Gone Bananas: Indian-spiced Banana Fun

A portrait from Brooklyn and India

What began as good old banana fun became yet another culinary mashup of our family (bananas. mash. see what I did there?).

 

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Taking Banana Muffins to the Next Level

While we are not a fresh banana-eating household, our special version of banana muffins just might be the single most-made recipe in our household. It’s so beloved that our kids request it in lieu of cupcakes for their birthday celebrations, and also request them over cookies for class events. When they see brown bananas in a store, they beg to make banana bread. Or when they realize it’s been a while, they preemptively ask to get bananas to allow them to become overripe and muffin-ready.

Cardamom was always used in our banana bread recipe, but the addition of saunf was actually born of one of the instances they wanted the muffins for their birthday. In an effort to make the muffins a tad more festive, we added saunf (candy-coated fennel seeds).

mmm indian-spiced banana muffins with sounf

One fine day we realized that we also had so many favorite banana-related songs, and decided to create a portrait to capture that. Only after we started our research for the portrait when we began to realize just how it fitting it was as a culinary mashup for our family.

Though apparently India produces the most bananas of any country worldwide, banana bread was born in the US. According to Wikipedia, banana bread’s origins are debated: either a byproduct of the Great Depression (resourceful housewives not wanting to throw away overripe bananas) or developed in corporate kitchens to promote baking soda and flour products. I’ve always wondered if zucchini bread, carrot, and apple cakes were related and I look forward to digging into that history.

banana muffins ready to go into the oven

I grew up eating homemade banana bread. I liked it well enough, particularly if I was allowed to warm it and slather it with butter that would melt into it and pool in the crevasses.

And now, just as garam masala is required in my Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and jazzy Indian classical is our dinner party soundtrack of choice when the menu veers South Indian, spiced banana muffins are a favorite family mashup.

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Gone Bananas

We have a mashup for you today (pun intended): simply all our favorite banana songs collected into one fun playlist: Gone Bananas.

And dare I say, I thought I was clever for having so many fun banana songs in our repertoire… only to find out in this extremely comprehensive (if un-sited) list of banana fun facts that apparently bananas are the most sung-about of all fruit. Just search ‘banana’ in Spotify and you’ll see more than a bunch (!) of songs in English, though quite a few are perhaps not family-friendly. This playlist is very family-friendly, so get it on those speakers straight away!

  • Kicking off with the catchy ‘I Like Bananas (Because They Have No Bones)’ played and sung by the amazing Terry Waldo, who literally wrote the book on Ragtime. If you are in the NYC area, you are lucky enough to have a couple of chances every week! I requested this song at one of his shows, and he was super surprised. I know it from his “Kinky and Sweet” album which is fabulous in its entirety.
  • Next up, is the (required!) live version of ‘30,000 Pounds of Bananas’ by Harry Chapin.  Such a classic.
  • And two more obvious ones: ‘Day-o! Banana Boat Song’ by Harry Belafonte, and ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’ sung by Louis Prima.
  • Next up is Sergio Mendez’s version of ‘Bananaria Banana Tree,’ which I admit I had been singing along to for years before realizing what I was singing. That whole Timeless album is so good, especially ‘Mas Que Nada.’
  • Steering clear of the awful overly-kiddie versions of ‘Apples & Bananas,’ the Keith Urban version is fun and includes the fun vowel-swapping each time through.
  • … or skip the country and do the nice instrumental version of ‘Apples & Bananas’
  • And then: a French version! ‘Les Pommes et Les Bananes!’ by Will Stroet
banana muffin birthday celebration

Bonus: starring YOU.  If you went camping or have a current/former girl scout among you, someone knows the Banana Cheer. Get up and do it! Go. Bananas. Go, go bananas. Go. Bananas. Go, go, BANANAS!!

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Not Your Mama’s Banana Muffins

Several years ago, one of the first times my daughter requested them for her birthday, we decided to top them with a few saunf (candy-coated fennel seeds), simply to make it more festive. In addition to feeling like confetti, the taste blended really well with the cardamom we had long since replaced the standard cinnamon with.

cardamom-spiced banana muffins ready to go into the oven

If you don’t have any saunf, you can add fennel seeds into the batter and enjoy the taste pop it provides, but even without that, this simple banana muffin recipe with cardamom rather than cinnamon will surely become a mainstay in your recipe repertoire.

2020 update: my kids, currently 9 & 7, now make this completely on their own, navigating to this page, and following the recipe.

7 year old making banana muffins all by himself from scratch

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Bonus Fun Facts

Lastly, I need to share an amazing page FULL of fun banana facts, which is part of the publicity for the book The Banana Police. Prepare to be amazed by this incredible yellow berry (yes, botanically speaking, bananas are berries).