Fried Round Things

29 May

Bollyviewer once commented that all my recipes revolve around eggs and milk. That made me giggle because that’s exactly right. With those two magical ingredients in my fridge, I can whip up anything from a drink to a dessert to main course to pakoras (up next!). The day I have less than four eggs and at least a quart of whole fat milk in my fridge is a dark day at Chez Amrita. Starvation is practically leering in my face as I stumble out the door and run for the grocery store. Okay, amble. A diet of eggs and milk isn’t really conducive to running.

Anyway, I thought I’d offer something that didn’t revolve around eggs and milk for once – just to prove that I know other ways to get a heart attack before I turn forty. It’s a family recipe and as far as I know nobody else makes this thing. I’ve certainly never seen it on a restaurant menu nor have I ever been offered any at anybody’s home. According to family lore, my Auntie S invented the amazing dish we know simply as “Fried Round Things”.

She was puttering around the kitchen one day with a couple of my other aunts and they were debating what to do with the remains of two bunches of bananas and plantains sent over from the family estate. We were a large household and most of it had vanished but there were still a few left and they were on the verge of going bad. So thrifty Auntie S threw together a few ingredients and voila! An enduring family favorite was born.

The South Americans make something similar with green plantains but their version is savory and usually involves meat, delicious in an entirely different way. Fried Round Things only uses ingredients approved by my grandmother’s kitchen and is thus thoroughly vegetarian and pretty sweet. It is also very rich and if you pig out on it, you should know that consumed in large quantities, Fried Round Things can act as a laxative. You have been warned.

Note: This recipe uses two items that the general public (that’s you!) might not be familiar with – plantains and freshly shredded/dessicated coconut.

1. Plantains. For this recipe you need ripe plantain. Green plantains will not work. Local supermarkets in most places tend to carry these nowadays but if yours doesn’t, then check out the grocery stores that cater to people of Caribbean descent. Or South Indians if you live in India.

If you don’t know your plantain from your banana, then ask someone at the store to help you choose one that’s ripe / closest to ripening. If it’s ripe, then use it by the next day latest; if it needs some more time, stick it in a paper bag if you have one and leave it out for a day or two but not more than that. I like my plantains really ripe (it turns black) but don’t go that route unless you’re familiar with them and can tell ripe from rotten. Fried Round Things are delicious but nothing is worth food poisoning.

2. Dessicated Coconut. This is optional – in the sense that I’ve made Fried Round Things without it and I didn’t miss it all that much. But it’s undeniable that it really does add a certain something to the taste so if you can get your hands on it, that’d be good. Again, this is available at most supermarkets and if not, check your local Thai / Caribbean / South Indian grocery store. I used to get my supply from China Town when I lived around the corner from it, so it’s really everywhere.

At home, my mother and aunts use freshly shredded coconut. Which is nice and possible when you have a coconut tree in your garden and a maid willing and able to crack open a coconut with a wicked machete and then grate the whole thing out. I, on the other hand, once tore open a Bounty bar, nibbled off the chocolate layer and then crumbled in the coconut insides to my batch of Fried Round Things. I do not recommend my method. Better by far to find a maid adept in the art of machete-wielding and a house with a coconut tree growing outside it.

All this is to tell you that when you buy your dessicated coconut, taste it first to see if it’s been sweetened. It took me a while to find unsweetened dessicated coconut, which is what I’m using in this recipe, so if yours is sweetened, you’ll have to adjust the amount of sugar used.

Okay, so –

Fried Round Things


Plantain (ripe) – 1

Banana (any banana, smaller in size to the plantain, ripe) – 1

Plain Flour – 3 to 4 tbsps, level.

Granulated sugar – 1 to 2 tbsps, heaped.

Dessicated coconut (unsweetened) – 3 tbsps (use a big handful if its freshly grated unsweetened coconut)

Ghee – 1 tbsp

Salt – a generous pinch, one level tsp at most.

Vegetable Oil – for deep frying


Bananas, especially when combined with sugar, will stick. Save yourself from a nervous breakdown and use a non-stick wok and wooden slotted spoon. A mixing bowl and a tablespoon. Maybe a masher.


Peel and cube the plantains and bananas. Tumble them into a mixing bowl. Use your hands if you’re all down-home like my mom or a potato masher if you’re all fancy like me, and roughly mash the two together. You don’t want to thoroughly mash them to an uniform consistency – it’s good to have little chunks left intact.

Add coconut and salt and fold them in. Add the sugar; adjust upwards or downwards depending on the sweetness of the plantain, banana and coconut as well as your own tastes but make sure you add in at least half a tbsp of sugar as this will help caramelize the final product.

Add the flour. This basically acts as a binding agent so your goal is to only add enough flour to make sure it all sticks together like really thick, goopy batter. When you’ve added three tbsps, it ought to look kind of pasty and all sorts of wrong. This is when you add the ghee. The batter will immediately loosen up and resemble really thick cake batter.

If it’s at all runny, then add a little more flour. The ideal batter should be thick and goopy.

