How often are we left with a bunch of rapidly ripening bananas hanging from a hook in the kitchen? You look on in dismay knowing that by the next day, it would have tipped over its ‘use by’ date and you know you won’t be able to finish them on time.
But dangerously ripe bananas are great for baking. They are sweeter, and infuse the baked product with plenty of flavour. (A bonus is that you don’t need to use that much sugar either.) That’s when I like to make Jempur Pisang, a traditional ‘kueh’, or dessert which has its roots in Malay cuisine.
Jempur Pisang is incredibly easy to make and brings back nostalgic images of a simpler life in the kampongs (rural villages) of old Singapore. Housewives in the 1950s and ’60s liked to serve it as a mid-afternoon snack or for tea parties. They make a great addition to school lunchboxes, for any dessert or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could try to use them in place of profiteroles in a croquembouche.
Jempur Pisang (or Banana Puffs)
About 2 dozen
150 g self-raising flour
3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
A pinch of salt
2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed (preferably *pisang raja though any ripe sweet banana would be fine)
50 ml water
Oil for deep frying
• Combine flour, sugar, egg, salt and bananas in a bowl and mix well.
• Add in the water, a little at time, to form a moderately stiff (but still pour-able) batter.
• Heat oil until hot, then carefully drop tablespoons of the batter in and deep fry until golden.
• They float when they are cooked. (They continue to brown for a little while after they are removed from the heat so lift them from the oil a little before they take on the brown hue.) Drain on kitchen towels and serve as is, or dust with some powdered sugar.
*Pisang raja is a banana variety in Southeast Asia. The name is Malay, meaning literally ‘banana king’. Despite the grandiose imagery, these bananas are really petite little things, but stupendously sweet. These are my favourite.