The last few weeks have been particularly stressful for me, as I have been confined to my room to study for an exam. When I am stressed, I eat – which means that I have to be super careful about what I choose to snack on when I get the ‘study munchies’ (i.e.: consistently snacking while studying). In these weeks, my go-to snack has been Ravi’s Caribbean Style Plantain Chips, a favourite among West Indian snacks. For more information on what plantain is (aka: that weird banana in the grocery store) see my last post.
It should be healthy right? It’s banana chips! Well, between memorizing the deluxe Pythagorean theorem and complex exponents, I decided to take a gander at the Nutrition Facts. They are a whopping 280 calories! Obviously I confronted my West Indian mother who insisted they were healthier than regular chips.
“I didn’t say THOSE chips were healthier, I said plantain chips from home are good for you” – Annoyed West Indian Mother
Translation: Homemade plantain chips are ‘healthier’ because you can control the amount of oil (fat) and salt (sodium) when cooking them.
I was lucky enough to have my aunt over this long weekend because she cooked up a batch of piping hot homemade plantain chips. Plantain chips are quite common across the Caribbean, and each culture, from Cuban to Jamaican, has a unique method of preparation. I am not sure if anyone has ever quantified the calories between cooking methods, but I assume that a method that involves baking is a lot healthier than one that involves frying. However the tradeoff is that the same crispiness that is found through frying is not achieved through baking – trust me, I’ve tried both methods and frying definitely gives the plantain more ‘chip-like’ characteristics. Nonetheless I will show you how to tackle ‘that weird banana’ and you can decide for yourself whether to bake or fry!
Picking the Perfect Plantain
Finding plantain is becoming more common in mainstream grocery stores and it’s often placed next to bananas in the fruit isle. In contrast to bunches of bananas, plantains are sold individually, but what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in size 😉 – plantains look like bananas on steroids.
If you are planning to make West Indian style plantain chips, find a plantain that teetering between green and yellow, as you want to make sure that is firm enough to cut but still has a hint of sweetness. You can definitely use ripe plantains (yellow and deep brown) but this will result in sweeter and softer chips.
Prepping your Plantain
1 Plantain will give you around 20-25 chips, depending on how thick you slice the pieces. To prep your plantain for slicing, first begin by cutting off the ends:
Then take your knife and make an incision vertically down the skin of the plantain, from one end to another. Be careful that you do not cut through the fruit.
Using your thumbs, carefully separate the skin at the incision peeling the skin back from the fruit.
Slice the Plantain
Steadying the fruit with your hand (because it will slip), begin to slice thin chip-like slices. It’s hard for me to place an exact measurement, as West Indians will slice according to preference. In the photo, it look like my mom sliced them about 1/8th of an inch thick.
Seasoning the Plantain
Traditionally, plantain chips are flavoured with just salt but you can definitely get creative and experiment with other seasonings like cayenne, black pepper, onion salt, etc. I would start off with adding a teaspoon of salt to the raw slices of plantain, and then adding more salt to your liking after the cooking process. If you plan to bake your chips, lightly toss the batch in two tablespoons of olive oil.
Bake or Fry?
As I mentioned earlier, there are pros and cons to baking and frying. If you choose to fry your plantain, I would use vegetable oil. You can either use a deep fryer or a deep sauté pan. When the oil has reached the appropriate temperature, start off by testing 2-3 chips. You will be able to tell that they are ready when they reach a deep golden-yellow and become hard. If you are unsure…you can always taste test!!
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of deep-frying, I would suggest using a frying pan on a stove top with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and sautéing the plantain chips until they turn the same deep golden-yellow. Your chips will not be as crispy as frying, but they will still pack a nice crunch.
Whether you decide to deep fry or pan fry, place fresh chips on a bed of paper towels to soak up excess oil:
If you plan to bake your chips, grease your baking pan or line the pan with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees until the chips are a deep yellow and lightly brown around the edges.
While the batch is still hot, add any additional salt or seasoning you feel is needed.
You have successfully made a great alternative to store-bought chips. You can enjoy your chips by themselves, or even with the side of a little guacamole – healthiness level unlocked! And if you are feeling super ambitious, you can wash down that salty goodness with some limewash 🙂