Still enamored with the foods that I made and ate in Southeast Asia, I want to share another recipe from Thailand. This time it’s a dessert featuring my favorite fruit, bananas.
When I say “dessert,” you might imagine a thick slice of Red Eye Chocolate Cake, a bowl of velvety Pumpkin Ginger Trifle or plate of the elegant, jam-filled cookie hindbærsnitte. In the U.S. we tend to like our desserts bursting with flavor, textures, sugar and fat. However, in terms of dessert, Asia resembles the Mediterranean; both regions end their meals on a lighter note with fruit-based sweets. In Thailand you may cap off the night with pieces of fresh mango or jack fruit, poached custard apples or, as is the case in this post, steamed banana cakes.
This dish is a straightforward as its name indicates. To make sweet steamed banana cakes, you mash together bananas, flour, sugar and coconut milk until a smooth batter forms. You then spoon the batter into small bowls, place the bowls in a steamer basket, cover and steam the little cakes for roughly 15 minutes or until firm and cake-like. Easy!
The only trick to making great steamed banana cakes involves the bananas. In Thailand you have over 30 varieties from which to choose. In the U.S. we have one, the mild tasting Cavendish. Because it is neither as sweet nor as flavorful as its Asian relations, the Cavendish performs best when fully ripe. I wait until my bananas have browned and softened before using them in this recipe. Wanting these truly to be “sweet steamed banana cakes,” I also alter the type of and quantity of sugar added, switching out granulated for light brown sugar and bumping up the amount a smidgen. When serving these to diehard sweets lovers, I might pair the cakes with macerated strawberries, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or drizzle of chocolate sauce. Otherwise, I just serve them warm.
SWEET STEAMED BANANA CAKES
Makes 8 to 12 small cakes
3 large, extremely ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup rice flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 firmly packed cup light brown sugar, divided
1/3 cup coconut milk
Place a steamer basket inside a stockpot or steamer filled with 2 inches of water. Cover and bring the water to a simmer over medium high heat.
In a large bowl using a heavy spoon, mash the bananas until smooth. Add the rice flour and cornstarch and mash again until the ingredients are well-combined and no large lumps exist. Add the salt, half of the brown sugar and coconut milk and mash again until a batter forms.
Taste and add up to 1/4 cup (all of the remaining) brown sugar, stirring the ingredients together until the batter is smooth. Spoon the batter into 8 to 12 small bowls.
Place the bowls on the steamer basket, cover the basket with a lid and steam for up to 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to see if the cakes are cooked through. The tops will appear set and be firm yet springy to the touch. The exact timing depends upon the size of bowls that you use. Deep bowls will require longer than shallow ones. Remove the basket from the stockpot or steamer and allow the cakes to cool slightly before serving.