Monday, January 12, 2015

Baking Around the World: Banana Pancakes (Papua New Guinea)

For the past few years, I have been involved with a marvelous reading group in Goodreads called The World's Literature. In 2012, we read books from Japan, in 2013 it was Turkey, and this past year we focused on Iceland.  I learn so much during these group reads, whether I read a long with a book everyone is reading, or select my own books to read from the country or region.

This year, we are focusing on the large swath of the globe from Southeast Asia down to New Zealand, and all the tiny islands making up the South Pacific and Oceania in between.  There are a lot of different names for it, and a lot of places I've never read about before.  We are starting the year with a group read of Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak. 

I have never been to Papua New Guinea, but I spent a semester in an independent study on world music my junior year of college, where I did a research project on music composition among the Kaluli, one of the highland peoples in PNG.  I was *this* close to spending the summer there with a Wycliffe ethnomusicology internship, but that didn't come together in time.

Trying to find recipes from PNG and other similar places can be difficult, because most of the cuisine in places like this has to do with what can be grown or caught.  Pork is used a lot for ceremonial dishes, but can't be eaten daily. Much of the traditional cuisine is vegetarian!  And there are a lot of bananas.  Banana leaves are used to cook the food, particularly in the special mumu dish I kept coming across, but then you also have bananas galore. So it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that I am making banana pancakes.  I still balk somewhat at the authenticity of it, but I read an interesting article about the "banana pancake trail" claiming that bananas may have originated in PNG.  (You'll have to read the article for the origin of the banana pancake.)

And of course there is a song all about banana pancakes by Jack Johnson, but I have to warn you that his music sounds nothing like music from the highlands of Papua New Guinea!

In Four Corners, fried bananas are often served to the author in times of high stress.  This either speaks to bananas as a comfort food or their sheer number, but regardless, I took note of this fact - when the women were trapped by the rascals on "payday" inside the YWCA ("to help distract us, one woman prepares a snack of fried bananas"), and when she meets with the head of the OPM, the guerilla resistance movement working against Indonesia.  Phew!  Eat some bananas.  I'm taking fried bananas up to being friend inside a batter, but I figure it's close.
This isn't very much outside my comfort zone taste-wize, but it definitely has some strong connections to my new region of the world.

Banana Pancakes
recipe from

Servings: 4
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 45 g butter, melted
  • 2 -3 bananas, very ripe, mashed 

  1. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl.
  2. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients, add flour and beat until free of lumps.
  4. Heat frypan with a little extra butter or oil.
  5. When the pan is hot spoon in desired amount of mixture.
  6. When bubbles start to appear in the batter, flip over and cook the other side.
  7. Eat with more bananas sliced on top and drizzled with Honey or with fresh fruit, or a squeeze of lemon/lime and sprinkle of Sugar. (I added pecans.)

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