Happy Onam and Some Plantain Chips !

Fried Plantain Chips
Jump To Recipe

Have you ever  wondered   what  kind of  chips  the  gods  are  likely to much on ? If you are a Malayali  the answer is “Plantain chips”, of course!  All right , that was a bit  over  the  top, but  these chips  are  darn  delicious.  Chips, Onam , nostalgia.. be warned,  this  is going  to be a  rambling  post.   If you are  here  for the  recipe, now is  as good  time  as  any to hit  the jump button :-).

Onam  in Kerala meant  a  respite from  torrential  rains. The monsoons  are  not  quite over, but  the nature is  in bloom, its  bounty filling  the coffers. The paddy fields are harvested, fruits and veggies are aplenty and no more worries about irrigation!  Bountiful harvest  meant plenty of  merriment.  Though  the   agrarian  culture  that  started all this is  not  predominant  any more, the  spirit  still remains.

Last year I wrote  about  a  few  of  my Onam memories – about food, flowers and friends. This year  I am  excited that Onam is  not on a  working  day. Yay!   Have  to  gather  the  troops  and  make  sure  that  the  front porch is  decked  for  Maveli.   There  will be  a  pretty decent Sadya (feast)  to make as  well.

Talking of feasts, the typical south Indian feasts are a treat for vegetarians. No self serve business here, you sit down for the meals and wait to be  treated to a variety of tastes and textures served on a banana leaf. Talk about eco-friendly convenience! Plantains, and bananas have an undeniable connection to the South Indian psyche. Every part of this plant is used – food to clothing to decoration comes from this unassuming  plant.

It is no different in Kerala. The feasts are served  on a banana leaf, and one of the first things to be served is the fried plantains. Everyone, especially in the villages, used to make Plantain chips or  Ethakka Upperi at home. The sweet aromas of  these golden  discs  frying  in  hot  coconut  oil  drift  across  the  yards into the village  squares.  Follow your  noses   and  you will be  treated to a  wide  variety of  plantain chips salty,  sugar coated,  crisp  and  so on.  This may not be a good time to be a plantain , but it sure is  a great time to visit Kerala!

Now  you know  how  I felt  to see  perfect raw  plantains at the  grocery store.  About half a  dozen of  those  lucky(!)  fruits  sat on  my kitchen counter for  a  couple  of  days.  I get  the  knife  out  and  then  the usual distractions of life  gets  in the   way.  A  part of  the   reason  Could be my reluctance to make fried food. That  deep  seated  notion of  fat  being  unhealthy is  very hard to shake.Fried Plantain Chips

I do have a no fry, no mess  baked  version of  Plantain Chips,  but  celebrations  call for a  bit more.  The healthier(!)  convenient  versions  are no  match for the  golden thin  crisps  of my childhood.  The recipe is not  complicated at all- a dash of  turmeric  and  salt  were the  only seasonings  used.  Turmeric, I believe, was  used to  prevent  browning  and  sticky aftertaste.

They still do it  the  same  way  in  villages  or  when  the  families  get  together, but  you could  head  over  to  the  local bakery and  grab a  bag of  fresh fried   chips as  well.  Along  the   national  highways  there are  rows of  stalls  selling  these  chips.  These are   the  favorite  rest  stops of  travelers,  and  tourists, especially if  your  are  crossing  the state lines.  There you get to see large  stoves  set on the  ground  with  equally large woks  –  enough  to  heat  5  to 10 gallons  of  oil at a  time – waiting  for  freshly sliced  plantains.   Nearby  the  cook will be  perched on a stool   with  the mandoline in hand.

The  mandoline is  the  perfect  tool for slicing the plantains.  You get  thin even  slices  very  fast. If you don’t  have one use a thin   sharp  knife.  A  chef’s  knife  is  not  what  I prefer for  this   job,  but a   paring  knife on the other hand  works really well.  Try to get as even  thin  slices as possible.

As you watch, the  cook makes  quick  work of  the plantains.  He fishes one from the  soaking  water,  and  slices  it  right into hot oil. In under  10 seconds  a whole  plantain is  turned  to  thin  rounds bubbling  away in hot  oil.  Few  minutes   in the oil  and a  few   turns  later   they sprinkle  saline  water  on top,  bubbles  and  steam  fills  the  air   and  when  it  all settles out   comes the   chips salted to perfection.    This golden food for  gods  had  come  to our  rescue  during  hostel days. Those days, the food in the  mess  hall  was barely palatable, no wonder  the  warden’s  side  business of  plantain chips  flourished  so much !!

Slice the Plantains

Wash and  trim the  ends  of the plantain. Score  and peel  the  skin  off.   Take  care  when  you score,  try  not  to cut into the  fruit. The  green plantain  skin  produces a sticky  discharge and  could stain  your  fingers. Use gloves or  lightly  oil  the  palms  to prevent it.  Immerse the  peeled  plantains in the turmeric  water.   This  prevents  sticky  glue  from  forming.  10 to  20 minutes in  the  water is  all you need, but I have  seen  them  soaking  for   an  hour  or  so.

