There's this place in San Jose that prepares Vietnamese dishes out of her home. She takes orders and makes them fresh, just in the nick of time for pickup. We had her banana blossom salad at a party and boy, was it delicious. In fact, it was the dish at the party, out of many, that my husband and I happily polished off. There were so many different textures going on in this dish. The shredded banana blossom was the star, but there were also shredded red cabbage, white onions, and red bell peppers. The protein was something I never had before. Instead of the typical pork and shrimp, it was baby clams, which were surprisingly delicious. The squishy nature of baby clams provided another fun texture. The salad was topped off with minced mint, Vietnamese coriander, roasted peanuts and a generous pour of a fish sauce dressing that pulled everything together in a blissful mouthful of sweet, sour and savory goodness.
This place is great if you want to enjoy really high-quality authentic Vietnamese food and if you live close to San Jose for pickup. I, however, do not live close to San Jose so I attempted to replicate her banana blossom salad at home. I made mine out of pretty much the same ingredients of shredded banana blossom, red cabbage, white onions and red bell peppers. I skipped the protein because I didn't have any. I topped the salad with minced mint, Vietnamese coriander, roasted peanuts and the same generous pour of fish sauce dressing. I tried to replicate everything that I can possibly remember from the dish at the party. I taste-tested about a thousand times. After being completely satisfied with the result, I was eager for my husband to give it a try. As soon as he walked in the door, I shoved a small plate of banana salad at him. I watched in excitement as he scooped up a mouthful. I clasped my hands together with eyes awide, maybe a little twinkling of a tear or two, waiting for confirmation that my banana salad was just as good as the old lady in San Jose. "It's good but not as good as the other one," he commented. I'm drafting up divorce papers.
Maybe I should have added some proteins?
1 small banana blossom (slice thinly)
1 teaspoon salt
Half a lime/lemon
A third of small white onion (slice thinly)
A third of small head of purple cabbage (slice thinly)
1 small red bell pepper (slice thinly)
2 tablespoons of Vietnamese coriander leaves
2 tablespoons of minced mint
1/4 lb cooked shrimp and/or 1/4 lb of thinly sliced cooked pork shoulder)
1/2 cup crushed roasted peanuts)
Fish Sauce Dressing
1 lemon or lime (juiced)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Coconut Soda
1 garlic clove (slice thinly)
1 Thai chili (optional)
Add the sliced banana blossom to a large tub of cold water. Add salt and juice of lemon/lime. Soak for about 10 minutes. The salt draws out excess water and the lemon prevents it from browning. Scoop the long strands of banana blossoms at the top of the water and discard everything else. Toss the banana blossom dry in a colander.
Add the sliced onions to a bowl of cold water. The cold water will lessen the pungent smell of onions. Remove the onions after 5 minutes and toss dry in a colander.
Toss all the vegetables (banana blossoms, white onion, purple cabbage, red bell pepper, coriander, and mint) and proteins together. Set aside.
Add all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk together.
When ready to serve, add the dressing to the salad and give a quick toss. Top with roasted peanuts. Serve immediately.