What do you typically do when you have over ripe bananas on hand? I’m guessing you make banana bread, banana cake or maybe ice-cream. The next time you have an excess of ripening bananas, I suggest you try making Mangalore Buns.
Do you know what Mangalore Buns are? Chances are you do if you belong to, have lived in or have friends from the Udipi Mangalore region on the west coast of India. The truth is that they’re not buns at all but similar to a Poori, a deep fried Indian bread. It’s not known how or when these Banana Pooris became Mangalore Buns. They possibly got the name from their soft and slightly chewy bread like texture and appearance.
Mangalore Buns are a popular breakfast or tea time snack made from a fermented over ripe banana dough. The soft and slightly sour dough is shaped into small flat rounds which are deep-fried. These spongy mildly sweet treats are typically eaten with spicy coconut chutney and/ or sambhar. They’re also very good plain, with tea or coffee.
Stories credit the origin of this recipe to temple cooks at the Udupi Matt. They are believed to have come up with this idea to utilize excess bananas which would otherwise spoil. The best Mangalore Buns are typically made with Mysore bananas. These are small sweet and tangy bananas with a thin skin. You could use any other small sweet banana or medium sized Robusta bananas. I’ve chosen to use Chenkadali (also called Kappa Pazham) or red skinned bananas because I love them. Just remember you need over ripe bananas.
The texture or consistency of the dough is important. It should be quite soft and just short of sticky. A very soft dough would be difficult to shape and a stiff dough would lack the required texture of Mangalore Bun. The dough needs about 8 to 10 hours of fermentation (a little less or more depending on ambient temperature). So make the dough the previous night for breakfast next morning. Make the dough in the morning, if you’re making Mangalore Buns for an evening snack. Fermenting the dough overnight and then refrigerating it till evening also works.
The other important thing here is to fry the Buns on low to medium heat. They tend to caramelize/ darken easily yet need to stay in the oil long enough to cook well. These Buns can be served warm or at room temperature. They do keep for a day.
These Buns are usually mildly sweet but you can adjust the sugar to your taste. Mildly sweet buns go well with Chutney or Sambhar while sweeter ones are nice eaten as they are. Remember, the more sugar in the dough, the faster they will brown when frying.
Flavour and texture is added with cumin seeds and yogurt (or buttermilk) while kneading the dough. I would advise slightly crushing the cumin seeds for better flavor. The yogurt we use is generally the consistency of thick cream and not the Greek yogurt kind.
Mangalore Buns are usually made with all-purpose flour. I like the taste of whole wheat flour, so I make mine with half and half of both flours. Kneading the dough well is important to add sponginess to the Buns. An adequate resting period for the fermentation also adds to this. I typically roll my dough out to roughly to 4 inch diameter rounds for frying. They can be made slightly larger.
- 3 ripe medium sized bananas
- 1 tsp cumin seeds lightly crushed
- 2 to 3 tbsp sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup sour yogurt
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp ghee
- Extra flour for dusting
- Oil for deep frying
- Peel the bananas and mash them well. Add the cumin seeds, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yogurt and mix well. Mix in all of the whole wheat flour. Add as much of the all-purpose flour (all or a little more if needed) and knead by hand, into a soft dough that is very slightly sticky.
- I prefer mixing this dough by hand because it is easy to assess the texture of the dough. It’s not a very difficult dough to knead by hand. Cover loosely and set the dough to ferment in a cool place, for about 8 to 10 hours. The dough will become a bit looser and elastic once it has rested enough.
- If you’re not making the Mangalore Buns right away, refrigerate the dough till required but not for more than half a day. The dough may discolour slightly.
- When ready to shape the dough, mix the 2 tbsp ghee into the dough. Pinch off large lemon sized balls and lightly roll out into about 1/4-inch thick rounds about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Dust your working surface and the dough balls lightly with a little flour while rolling them out. Do not roll the rounds out very thin.
- Heat the oil for deep frying. The oil should not be very hot but hot enough for slow frying. Drop a small piece of dough into it. If it rises slowly to the top the oil is hot enough. Turn the heat down to medium. Ensure that the oil never gets too hot throughout while deep frying.
- Dust the excess flour off the rolled out dough rounds. Gently slip them into the oil, one at a time, and fry. Once in the oil, they will puff up gently. Turn them over, lightly press down on them with a slotted spoon for a few seconds to encourage to puff up completely. Let them fry, over medium heat, till uniformly deep golden brown on both sides. It will take a little time for each Bun to cook through.
- Remove from the oil and drain on absorbent paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature as they are or with Coconut Chutney and/ or Sambhar.