‘Steal’ this exotic banana blossom salad recipe

In this special weekly feature, TODAY food editor Phil Lempert brings you recipes “stolen” (with permission) from notable restaurants across America. See how much fun you can have (and money you can save) by cooking these dishes at home.

This week: Banana Blossom Salad from Straits Restaurant in San Jose, California.

We’ve “stolen” a recipe from chef Chris Yeo’s extensive menu of modern Singaporean cuisine at Straits Restaurant in San Jose, California. The dish utilizes a unique and exotic ingredient — banana blossoms. Banana blossoms grow on the end of the stem holding a cluster of bananas, and its inner, pale-colored leaves are considered a vegetable in many Asian or tropical regions. You’ll be able to find it in your local Asian food markets.

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Jack Hutcheson

1PfalsefalseAbout the chef: Chris Yeo, executive chef and owner of Straits Restaurants, was originally more familiar with chopping hair than with shredding coconut. After graduating from Singapore’s Hotel and Catering School and a two-year stint at the world-renowned Mandarin Hotel, Yeo left Singapore to study hair at Vidal Sassoon in London. After working as a hairstylist in London for several years, he came to San Francisco and opened his own hair salon, Yeo’s Hair Design.

However, as chef Yeo had always been a lover of good food, he long dreamed of bringing the food of his native Singapore to the Bay Area. He says, “I missed sharing the food of my youth. I enjoyed cooking at home, but couldn’t fit all my friends and family and clients into my house — with a restaurant, I could!” — and with that, his career as a restaurateur began.

In 1987, he opened Straits Café on Geary Street in San Francisco, and then a sleek Palo Alto location in 1998. It was with the opening of the second Straits location that he made the decision to focus on his restaurants full-time. Much to the chagrin of his salon clients, he stopped cutting hair. In 2003, he opened an even more upscale version of Straits on Santana Row in San Jose, a noted shopping and dining destination.

Chef Yeo’s dishes integrate the bright flavors and cooking styles of Thai, Indonesian, Chinese, Malay, Indian and Nonya (a combination of Chinese and Malay) cuisines. He loves to utilize exotic spices, fresh herbs and the best ingredients he can find. You can find some of his other favorite recipes in “Cooking of Singapore,” the cookbook he co-authored with Joyce Jue.

Straits Restaurant
333 Santana Row, Suite 1100
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 246-6320
www.straitsrestaurants.com

Banana Blossom Salad is served at Straits Restaurant for $9. The recipe is for a serving size of four.

Want to nominate your favorite restaurant dish for a “Steal This Recipe” feature? Just e-mail Phil at Phil.Lempert@nbc.com (or use the mail box below) with the name of the restaurant, city and state, and the dish you would like to have re-created. Want to know more about Phil and food? Visit his Web site at www.supermarketguru.com.

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