Sunday, February 9, 2014


'Vaazhathandu' (banana tree stem) has been a favorite with me - partly because it is a rare commodity out here in Pune. I have bought it from a few street vendors in the South Indian-infested Rastapeth on the rare occasions I had gone that side. In fact I keep dropping broad hints about my love for the rare 'thandu' (stem) to a few acquaintances who have banana trees in their backyard. But for reasons unfathomable, no piece has landed in my hands.

During my visit to Chennai, the first item that caught my eye in the market was the 'vaazhathandu' (there were less than half a dozen at any given vendor). I lost no time in conveying my craze for it and my sister-in-law bought it immediately. I volunteered to chop it - I have always loved to slice it and rotate my index finger close to the cut edge after each slice to collect the fibrous threads into a cumulative ring. I used to love it if I could get a nice thick ring at the end of slicing a foot-long vaazhathandu. I  have to say that this time I was rather disappointed as I ended up with a very thin fiber-ring. (But that means it was a tender stem). I even put the finely chopped pieces in water with a tbsp of buttermilk added to it and after five minutes dipped in a knitting needle and stirred it round and round in the vessel to collect any remaining fiber - and managed to get just a bit more! We made 'vaazhathandu thoran' -hmm... it tasted so divine - eaten after 2-3 decades! It shouldn't surprise you to hear that I packed a couple of 'vaazhathandu' on my return to Pune and made 'vaazhathandu thoran' for dinner 

and for lunch the next day, the side dish was 'vaazhathandu poduthuval' (we used to call it ka(l)chatti poduthuval as it would end up being made in a kacchatti which is a stone pot found in every home for making koottaan). 
My husband didn't utter a word of protest - he liked it obviously and was also aware of its health benefits. 

Vaazhathandu thoran

Serves 4

Vaazhathandu (stem of Banana plant) - 1 foot piece 
Grated coconut - 2-3 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Tuvar dal - 1 1/2 tbsp ( partially cooked and not mushy)
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Whole red chilli - 1-2 pieces
Curry leaves - 10-12
Oil - 1 1/2 tsp

1. Remove the outer barks of the stem till you end up with just the tender center. Only this has to be sliced.
2. Cut thin slices, wrapping the emerging fibrous strands around your index finger after each slice.
3. Then pile up 4-5 slices and chop them finely and put them in a vessel of water with a tablespoon of sour buttermilk added to it.
4. After 5 minutes, dip a knitting needle in the vessel and turn it round and round in circles and collect any fiber remaining.
5. Wash and drain the vegetable.
6. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds and urad dal and red chillies. When they splutter, add curry leaves followed by the chopped vegetable.
7. Add turmeric powder and salt and 2 tbsp of water and cook covered on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring in between.
8. Sprinkle more water if needed and cook till dry.
9. Add the grated coconut and partially cooked tuvar dal and stir well.
10. Serve hot with rice-n-ghee or as a side dish for sambar / morkoottaan. 

Vaazhathandu poduthuval ( ka(l)chatti poduthuval)

This is a slight variation of the 'poduthuval' and is like a koottu - this is not dry but has some water content in it and is in a semi-liquid state. This tastes great if you eat this with hot rice and ghee.
The recipe is the same as above except that you add more water and don't let all the water evaporate.

Use coconut oil for the typical flavor and taste.

© Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.


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