We visited a farm yesterday in the Hamakua area of the island where we found A'ea'e bananas growing. The A'ea'e is a finicky banana plant and not the easiest to grow, and yet they had quite a few healthy looking clumps of plants growing and producing lovely variegated bananas.
Although bananas are not endemic to Hawai'i, the A'ea'e is said to have originated in the islands. I could not find any info to verify it, but almost all sources said that it was from Hawai'i.
It is one of the most unusual bananas in that both the fronds and the banana peels have beautiful green and white stripes.
Photo: hand of A'ea'e bananas and shrimp 'fixings' for the stuffing
Tostones are twice fried chunky and then flattened pieces of green bananas or plantains that are eaten like chips. The greener or starchier the banana the better for tostones and that is one reason plantains are preferred...but a good, starchy banana will also work as long as it is still green.
For the two of us, I chose three of the greenest bananas you see above.
Photo: after the banana or plantain is peeled, cut it in chunks and then fry until toasty golden on the outside. I used macadamia oil but olive oil is perfect.
To stuff them, you need to turn the tostones into small bowls before they are fried for the second time and there just happens to be a kitchen gadget made for the purpose. There are two types 'tostoneras' (plantain presses), usually made of wood; one is completely flat, sort of like a tortilla press and the other is perfect for making the indentations for 'tostones rellenos'.
Photo: the chunks draining on paper after the first frying. The wooden gadget is the special 'tostonera' that turns them into little 'bowls' convenient to stuff with your favorite combination.
The other type of 'tostonera', similar to a tortilla press, turns them into flat discs that you salt and serve after the second frying.
Tostones can be served just salted, as you would chips. They can be served drizzled or dipped in a mojo sauce pronounced 'moe-ho' and not like 'moe-joe', the slang word for charm, spell, talent or sex appeal...(although our Cuban mojo sauce can be sexy!) and they can be stuffed with whatever you feel like. Traditionally they are stuffed with Cuban style picadillo and I have also had them with shrimp.
I chose to stuff mine with shrimp.
Photo: using the 'tostonera' to turn the fried banana chunks into little bowls, then they are fried again until crisp.
Right after the chunks were fried the first time, drained, pressed with the 'tostonera' and fried for the second time, I started the shrimp, which were some partially frozen pieces we had in the freezer.
In a bit of garlic infused olive oil, briefly sauté a bit of minced garlic and onions - in this instance I used only some green onion tops - then quickly add the shrimp and whatever sauce you're using. I used a level teaspoon of a slightly sweet and hot chili-garlic sauce from Vietnam that we like (its so hot that a little goes a long way!) Immediately turn of heat after adding the last two items so the shrimp won't overcook and turn rubbery.
Photo: Spicy Shrimp Stuffed Tostones can be served as appetizers or depending on how many you serve can be an entrée
Que les aproveche y buen apetito!
For info on the A'ea'e please see the links below: