Among Bangkok’s street food, you might call them the ‘traffic jam’ bananas.
And if you’ve ever been to Bangkok’s old town, you likely know exactly the sweet, deep fried, and super crispy bananas we mean. In this historic part of the city it isn’t uncommon to be at a busy intersection and see vendors selling bags of fried bananas while wading out into the oncoming traffic. Often this takes advantage of traffic already at a standstill in Bangkok, but hungry motorist can also be blamed for creating a traffic jam while lining up for fried bananas as well!
But Bangkok’s most controversial street food snack isn’t too difficult to make at home. We’ve been testing our recipe in the Courageous Kitchen, making adjustments each time, to make it easy for you to follow at home. All you need to do is gather the ingredients for your batter, and find ripe bananas.
In Thailand, the task of gathering quality bananas a bit easier thanks to the biodiversity of the banana plants grown around country. Thailand is home to nearly 30 types of banana, with many of the popular ones available in local fresh markets and grocery stores. Arriving from farms all over the country, the bananas appear in different shapes and sizes, unfamiliar to people who are used to the limited options in the West. Thais instead have the luxury of choosing between ‘kluay hom’ fragrant bananas, chubby sweet ‘nam va’ banana, and creamy ‘kluay kai’ bananas, to name a few.
Don’t worry if you don’t have many choices, and remember sweet plantains can also be used. Go for whichever bananas you can find, and prep them to fry just as they begin to ripen. Act quickly, however, because if you let them get too ripe, they may become too soft and mushy. This makes the bananas more difficult to work with and you reduce your chances of a crispy end product.
Slice your bananas long and finger length to make them easy to eat. As you slice them you can drop them into the batter and they’ll be ready to fry. Fry until golden brown, and drain. You’ll have accomplished your mission if your fried bananas are still crunchy and tasty after they have cooled down.
We hope you like the Courageous Kitchen recipe for fried banana! Remember you can show your support for our fun, educational kitchen activities by visiting our donation page or joining us for a Thai cooking class.
Thai Fried Banana Recipe
Yield: This may vary depending on the bananas, but typically we can make around 30 pieces.
Feeds: 5 – 7 people
Skill Level: Easy
Diets: Gluten-free, Halal, Plant Based, Vegetarian, Vegan, Nut-Free
Fried Banana Ingredients
bananas – 1 kg of bananas (1 bunch)
cooking oil – 1 liter
coconut milk – 2 cups
rice flour – 1 cup
sticky rice flour – 1/4 cup
tapioca starch – 1/2 cup
sugar – 2 tbsp
salt – 1 tbsp
shredded coconut – 1 cup
baking powder – 2 tsp
white sesame – 1 tsp
black sesame – 1 tsp (optional to mix white and black or 2 tsp of either will work as well)
powdered sugar (optional for garnish)
Fried Banana Instructions:
- Heat your oil in a deep wok or pot. The oil is ready when it is over 100 degrees celsius (210F)
- Mix dry ingredients, except your shredded coconut and sesame.
- Add coconut milk and whisk well. The texture shouldn’t be overly watery or dry, similar to pancake batter.
- Finally, add your coconut and sesame. Spread evenly, but don’t mix thoroughly, because we want these ingredients to coat the banana as you dip them and not get stuck at the bottom of your mixing bowl.
- Dredge your bananas, allowing the excess batter to fall back into the bowl. Then drop into the oil.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes, flipping occasionally until golden brown.
- Rest to cool and allow excess oil to run off. If desired, decorate with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Note: Keep in mind the temperature may vary for different types of oil. If your bananas are taking too long, you may want to increase the temperature.
What makes Thai fried bananas so special?
The Thai fried banana may be more unique than others you have tried around the world. This is likely because of the widespread street food culture, and the availability of fresh ingredients. The best vendors in Bangkok, along with having a great selection of flavorful banana species, likely also utilize fresh shredded coconut and fresh coconut milk in their frying batter.
The ingredients add to the fragrance of the snack, and lend some stretchy density to the crust in each bite. The snack holds up, retaining it’s crunch even long after being removed from your frying pan or wok. In our cooking classes, this means guests can pair the fried banana with ice cream, or if they’re super full take them home and enjoy them later.
What if I don’t have the shredded coconut?
You can make this recipe without the coconut, but coconut lends both fragrance and texture to the snack. We used fresh shredded coconut, but understand most people may only be able to find dehydrated coconut flakes.
The bananas will cook a lot faster without the coconut in the batter. So pay attention to them while they’re in the oil, and adjust the cooking time as needed.
What can I do with the leftover batter?
We have used the same batter to fry mushrooms, chili, sweet potato, and pumpkin. If you have more veggies or fruit you want to give a whirl while your oil is hot, give it a try! However, since it’s is coconut milk based it usually does not last long, nor does it reheat well. For these reasons when there’s leftover batter, we make the most of it by frying up whatever we have in the fridge. For more savory vegetables, enjoy them with sriracha or the spicy hot sauce of your choice.
Why is this Bangkok’s most controversial street food snack?
In a city where you can find deep fried scorpions on a stick, it may be a shock to learn Bangkok’s most controversial street food is also one that’s easy to eat. However, people’s affection for the street food bananas, and how portable they are, definitely factor into all of the hype and controversy you may not have known about if you live outside of Bangkok.
For years the local city municipalities have tried to end the practice of walking into traffic to sell the bananas. This happens at big intersections in old town, and at the traffic light in front of Bangkok’s Nung Lerng Market.
For the most part, in the public eye and even with authorities like the Thai Royal Police who are tasked with enforcing rules against such vending, opposition to the sales have been mixed. Police have been known to feign enforcement, only to work out a separate deal with the vendors themselves (with a few free bags of fried bananas thrown in we’re sure).
However, the tide may finally be turning as street food everywhere in Bangkok has taken a hit since government crackdowns began in 2018. More enforcement from the government means fewer spaces to vend, and more intense competition with nearby competitors, displacing some vendors and eventually driving others out of business. Like all vendors around the city, even those who could be considered the most menacing are facing an uncertain future over the next few years.