Heat oil and drop in tablespoons of the batter. I’m afraid this is the kind of thing that requires surveillance because it’s really easy to have it caramelized black on the outside while still raw on the inside. The trick is to drop in the batter in amounts no greater than a tablespoon and keep the heat steady at medium low. Try not to touch it too much while frying. Just turn it over once.

When it turns a fine golden brown, it’s ready to come out. Don’t be dismayed if it’s darker than that. We cousins personally think it’s better when it’s a little charred but my mother disagrees. Make sure you give the Fried Round Things a gentle squeeze as you fish them out because bananas and plantains drink oil like sailors drink liquor on shore leave. If you want to be extra conscientious you can cool them on a wire rack and blot them with paper napkins but look – you’re eating a thing called Fried Round Things. Let’s not kid ourselves here.

Makes 12. Serves 4. Enjoy!

(And if you plan on being greedy, make sure you’re stocked up on toilet paper.)


Posted by on May 29, 2010 in Life, Personal, Video


Tags: , , , , ,

8 responses to “Fried Round Things

  1. Banno

    May 30, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Sweet plantain bhajiyas. OMG!

  2. bollyviewer

    May 30, 2010 at 3:34 am

    Just when I was looking for new ways of giving myself a heart-attack before 40 (my current way is to cook up a rich chicken biryani every weekend). And considering how close that date is, the matter is rather urgent! 🙂 Plus, I have one very nicely ripening plantain in my kitchen – a process that takes more than just a day or two in Canadian winters (yes its almost June, but the snow hasn’t realised that in Calgary, yet).

  3. theaprilfool

    May 31, 2010 at 4:40 am

    This sounds a lot like Mangalore buns..
    It is available around south Karnataka and is served with coconut chutney.

  4. M

    May 31, 2010 at 10:12 am

    LOL – You need a cooking show – heart-attack-on-a-plate – appetizers to desserts!

    My grandmother used to make something very similar – overripe plantains alone, not bananas, and the binding flour is rice flour, to give it a lovely crunch.

    BTW, you get frozen grated coconut in all desi grocery stores now – defrost in the microwave before use, and the taste is closest to freshly grated coconut.

  5. Shalini

    June 1, 2010 at 10:17 am

    I LOVE fried round things…and fried square things, and fried triangular things, and…


  6. F arty?

    June 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    “Mudda, me no like ’em meelk and eggses,” I saeys. “Okey doll. Momma make u some fried round theengs then,” yu saeys, “cuz eef yu don’ eat, my sweet, da breeze goin’ blow yu ‘way” or somethin’ like that. 😀

    Yeah, Bahama mama. It’s about time your recipes stopped revolving around milk and eggs. (So glad Auntie S has several more tricks up her sleeve!) 😀

    I recall relishing a dessert dish close to the deliciousness you describe here, at this Caribbean hole-in-the-wall cafe called “Mango”, a long long lunchtime ago (when I used to work in downtown Palo Alto).

    And although I grew up in a house with not one but two coconut and plantain trees in the backyard, AND had an ace machete-wielder for a father, the woman in charge of the kitchen (ok, mom!) was fairly clueless when it came to “Ms.Kerala? Meet Mr.Caribbean” fusion concoctions like this one. Dang!

    So. What you’re really saying, Amrita, is that starvation won’t leer in my face should I (somehow!) stumble out my door and show up in front of yours? Aw goody! 😛

    PS: And oh. “Fried Round Things can act as a laxative. You have been warned,” reminds me. On a drive this weekend, a white van (oh no, not again, you say? but…but…just listen to this) passed us; you’ll never guess what was painted on its side — an advertisement for “” ergonomic toilet-set covers! “HEALTHY. AFFORDABLE. GREAT GIFT” it said. And there was an “800” number and the picture of a man-on-the-john dressed in blue pants (pulled down, obviously) and a red shirt. Sure sounds like an only-in-California thing, eh?

  7. Amrita

    June 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    @ banno – promise you’ll try!

    @ BV – always happy to be of service! 😀

    @ TAFool – ooh, yum, thanks for the link. Mine would taste funny if you put it with coconut chutney but I plan on trying out those buns ASAP.

    @ M – good to know about the coconut!
    I have made it with just plantains when I was out of bananas and its pretty tasty that way too, but the bananas give it a tang which is delicious! And my dislike of rice extends to rice flour too 😦 I know, I’ll just turn in my South Indian card,

    @ Shalini – I wonder if we attended Kumbh Mela together?

    @ F arty – to answer your question, while this will send you to the toilet, I’ve never noticed an increase in the flatulence area, so feel free to indulge! 😀

    • F arty

      June 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm

      What flatulence? Jeez. I take serious offense at an all-too-innocent “artistic”-acronym suggestion for “Fried RoundThings” (F RT) being gloriously misconstrued. Even a small child knows that poor plantains nevah meant no one no harm. Otoh, it’s ’em potatoes that are the Devil in tuber form!

      You wouldn’t evah find me happily hollering Hakuna Patata is all I’m sayin’. 😛

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