Ginataang puso ng saging (banana bud/blossom in coconut cream)

I was in high school when I first learned to cook guinataang puso ng saging. I remember my father advising that I choose the puso ng saging that was long, cream-colored and no more than three inches in diameter at the thickest part. Why that was preferable over the more common fat reddish and fat puso ng saging, I never asked, although I suspected it had something to do with the numerous varieties of banana available in the Philippines. One time years later, when I was obliged to use the non-preferred variety, I realized that the long cream-colored puso ng saging was more tender and required a shorter cooking time.

Pork traditionally goes into this dish but I have tried versions using daing (salted dried fish). This is the traditional recipe except for the addition of cilantro.

Cut 250 grams of pork liempo (belly) into 1-inch cubes (they will shrink during cooking, anyway, so don’t worry that they’re rather large at this point). Peel and finely mince a whole garlic. Peel and finely slice a large onion.

Heat 3-4 tablespoonfuls of cooking oil in a wide shallow pan (I always recommend a wok for all-purpose cooking). When smoking hot, add the pork and cook, stirring, until no longer pink. Add the garlic and onion, season with patis, and continue cooking for a few minutes. Pour in 2-3 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pork is very tender.

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Trim 3-6 chili peppers (siling haba), depending on how hot you want your ginataang puso ng saging to be, cut into 1/4-inch rings and add to the pork.

Prepare the puso ng saging (I used two pieces) by removing the outer layers. Keep at it until you reach the light creamy inner portion. I usually remove three of the outer layers but with more mature puso ng saging, you may need to remove more. Discard the outer layers (these are too tough and fibrous). Cut the puso ng saging into half inch rings and add to the pork. See the illustration.

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Cook the pork and vegetables for a few minutes. The puso ng saging takes no more than 10 minutes to cook. Then, pour in a cup (or more, if you prefer) of coconut cream. Stir well. Taste and add more patis, if necessary. Boil gently, uncovered, for about three minutes.

Turn off the heat. Let stand, uncovered, for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro (ah, the difference that cilantro makes!), stir a few times then serve with hot rice.