January 12, 2012 | Filed Under Green Bananas, Green Plantain, Plantains, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways, Soups | 5 Comments
If I ever went to Ecuador, I know I’d have no problem with the cuisine and eat well there. Lolita of Lolita’s Recipes post several recipes from Ecuador and over time, I’ve tried and enjoyed many of them. Here is the latest – Green Banana Soup (Repe Lojano), a traditional soup from the province of Loja in Ecuador. Basically it’s a creamy soup of green bananas, onions, garlic, milk, cheese and cilantro (cilantro!). Instead of green bananas, green plantains may be substituted.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that I mistakenly thought that green bananas and green plantains were the same. I later learned I was wrong. They’re definitely two different foods. They taste slightly different and it takes a little longer for one of them to cook.
Depending on where you live, green plantains are more readily available than green bananas. Luckily, I have no problem finding either in the supermarket.
Lola includes tips in her post on how to peel green bananas or plantains. They can be a little hard to peel.
I made my repe lojan on Christmas Day and served it, as suggested, with avocado, cheese, and aji (an Ecuadorian hot sauce, which I love). There was a little bit of soup left over and I think it tasted even better the next day. Next time, instead of green bananas, I plan on trying the soup with green plantains.
According to Laylita, there are different variations of this soup. Arvejas con guinea is a famous version and includes split peas. Another version, repe mestizo, is made with potatoes. More variations to look forward to making.
Repe lojano (green banana soup)
- 10 green bananas or 6 green plantains, peeled and diced
- 2 tbs oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 oz of cheese: quesillo, a fresh farmer’s type cheese – can also use queso fresco or mozzarella
- ½ cup of milk or cream
- 1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped – about ½ cup already chopped
- 8 cups of water
- Salt to taste
- Sides – Avocado slices, cheese slices and aji or hot sauce
- Heat the oil in large soup pot, make a refrito or base for the soup by adding the diced onion and crushed garlic, cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the 8 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Add the diced green banana or green plantain in batches, making sure that the water is boiling when you add each batch – to keep the bananas from darkening
- Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the bananas or plantains are soft, about 15-20 minutes. It will take longer for the plantains to cook than the bananas.
- In the same pot, gently mash some of the bananas pieces to help thicken the soup.
- Crumble the cheese and add it to the soup
- Stir in milk or cream, cilantro and salt
- Remove from the heat and serve with slices of avocado, cheese and aji or hot sauce.
Bunch of green bananas
For the longest time, I never knew there was a difference between green bananas and green plantains. I ALWAYS thought they were one and the same and that people used the two different names interchangeably to refer to the same food. I finally learned differently when I made a beef soup, Honduran style, where part of the ingredients called for green bananas. I went to the supermarket and bought what I thought was a green banana. My friend Helin was in the kitchen with me and when I pulled out what I thought was the green banana, she said to me very nicely, "We’ll only use a little of this because it’s a green plantain and not a green banana. The plantain will change the taste of the soup a little bit."
What? That’s not a green banana? It’s not the same as a plantain!? I was shocked. And confused. Seriously.
I suppose my face registered my shock and confusion because Helin couldn’t help but laugh. Later she told the story to my sister (who apparently knew there was a difference between green BANANAS and green PLANTAINS (big deal)), she had a good laugh again as she described the look of increduality on my face and my reaction. Well, I don’t blame her. I really DID think they were the SAME thing.
Green plantain vs green bananas
Left: Green plantain
Right: Green bananas (which come in a bunch)
Okay, so it turns out that there’s a big difference. The only similarity with the two is the green peel color. That’s about it. Green bananas come in a bunch and are much smaller than green bananas. Side by side, you can see the difference in their size. The two have a starchy taste but there’s still a difference in their taste. Laylita of Laylita’s Recipes accurately describes the difference as the banana having a "smooth delicate flavor" and the plantain having a "strong chippy flavor." Also, raw and cooked, the bananas are paler in color, while the plantains are darker.
The next time I went to the supermarket, I made sure to buy green BANANAS. Over the weekend, I decided to make chifles — fried green banana chips. Chifles (chips) in Latin cuisine are served as side dishes or appetizers. In some South American countries, they’re sold as street food.
Chifles are so simple to make. Basically you slice the green bananas in thin stripes, salt, fry, then enjoy them. Simple, right?
Green bananas are a little more difficult to peel and make your hands sticky when you peel them. One tip I learned from Helin in diminishing any of these problems is to first put the bananas under running hot water for a few minutes. It softens the skin and you can peel it with ease. Next, rub your palms with any type of cooking oil. These tips diminished the sticky hands when handling the green banana. No more problems. 😉
It only takes a few minutes to fry the green bananas and they’re ready to be devoured.
So, if you happen to see green bananas in your food shopping area, have a try. Now you know that there a difference between the green plantain and the green banana. If you can’t find green bananas in your area, you can, however, use the green plantain. The plantain will taste different but will be still good. I’m glad I finally got to make some chifles with the green bananas. They tasted great!
Here’s a recipe from Laylita’s Recipes to make your own chifles. Thanks, Laylita!
Chifles (Fried Green Banana Chips)
Green bananas or green plantains
Canola oil for frying
Optional – hot pepper or garlic cloves for additional flavor variations
- Peel the green bananas or green plantains; be careful as both tend to stain clothes and cutting boards. The plantains will be easier to peel, but the flesh of the green banana is more likely to stick to its skin.
- Slice the bananas or plantains lengthwise, full length or half length, or slice them as thin rounds or thin diagonal ovals, use a mandolin to get that perfect thinness.
- Heat the oil, either in a deep sauté pan or fryer, ideal temperature for frying these is between 375 F -400 F, there should be enough oil to fully cover the bananas or plantains.
- Add the bananas or plantains to the hot oil; be careful not to overcrowd to keep them from sticking together.
- Fry until the chips get a golden color.
- Remove the chips from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Sprinkle with salt and serve either warm or cold.
In the frying pan
Fried green banana chips ready to be eaten. Tasty!