack and, if you eat enough of them, with the right fillings, they can constitute an entire meal. Fillings? you ask. Yes, fillings. Traditionally, grilled bananas are roasted whole over a coal fire or barbecue, then split lengthways and filled with grated fresh cheese, crushed peanuts or even salad. Often, they are served in their skins. A great eco-packaging alternative! This is another one of my favorite things about grilled bananas. They are also popular fare on the streets in the province of Esmeraldas and beyond. As you can see by my photo of yesterday’s lunch, I grilled bananas as a side dish to go with my Spider Crab and Prawns. Burning them a little on the top side makes them sweeter inside. In case you are wondering, that is home-made green papaya chutney trickled over them. Locally, these are called “maduros” (ripes). Trucks come in on a regular basis to sell us all enormous branches of green plantain bananas. I have a few plantain trees in my garden that produce from time to time as well.
The trick to tasty grilled plantains is to get them good and ripe. Barbecued green plantains are also an option but they have a much drier texture and the taste is starchier. It’s a personal taste thing, but I prefer maduros. So this isn’t so much a recipe as it is another idea of how to eat well ripened plantain bananas. If I don’t feel like firing up the barbecue just for a few bananas, it’s easy to toss some olive oil in a pan and grill them that way. They don’t have the rich smokey flavor of the barbecued bananas, but they’re still pretty good. This is one snack food I can totally recommend! Let me know how you ate yours!