Rama’s recipe submission for the GetSetUp Cookbook Project uses the unique and nutritious banana stem to create a healthy vegetarian meal.
Rama S. believes food connects people no matter who you are or where you’re from. She loves teaching fun cooking classes, especially using unique recipes. Her recipe for banana stem salad! Sign up to cook with Rama here.
Tell me a little about yourself and your background.
My hometown is Bodhinagar, but I moved to get my degree in History Honors and a post-graduate degree in public administration from Delhi University. After marriage, my husband and I settled down in Kochi. Through my travels, I've realized that food is essential in all our lives and brings people together.
How did you become interested in cooking?
After graduation, I had free time and explored cooking. My father always came home from his travels with the most amazing stories about food, which influenced me to try new things. And my mom, who is an excellent cook, was always there to help me with my latest experiments. My family enjoyed eating everything I made, and because of their love for me, they hardly ever complained if there were mistakes. They gave me the confidence to try new recipes. Soon, I started contributing recipes to Femina Magazine. I was a big fan of Vimala Patil, the magazine's editor. Her cookbook had all the best recipes, and I was even a part of it in 1990! Whenever I ate something different, I tried to cook it.
Who taught you to cook, or are you self-taught?
My mom! She had the most amazing tips and recipes to share. She kept me interested in cooking whenever it felt like a responsibility because cooking was never a chore for her. She was passionate about cooking for people she loved. I am inspired by how she infused so much love into everything she made.
Tell us a little about the dish you submitted.
I like to compete in cooking shows and competitions, so I stay updated on the latest trends. When I saw this, I decided to submit an exceptionally unique recipe. Not many people know that you can cook banana stems, let alone make tasty dishes out of them. Bananas are a very nutritious fruit full of fiber. Doctors recommend that people with heart problems drink banana stem juice every day. It is perfect for decreasing cholesterol, heart, and kidney stone problems. And, like every other vegetable, it has a lot of nutrients. My garden is full of a variety of spinach, coriander, pudina, sarson, banana, papaya, and tapioca. I will be using the organic bananas from my garden for this dish.
What was your inspiration in submitting this recipe?
Whether selected or not, I was excited to share this with others because it is not a very commonly made recipe. I just wanted to let everyone know that there are ways of cooking banana stems and that they aren't just for discarding. I agree it is a hassle to cut the banana stem, but it's easy once you get to know the technique.
What are the origins of this recipe? Is this recipe your own or passed down in the family?
It is a passed-down recipe from my mother.
What is one spice/ingredient you can't do without?
Although I love food without many spices, one spice that I use often is black pepper powder.
Do you have any favorite dishes or any favorite food memories from childhood?
I am very fond of sweets. My mother used to make lovely badam kheer, my all-time favorite dessert. Apart from that, I enjoy simple home-cooked meals.
What is the one cooking tip you have received and from whom you will never forget?
A good cook adjusts to the ingredients on hand. For example, if you are making an exotic paneer curry, the recipe requires a lot of elements. Even if you do not have everything the recipe recommends, you can still make the dish! With hands-on experience and creativity, a good chef can make it turn out well despite missing ingredients.
What's the most memorable meal that you've made?
Whenever we have guests at home, I prepare a whole spread of chaat items with aloo tikkis, pani puri, and papdi chaat. Even when we have a potluck or all of us get together, I make my specialty—the staple food of Tamilians- curd rice. I am amazed at how my friends lose their minds over my curd rice.
Is there a type of food that intrigues you and that you'd like to learn to prepare?
Very recently, I tried making lachha paratha. I love lachha parathas, but it did not turn out well. I tried it a few times, but couldn’t get it right. I want to practice and learn how to make delicious lachha parathas.
What do you enjoy doing apart from cooking?
I enjoy gardening. I am also a soft skill trainer for children, emphasizing education and human values. My career as an insurance partner is also enjoyable. But I love cooking. They say the way to a man's heart is through food. But, this is true for every person, not just men.
What's the importance of sharing a meal around the table?
You can bond with people in a lovely, fulfilling way. I enjoy sharing meals with people who appreciate the food, not criticize it.
What advice do you have for people just learning to cook?
It sounds like a cliche, but do it with all your heart. Infuse it with genuine love and interest. Even if you fail after one or two tries, do not give up. Keep trying, and you will crack the code. Everyone starts somewhere, so never give up.
Have you ever taught anyone to cook?
Yes, I conduct fun cooking classes with children. I am a home chef with Eastern Condiments. So whenever they bring new products, I do demos for them. I have held many cooking demonstrations at schools and women's organizations. I also love to compete in cooking competitions and have won a few prizes.
What is one kitchen gadget or appliance you can't do without?
The four burners, of course. A sharp knife and a blender are my go-to kitchen gadgets.
Who would it be if you could cook for or dine with anyone?
I am happy to cook for anyone willing to taste my food. But my dream is to have a meal with Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, or Tarla Dalal. I admire Tarla Dalal greatly; her cookbooks helped me pick up many kitchen skills.