Ever wondered how to tell the difference between bananas (bacoven) and plantains (bak bananen)? And what do you use plantains for anyway? Well, your answers have finally arrived! “Bacoven” are sweeter and can be eaten raw.
“Bak bananen”, often confused for bananas because of their similar name and look, should be cooked. Due to their starchier nature, plantains can give you an aching belly if eaten raw. However, plantains, also rich in vitamins, can be prepared in many different ways. The less healthy preparation, and a common side dish in Suriname, involves cutting and frying the plantain pieces in hot oil when they are very ripe (fry them when the skin is black but not rotten). They can also be peeled and microwaved (for about 3-5 minutes) and eaten as a substitute for rice; boiled with skin on (when yellow ripe) for a delicious side dish; or cooked, mashed, and shaped either green or when ripe into balls that go in peanut soup (this is called “tom tom”). You may also recognize them as banana chips in the supermarket.
Another delicious plantain snack is called “bakabana”. This dessert or snack type dish is prepared by dipping the cut plantains into a pancake like batter and deep frying them. The “bakabana” are sometimes sprinkled or dipped in confectioner’s sugar. Other times, by way of Indonesian influence, they are served with a spicy peanut sauce.
Plantains ripen within a few days when left in a fruit basket or on the kitchen counter; it is not necessary to refrigerate them. To speed up the ripening process, place your plantains in a brown paper bag over night. You can even add an apple to further speed up the process.
Remember that when you ask for “bananas” at the veggie stand in Suriname, you will be pointed in the direction of the plantains. The “bacove”, pictured on the far left, has a rounder bottom than the skinnier ends on the three “bak bananen” next to it. That is how you can tell them apart.