What Do Nuns and Bananas Have To Do With Each Other?
Thai Name: Bananas Ordained as Nuns or กล้วยบวชชี
Many Thai dishes have a straight forward name that tells the ingredients and how they are cooked. This dessert has a unique name as it uses the word “nuns” and does not specify the cooking method. The ingredients and cooking method have nothing to do with nuns, but I have heard the story behind the name “Bananas Ordained as Nuns” or bananas cooked in coconut milk.
The most common explanation is because Thai Buddhist female nuns wear white clothes while they are living at a temple (while the male monks wear a saffron colored robe). So this recipe resembles the white clothes worn by the nuns, or so I’ve heard. Other than that, the name is a mystery to me. Regardless, it is one of the easiest Thai dessert to make and helps clear and sweeten the palate after a spicy Thai meal.
For this recipe, I cooked the bananas in the coconut milk and then cooled the dessert in the refrigerator. Then I added the mint and took the photo. For me this is the most satisfying taste and presentation.
However, the dish can be eaten warm, at room temperature or after being cooled in the refrigerator. The mint decoration is attractive but not necessary.
NOTE: No One Size Fits All
The challenge of writing recipes is that ingredients can vary considerably. This recipe requires coconut milk. Since most cooks must use a commercially made product, the sweetness in the coconut milk can vary according to the manufacturer. Also, there are many types of bananas, each with a different level of sweetness and density. Thus, you can play with the recipe to get the level of sweetness you like. No one size fits all, but cooks who like to experiment understand that once they understand the method, they can adapt the recipe to the ingredients they are able to find.
- coconut milk, 1 1/4 cup or 250 ml. I used the Thai CHAOKOH brand for this recipe.
- bananas, one large, cut down the middle and then into 1 inch chunks / 3 cm pieces so the bananas can get submerged in the coconut milk for cooking
- sugar, 1 tablespoon / 15 ml measuring spoon
- salt, 1/4 teaspoon
- mint for garnish (optional but tastes good and looks pretty)
- saucepan (for this dish a saucepan is preferred over a wok as it gives greater depth for cooking the bananas in the coconut milk)
- cutting board
- measuring cup
- measuring spoon
- bowl for serving
- spoon for tasting
- spoon for eating
- Measure the coconut milk into the saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
- Add the sugar and salt and stir and dissolve in the coconut milk.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, add the banana pieces.
- Cook at a gentle boil until the bananas are soft around the edges but still have a firm texture. The bananas should have a little hardness but not be boiled so long they are mushy. Test a banana piece with a fork to see if it is tender. Once tender, remove from the heat and place in a serving bowl. Depending on the ripeness and density of the bananas you use, the cooking time can vary from one minute to five minutes.
- Let the dish cool in the refrigerator and then garnish with a mint leaf.
This dish can be served hot, warm, room temperature or chilled, according to your preference.