Cheap Eats:
Malaysian Baked Bananas

I may be deluding myself that anyone would publish a book along the lines of “Cheap Eats,” but I figured it might at least be worth trying to find out. So I’m working on writing a food history. It will be more in-depth than “Cheap Eats,” more book-like. It will primarily be about food history and lore, and even a little science. Again, kind of like “Cheap Eats,” only more so—but without the little personal essays, like this one.

Of course, there will still be recipes. In fact, that’s why you saw the goat recipe a few months back—I can’t do a real food history and only cover foods Americans regularly eat. But goat is probably the most extreme food you’ll see in the column, because ultimately the book will be about the foods that are important around the world—foods like potatoes, chickens, salt, chilies, corn, onions, beef, rice, apples, wheat, coconut—foods that are consumed on just about every continent. So you won’t be seeing any recipes for kangaroo or durian (a weird Southeast Asian fruit that smells so strongly, it is banned in many places). Though if I sell the first book, it would certainly be interesting to write a book that does focus on foods that haven’t really gone anywhere, for whatever reason. (Surprisingly, this would include some foods you might consider fairly ordinary, such as pecans, which are really hard to grow anywhere other than exactly where they want to be growing, which is pretty much along the Mississippi River and across Texas.) So who knows, maybe it will turn into a whole series. But until then, I’ll have to settle for researching, writing, cooking, and dreaming about the first book.

You may not realize what significance this has for you, but what it comes down to is that you are now my test kitchen. Now, don’t let that worry you. You’re not being used as guinea pigs. I’ve prepared all the recipes found in “Cheap Eats,” most of them many times over many years, and I know they are all good and wholesome. But I don’t necessarily know which ones are most successful outside my own kitchen.

So what this really means is that, if you’ve tried one of the Cheap Eats recipes over the last 8+ years, and you’ve liked something particularly well, I’d like to know. I can only use one recipe for each ingredient, and this will help me narrow the field. For example, for corn, does Mexican corn stew win over humita mendocina? Or should I be looking for something new? For beans, do you prefer plat national to ibiharage, or are porotos Granados or caviar crillo more to your liking?

Also, if something has been confusing in the instructions, I’d like to know. Do the notes before or after the recipes give you enough information? I’m not looking for new recipes, or for your version of my recipes (I can’t publish your stuff, just my stuff), but I do want to know what tasted best to you, what you most enjoyed preparing, and what left you in the dark. I’m afraid that all I offer in exchange for your input is gratitude and a promise that I’ll still talk to you when I’m famous. ;-)

This month’s recipe is for wonderfully flavorful Malaysian baked bananas. It’s a really easy recipe, which is good, because once you taste it, you’ll probably want to have it often. I know I do. The flavor is richly exotic and just a bit tangy, thanks to the lime juice and ginger. Enjoy.

Malaysian Baked Bananas

4 Tbs. butter

⅓ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

¼ tsp. ground cloves

2½ Tbs. lime juice

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced

6 ripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and soft. Beat in the cloves, lime juice, and ginger.

Lightly grease the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all the bananas. Cut the bananas in half crossways at the center, then slice halves in half lengthwise. Lay the bananas in the greased backing dish. Stir the butter mixture one more time then spread it over the bananas. Put the dish in the center of the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and the bananas are cooked through and tender. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.


The lime juice will not completely incorporate into the butter, but that doesn’t matter. Come close, and just spread them together over the bananas. Also, nothing spreads easily over bananas, because bananas are slippery, and things tend to slide over the surface. Dotting and flattening the mixture over the bananas in a close approximation of spreading is adequate.

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