This is the very first breakfast that Chef Lij made. He was 5 years old and stood on a stool under the supervision of his mother. Well… he made the plaintains, not the egg and as they say, the rest is history. Frying plantains is often the very first dish that most of us Jamaicans can recall making as children. It was simple and delicious enough to encourage us to want to try. While Jamaican breakfasts are often heavy, plantains provided a nice light alternative for children in the morning especially those of us who were picky eaters like myself. What is there not to like? They were sweet and soft and crispy and were the perfect complement to the saltiness of a fried egg and if you are feeling rather ravenous, a slice of Jamaican Harddough Bread.
Before I could put my preference into words and certainly before I understood how and why, I knew that the fried plantains that were very soft looking and darker in colour were the nicest. As I grew older and increased my cooking knowledge, I learnt that the riper the fruit- the sweeter, and the browner you fry them- the more they caramelize which intensifies the sweetness and crisps them up a bit.
Plantains, or Big Indian Bananas here in Dubai, are widely used across the entire Caribbean. The food and culture of the various Caribbean countries including Latin America bear very close similarities and we often have variations of several dishes. While they are often eaten raw in Indian culture, they are always cooked in the Caribbean, where we have them green or ripe. The worst thing you can do is use a half ripe plantain for most of us because we either like them green, or ripened. Ripe plantains are a popular side for any meal or snack in the Caribbean. We often have it alongside our meat/chicken, veggies and rice. We do not serve it with seafood but of course everyone has his or her own taste- just ask those who ask for ketchup at the dinner table when you have served a tasty curry.
Make a slit at top and bottom of plantain leaving part of the skin attached as shown.
Take a paring knife and angle the tip almost parallel to the plantain and make a lengthwise slit running the knife just under the skin all the way down to the bottom of the plantain.
You will be cutting the skin, not the fruit itself and it will look like this.
Use you fingers to peel away the skin.
The peel will come off easily because you made the slits at top and bottom and will come off all in one piece. Slice the plantains in rounds as thinly as you desire but no less than about 1/3 inch. You could also cut the plantain in half and then cut each half lengthwise for longer strips.
Put them in a frying pan with hot oil. A plain oil with a higher smoking point will do. These would be groundnut/peanut oil, canola oil or sunflower oil. High oleic oils are best for frying. They are usually sold in glass bottles. Read the labels to be sure.
We love a deep dark colour on these babies. Talk about caramelization and the crispyness on the outside that transforms them from just ripe mush!
Fry an egg to the temperature you like best. I like them sunny side up, but Chef Lij prefers his medium. How do you like yours? Season them lightly with salt and pepper while you fry them.
Try not to eat the plantains before you have finished making breakfast.
CHEF’S NOTE: If you want a quicker alternative than all the muscle, hours it takes to roll, proof and bake Jamaican Harddough Bread, make our 100% wholemeal buttermilk pancakes with these plantains and eggs. For a healthier breakfast, leave out the Aunt J__ and other such pancake syrups because they are laced with sugar and high fruchtose corn syrup. If you want a syrup, drizzle with real grade B or higher maple syrup for an island twist on a southern classic. Agave syrup may also be used for it’s lower blood sugar impact. We have a low carb pancake here for diabetics, just leave out the blueberries.