I’ll be honest: this challenge initially turned me off. I kept thinking “Yuk” instead of “Yum”. Olives and bananas? I was convinced that the ingredients would not work together no matter what I tried. Since I’m always up for a challenge, I had to TRY… but I was completely expecting this to be a big flop. I could not have been more wrong!
Olives are one of those ingredients that you either love or hate: there is no middle ground. I am well beyond the “hate” and will say that olives are included in my list of least favorite foods of all time. The same is true for the rest of the family. We’re also not big fans of sweet peppers. I simply could not imagine pairing bananas with either of these items, and almost decided to avoid them by just using banana leaves. But bananas were the only ingredient that we actually like in our family! So I started thinking about what else bananas might combine well with. Somehow I gambled that I could pair bananas with tamarind to mimic a spicy Thai-inspired fish dish called Pla Rad Prig, or Fried Fish with Tamarind Sauce. The husband and I love tamarind. Suddenly, I was all in.
Typically, Thai chefs serve whole fish when preparing this dish. When I went to the market, they only had whole trout available. All signs pointed for me to serve the fish this way! I was already out of my comfort zone… I should keep going! I said to myself, “Do it! Do it! Buy the trout!” Sigh. If this were a Chopped episode, I would definitely have used the whole fish, but sadly, I need my family to actually eat, so I wimped out and bought another white fillet instead.
After coating the fish with flour, I fried it up and prepared the sauce. Instead of chili peppers, I used the sweet peppers, which worked out well. But, what to do with the dreaded olives? To me, they didn’t pair with the dish at all, so I had to find another way to include them. I decided to chop them up and throw them in with the Jasmine rice and some chopped cilantro, which made a pretty pilaf. I put it all together on a plate and served it family-style.
I cannot BELIEVE how well this worked out. I was on the verge of skipping this challenge entirely because I didn’t think it was possible, but every bit was eaten! The boy loved it and even said so without me asking! He ate everything except the olive rice, and was grateful that I saved some plain rice on the side. The girl liked the fish, but the sauce? Not so much. The husband had the best response. He raved about the sauce and the fish… he loved the combination and how it was prepared. I didn’t expect that. He said something like: “The sauce is like a fine wine: you get the tamarind flavors up front and then the banana flavor comes later.” Or whatever… I was in such shock, I barely heard what he said. He actually complained that you couldn’t taste the olives in the rice or the sweet peppers in the sauce… he wanted more! I loved it all too… and even would make it again… with the whole fish!! Well, maybe not the olive rice so much. I ate the plain rice with the boy.
Pan-Fried Fish in Banana-Tamarind Sauce with Olive Pilaf
- whole trout (or if you wimp out like me, a fillet of cod instead)
- flour for dredging
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, separated
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 Tbsp chopped shallot
- 4 sweet peppers
- 1/4 cup tamarind sauce
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1/2 cup water, if needed
- 1 banana, mashed
- 1 cup Jasmine rice
- 1 Kalamata olive, chopped
- chopped cilantro, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large pan. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Pan fry a few minutes on each side. Remove from burner and place pan in a 300 degree oven to heat through and keep warm.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and the shallot and saute until starting to brown. Add the peppers. Stir in the tamarind and fish sauce and heat through. Add the mashed bananas and continue to heat until flavors combine and sauce thickens. If too thick, add some water.
Prepare rice per packaging. Combine with chopped cilantro, olives, and any additional spices.
Pour sauce on serving plate. Top with the fish and serve with scoops of rice and other veggies.