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Straits Restaurant
updated 9/12/2007 4:10:08 PM ET 2007-09-12T20:10:08

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.

Jack Hutcheson

About 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.

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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.

Recipe: Banana Blossom Salad (on this page)

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.

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.

Recipe: Banana Blossom Salad

Ingredients
  • Banana Blossom Salad
  • 1 banana flower blossom, about 1 lb (finely sliced green cabbage may be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 8 oz cooked chicken breast meat, cut into fine strips
  • 2 Asian pears, cut into fine strips (any type of apple may be substituted)
  • 6 Tbsp ginger, peeled and cut into fine strips
  • 1 cup Rau Ram (Vietnamese coriander) or regular mint, loosely packed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro, loosely packed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup Thai basil, loosely packed and thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, ground and toasted, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup shallot rings, fried, for garnish
  • Salad dressing
  • 2 Tbsp mint
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp lemongrass, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chili paste
  • 3 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Preparation

Place all salad dressing ingredients into a blender and mix until sugar is dissolved; set aside.

Remove the 4 outer leaves of the banana blossom to use as a garnish; cut off the bottom core and the tip.

Using a sharp knife, start at the top of the blossom and slice crosswise into the thinnest possible strips.

As you move down, you will eventually encounter what looks like tiny bananas; remove all the leaves and discard the baby banana pieces.

Stack the leaves, roll them into a cylinder, and continue slicing.

Place the blossom shreds into a bowl of cold water and add the 2 Tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar to prevent the leaves from turning brown.

Use your fingers to separate the slices into rings and let sit for 20 minutes.

Drain and rinse once, but keep in water until ready to use; drain again when ready to use.

Once you have prepared the banana blossoms, place chicken in a bowl and add half the dressing; set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the banana blossom shreds, chicken, and remaining salad ingredients, including the remaining salad dressing. Toss thoroughly and arrange on the reserved outer banana blossom leaves; garnish with ground peanuts and fried shallots; serve immediately

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