Remove the  plantains  from the soaking  liquid,  pat  dry   with a  kitchen  towel  and  slice  thin.  A mandoline  or  paring   knife  is  what you need  here.  Try to make  as  the  slices  as  thin  and  as  even  as possible.

Fry The Plantains

 

The  traditional way to  salt the chips  is a little  messy, but gives the  best  results.  You start out  by making a  a very salty (almost saturated)  saline  solution. About 2  tsp salt  dissolved in  1/4 C  water  should  do the  trick.  If you have a spray bottle  handy, fill it  with the  saline  solution. Don’t  worry you are  not  going  to  use  it  all, at  least  for  the  quantity that I am  making  here.

Heat  enough  coconut oil (nothing  else  compares) in a  thick  bottomed  pan.  When it  has  reached  the  smoking  point put  a  handful of plantain slices  into it. The pieces  tend  to  stick together so be  careful to  separate  them  as you  place  them in hot  oil .  Let  it  fry for a  minute or  two and  turn  the  chips. Repeat  this a  few  times   for  even  cooking on both sides.  As  the  chip  cooks  you will notice  that  the  bubbles  around them  become  fewer  and  fewer.  When the  bubbling  has becomes significantly less , reduce  the  heat  and  spritz  (or sprinkle) with the prepared  saline  solution .  Do not Pour  saline  solution into  hot  oi , just a  gentle  sprinkle  or  spritz is all that is needed.  The oil  will bubble  up, when all  that activity   subsides, stir   a  few  times   and  remove  the chips from the  hot  oil .

Drain on  kitchen  towels . Cool  and  serve , or  store in airtight  containers.

Traditional Plantain Chips

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Traditional Plantain Chips

Ingredients

Green Plantains - 3
Salt - 1 to 2 Tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 Tsp
Oil - Enough to Fry (Preferably Coconut oil)
Water

Instructions

Take a large mixing bowl and pour 3 to 4 cups of water into . Add turmeric to the water and mix well. Set aside.

Wash and trim the ends of the plantains. Score the skin lengthwise end to end. Be careful not to cut into the flesh inside. Pry the skin open carefully and remove the fruit. Immerse the peeled plantains in the turmeric water, cutting in half if needed. Let it soak in the turmeric water for 10 to 20 minutes.

Mix salt in 1/4 C water to make a saturated (or very salty) saline solution.

Heat a heavy bottomed pan (suitable for frying) and pour enough oil to cover the bottom in about 1 inch depth. While the oil is heating, take out a piece of plantain, pat dry with a kitchen towel and slice into thin rounds.

When the oil has almost reached its smoking point, add a handful of sliced pieces int it. Take care not to crowd the pan.

Keep the heat at medium and fry for a minute, using a slotted spoon turn the chips to evenly cook both sides. Repeat turning every minute or so.

Once the chips begin to turn golden brown and bubbles seem to disappear, sprinkle (or spray) the saline solution on top(See Notes). This creates vigorous bubbling. Once the bubbles subside, turn the chips over once and remove from the oil.

Spread on a kitchen towel to to drain the excess oil.

Repeat with the remaining pieces of plantains.

Cool to room temperature and or store in an airtight container for a few days.

Notes

  • Safety First - stay away from the oil as you add the saline solution.
  • Reduce the flame to low and cover with a lid to reduce splattering.
  • Make the saline solution very salty. There is minimal splattering when a saturated saline solution is used.
  • Do not pour saline water into the hot oil - think mist.
  • If unsure, do not spritz with saline solution. Instead add salt to turmeric water, and sprinkle salt over hot chips as it is draining on the kitchen towels.
  • Cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the chips.
  • If the chips are thick, lower the heat , remove a piece from oil and crush with your fingers. If it cracks neatly, the chips are ready, otherwise fry over low heat for a few more minutes.
  • After frying a few batches the oil becomes salty as well, taste test the chips for salt and use less or no saline solution as required.

https://oventales.com/plantain-chips/

 

Notes

  • This is something  I can’t stress  enough – Safety First.  Stay away from the  pan as  you spritz the  saline  solution.
  • Keep kids  and  pets  away.  This is  not  a recipe  for  introducing  cooking  skills to  kids.
  • Do not leave the  sliced plantains out in the open for long.
  • Thicker chips  need longer  cooking  times,  start  at  medium  temperature  and lower  it  a  few minutes  into  frying.

Plantain Chips

Here  are the baked  and  fried  chips  side by side.  The  baked ones  are in the  white  bowl – they  look almost  the  same , but  the  fried  version  is  more  even and of course tastier.

All right  now  that I have  the  chips  ready it is  time  to move  on to the  next  step. Puli Inji is  calling 🙂 .

Happy Onam !!!

Fried Plantain Chips

Liked  this  recipe ?  Share here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *