We have very cute little cafe in town which is fairly new..... a little over a year now, I think. It is called Cafe Africa and as you may have already guessed, it's menu is Africa inspired. When I go there, I order a bowl of African Borshch, and a side of fried plantain which they serve up with a side of sour cream. The Borshch is a regular item, and contains the usual vegetable components, minus the beets (which is kind of weird...but what ever), and has a little more spice in it. Next time I'll pay closer attention to the flavour, but it's on the very slightest sweet side of things and maybe a bit of cardamom, coriander, cumin type blend. In any case, it's darned good and filling with all the potato in it too. I also liked the fried plantain which I had never tried before. After reading up a bit on the internet about the different ways to prepare it, I found that the restaurant was preparing ripe (yellow with black spots) plantains as opposed to the green ones. The plantains can be prepared at any stage of ripeness, but as with a banana, the plantain become sweeter and more 'banana' flavoured as it ripens. They also apparently become easier and easier to peel as they ripen as well. The ones I tried in the restaurant were mildly sweet with a hint of banana flavour, so I allowed the green plantains I purchased at my neighbourhood grocery store to ripen to the yellow with black spots stage, before preparing them. This took about 3-4 days. Once ripe enough, I peeled and cut them into 1/4 inch slices and fried them in oil until golden, about 3 minutes, turning 1/2 through the cooking time. Here is the recipe I tried. I enjoyed them with the sour cream, and thought they would have been good too with an Ancho Chipotle Ranch dressing like some restaurants are serving yam fries with now. I'll try that next time. I discovered in my internet search, that when the plantain are green, you can also fry them, but as they are firmer and less ripe at that time they would be less sweet. At this green stage, the deep fried plantain is called a 'tostone', and it requires an initial quick fry, to make them a bit golden, followed by removal from the oil, a quick squishing to make them thinner (you start out with a thicker cut with these ones too), and another minute or two back in the hot oil to complete the cooking. All of this of course, followed by draining on paper towels to absorb the excess grease. There are hundreds of tostone recipes available on the internet, so I won't reinvent the the wheel for you here. It sounds like the tostones are a little more savoury, less sweet, and a bit more crisp than the fried sweet plantain I've tried.
While I realize I am blathering on her....one last comment on the banana family. Have you ever tried Jufran Banana Ketchup? I was introduced to it 20 years ago by a Philippino girl friend. Her family used it instead of tomato ketchup. It comes in a regular and a spicy variety. My preference is the spicy, but today I bought regular thinking it the better choice for my 6 year old. They sell it here in town in Superstore in imported foods section along with other Philippino products and I think in the Chinese food store too. It's a good thing........you should try it!