What is referred to as a banana in North America and Europe, is called plátanos Roatan here. It’s actually the Cavendish variety, which became the most popular export banana in the world because of transport and shelf life issues, rather than taste. You’ll find the plátanos Roatan are really sweet and rich, as export bananas are picked green and then usually ripened in ripening rooms when they arrive in their country of destination.
Plátanos manzanos are known elsewhere as Silk, Silk Fig, or Apple bananas. It’s the most popular dessert banana in the region, as they’re sweeter than the Cavendish variety and apple scented. They’re smaller and plumper than plátano Roatan.
Plátanos machos, or plantains, are a type of very starchy bananas that must be cooked. They are often served as a side dish with Yucatecan meals and at breakfast. After peeling, the unripe fruit can be thinly sliced and fried in boiling oil, to produce chips. These are sometimes sold in markets, and can be purchased in grocery stores and tiendas packaged like potato chips. They’re ready for purchase when the skins are dark-brown or black.
Plátanos Fritos – Fried Bananas
Peel 3 large ripe plantains (skins should be almost black). Cut into 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices; set aside. Pour cooking oil to a depth of 1 inch into a 10- to 12-inch frying pan and heat. Drop plantain slices, several at a time, into hot oil and cook, turning as needed, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon, and let drain on paper towels. If cooking a lot, you can keep them warm in a 150 degree oven. These can also be dusted with refined sugar, and served as a dessert. Great with vanilla ice cream!
You can also buy banana leaves, hojas de plátano, for use in cooking! Banana leaves are often used to wrap tamales, as dried corn husks are used further north. Yucatecans also use them to wrap fish, chicken, and other foods for baking, grilling, steaming, or stewing. They impart a slightly herbal flavor to the food. Simply wipe the leaves clean with a clean, damp cloth before using and save the center stems for tying the food package. In North America, frozen banana leaves can sometimes be found in Asian markets, but aluminum foil can be substituted in any recipe, in a pinch.
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