A lot of people do not know or have never seen a banana flower. I was pretty stunned too the first time I saw one. Come to find out that they are eatable too.
The deep purplish-crimson-coloured banana flower is used as a vegetable from Sri Lanka to Laos. The flower is borne at the end of the stem. Long, slender, sterile male flowers with a faint sweet fragrance are lined up in tidy rows and protected by large reddish bracts. Higher up the stem are groups of female flowers which develop into fruit without fertilisation.
In Thailand, slices of tender banana flower are eaten raw with the pungent dip known as nam prik, or with fried noodles, or simmered in a hot sour soup with chicken, galangal and coconut milk. In the Philippines, banana blossom is added to the famous kari-kari, a rich beef stew. 'Banana blossom' or 'banana heart' are the favoured names in the Philippines and 'banana heart' in Indonesia purely because its colour and shape suggest a heart; (nothing to do with the 'heart' of the trunk used in Burma). In Sri Lanka, it is simply 'plantain flower'. In Australia it is known as 'banana bell'.
Purchasing and storing: Buy flowers which look fresh and bright. Often they are wrapped in transparent plastic, which keeps them from drying out too quickly. If they must be kept for a few days leave them in the wrapping and store in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator.
Preparation: To prepare the flower for cooking, remove and discard outer bracts until the inner, paler portion is revealed. Some recipes advise steaming the whole blossom for 20 minutes or so before cutting into it. This may also be done in the microwave oven in a much shorter time by first putting the blossom on a dish and covering it with microwave-proof plastic wrap. Allow to cool before slicing.