Anyone who visits Kerala, mallu or non-mallu, does not leave without a bag of “benana chips.” Neighbors and office colleagues demand that the Kerala native who is disappearing for a holiday will not be allowed to come back without banana chips. Chips (wafers) in Kerala is synonymous with banana chips, immediately followed in popularity by the tapioca and jackfruit varieties. Banana chips are easy to make at home. When you buy chips from a bakery, you can never be sure of the oil they use and how much they have reused the oil. If raw plantains and coconut oil are available, making these irresistible wafers is just a matter of time and inclination. I am not a wafers fan but when made at home, I can’t stop munching on them. The below recipe makes roughly a kilo of chips. But you can even make smaller quantities.
Plantain is a cousin to banana, starchier, firmer, and low in sugar. They have a thicker skin and taste better and digest faster when cooked. To know the difference between a plantain and banana, click here. You need to be very careful while choosing plantains to make chips. They should be ripe but raw. Usually chips are round in shape, but at home we prefer “kaaya naalaaki varuthathu” (plantains cut into four). Whatever shape you choose, the thinner the slice, the crispier and better the wafer. The classic Kerala wafers are plain salted. You may add pepper powder or chilly powder to add spice to it.
Raw plantains (mallu benanas) – 10
Coconut oil – 400 – 500 mL
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tbsp
Water – 1 cup
Wash the plantains. Use a knife to remove the edges. Make vertical lines/cuts in the plantain. Nudge the edge gently and remove the peel. Don’t even think of discarding the peel. You can make delicious and healthy stir fry (thoran) out of it. Recipe to follow soon.
Use a knife to chop the plantain into thin round pieces. You can even make horizontal and vertical cuts on the plantain and then slice them to make smaller chips. Spread the pieces on a plate/paper.
Mix salt and turmeric in water and keep aside.
Pour oil into a thick iron vessel and keep it on medium flame. When the oil is almost at smoking point, add a batch of sliced plantain pieces into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd. You will notice the pieces sizzle a lot in the beginning. Use a skimmer to gently separate any pieces that may have stuck together. When the sizzling reduces, reduce the flame to slow and fry until the plantain pieces start turning brown. Be watchful as it can turn from brown to burnt in no time.
At this point, sprinkle a fistful of water mixed with turmeric and salt. The chips start sizzling once again until all the salt and turmeric is absorbed. When the sizzling stops, remove immediately using a skimmer. Spread on a kitchen towel to drain out excess oil.
Fry all the plantain pieces in a similar fashion. Store in airtight containers and use within a week or two.