I love food. I probably think of it more than I think of anything else. Food is subtle; the mixing of the sour and the sweet, a hint of anise, a dash of ginger, just the right amount of time in the oven to keep it things moist on the inside crunchy on the outside. Food is memory; a lover far gone that rushes back to me with the sip of a certain beer, a childhood memory when the aroma of apple pie invades the house.
Food is also history–the movement of a people and their stories, it is a delicious way to capture these stories, break bread with them and delve into history through the senses of sight, smell and taste.
In this monthly column I’ll be sharing recipes from fellow Globalists and the stories that go along with them: people, memories, places, and histories.
Jill’s Turrón de Bananas
On Tuesday, my roommate Jill made turrón de bananas—plantains fried in a thin wrapper. I already have my own story connected to Jill’s turrón: the first time I had them was when she made them for my 33rd birthday picnic at the Madrona Park in July. She wrapped them at home and then fried them right there at the park on a camping stove in a pan full of hot oil.
To prepare for the turrón this time around, Jill and I walked from our home in the Central District to China Town, to Viet Wa on 12th and Jackson. Its an Asian supermarket with three Seattle locations that carry just about everything: pots and pans, herbal remedies, incense, baked goods, veggies, sake, meats, fish, cookies, even small cucumbers-like the ones I get at home in Amman. I should never go there when I am hungry; otherwise I buy everything, from the familiar to totally foreign.
To illustrate my point, Jill and I were on a mission to get rice wrappers and plantains for the turrón. We came back with two different types of tofu, green beans, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, red cabbage, hot green peppers, coconut milk, tofu dessert, sweet sesame dumplings, kiwis, and tangerines. Oh and of course the wrappers and the plantains.
We got home and got set to cooking, while drinking warm sake.
Jill learned how to make turrón when she was ten years old from her parents, who are Filipino immigrants from Ilocos Sur, which is in the north west of Luzon Island. Jill’s parents used to own a catering company here in Seattle. During those years, Jill learned how to wrap.
“Little hands are best for rolling,” she declared as she began to roll the first turrón. “My parents had the company for several years and they did well. It is was quite popular because it is very difficult to find delicious Filipino food in Seattle. My mother was working a full-time job in addition to catering. My parents worked really hard and raised four children. But it was too much work, my mother got tired, and they closed the business.”
Jill’s parents are soft spoken and sweet and clearly love food. They invited me to their house back in July and we started the day with barbeque and then had tea with cookies. After digesting a bit in front of the television, we sat around the table again to have veggie wraps, salad, shrimp, clams and corn on the cob. A couple of hours later, there was ice cream, cake, cookies, tiramisu, and coffee. The Mangaliman family can cook, and Jill is no different!
Ingredients: One package of rice or wheat wrappers. If this is your first time wrapping, Jill recommends square wheat wrappers since they are easier to work with. These wrappers are found in the frozen foods section. Four super ripe plantains. Vegetable oil for frying. Brown sugar or simple syrup to sweeten at the end.
- Separate the wrappers.
- Peel the plantains and cut them into quarters, then slice each piece into thin slices.
- Place the wrapper in the diamond position with a tip pointing your way.
- Place two or three slices of plantains an inch away from the tip.
- Fold the tip that’s pointing to you over the plantains.
- Fold the right tip of the wrapper so it covers the plantains.
- Fold the left tip of the wrapper so it covers the plantains and the fold done in step 6.
- Wet the fourth tip with some water and seal the wrapper.
- When done with all the wrapping, heat the oil in a pan, enough oil to fully submerge the wrappers.
- Fry the wrappers until golden brown about 3 minutes especially if the oil is hot.
- Place then vertically in a sieve that is lined with paper towels.
- Sprinkle the brown sugar or simple syrup on top.
- Enjoy warm. Careful the inside will be much warmer than expected.
Jill and I experimented with the recipe and stuffed the wrappers with other things including cheese and tomatoes. Next time we plan on tofu with beans–maybe even white cheese with cinnamon.