Banana blossom salad at Silver Spoon

February 4, 2009 11:19:09 AM PST
Our Hungry Hound is always searching for new dishes and interesting ingredients.And this week, he's introducing us to a Thai salad rarely found in Chicago. It comes from the banana blossom. And he says it contains all of the elements of a classic Thai dish.

Those elements are of course, salty, sweet, sour and spice. But the banana blossom salad has a few other things going for it, like richness from coconut milk, plus some textural components such as soft and crunchy. Add it all up, and you've got a Southeast Asian salad that is hard to duplicate and rarely offered on local Thai menus.

You wouldn't think the humble banana could yield such a fascinating salad, but at Silver Spoon - a sister restaurant to the popular Spoon in Lincoln Square - banana blossoms play a starring role in one of the most underrated salads on the menu.

If you peel back the purplish leaves, you can see the tiny bananas just beginning to form; but the cook strips all of that away, chopping up the heart of the blossom. Those tough stalks are boiled for about 10 minutes, until tender.

Then in a pot with coconut milk, the cook adds some chile paste, stirring it up to incorporate the heat. Cooked chicken and shrimp are added to the pot, along with fresh lime juice, sugar and salty fish sauce - these last three ingredients are the hallmarks; the essential Thai ingredients that bring the dish into balance.

"Supporting the salad, comes from the lime, fish sauce, sugar; and in this one, I also add coconut milk," said Yuvadee Koedsakul, the cook at Silver Spoon.

The salad is then plated over some greens, but two more garnishes are key. First, some lightly fried onions, which add another layer of crunch, plus, fresh cilantro, which adds that crucial herbal note.

The salad is listed on the menu, but few customers know to order it. Those that do, tend to make it a regular choice when they return.

"The customer like it; they order a lot too ? the banana blossom salad," said Koedsakul.

The banana blossom salad is also available at Silver Spoon's sister restaurant, called Spoon, in Lincoln Square. Just be sure to call ahead to make sure they have it on the menu, as banana blossoms are not always available.

Silver Spoon Restaurant
710 N. Rush St.

4608 N. Western Ave.