The Philippines may be a “Banana Republic” due to the political instability besetting our country. However, all the negativity aside, we are indeed a nation of bananas, for out of our fertile agricultural soils come hectares upon hectares of banana plantations. I remember back in my high school days a trio of Japanese girls singing “Banana Chips” song, and I said to myself, “Wow, our banana chips are truly world-class.” That song was a hit for many years, and so are our banana chips and other banana products until this day.
As a tribute to our humble, yet delicious saba bananas, we offer you the top 10 ways you can make and enjoy banana desserts. Ready, set, go bananas!
- Banana Chips
While you can make your own version of banana chips, save yourself the trouble and head to the nearest grocery or convenience store. Our banana chips are export quality and come in either clear plastic packaging or colored ones. Banana chips are made from unripe plantains, sliced thinly, fried, and coated with caramel. Pinasugbo or Consilva is another variation only that the caramel or molasses are so thick and sticky, you get a delicious lump of banana goodness, topped with toasted sesame.
- Boiled Banana
If you’re too lazy to do anything with the banana, it’s absolutely all right to eat it raw. Anyway, just dump them ripe bananas into a pot, add some water and let them cook through. Eat them alone or with fish bagoong. Not technically a dessert, but this is the simplest way to prepare plantains.
- Minatamis na Saging
Minatamis na saging or sweetened plantain is actually an upgraded version of the boiled bananas. To prepare, peel the saba bananas and boil with a little water and brown sugar. At the end of the cooking time, add some calamansi juice and perhaps a pinch of cinnamon powder. Serve warm with the cooking liquid as sauce.
Maruya also known as banana fritter is another quick and easy saba banana dessert you can make. There are two ways to make maruya – fanned or mashed. To make fanned banana fritter, start with either slicing thinly the banana but not slicing through at one end, spreading out each slice like a fan. Dip the fanned banana into your batter, fry until golden brown, and sprinkle with sugar before serving. To make mashed maruya, simply mash ripe bananas until smooth, blend in the batter, and drop scoops of the mixture into hot oil. Once the maruya is golden brown, remove from heat, drain excess oil, sprinkle with sugar or coat with caramel and serve.
You may not notice it, but halo-halo does contain several slices of candied plantains, giving the icy cold dessert a tangy taste and chewy texture. Halfway ripe saba bananas are the ideal ones for making candied plantains since they retain their shape and texture, and not become a mush when mixed in with halo-halo. If there’s cold halo-halo, there’s also warm or hot halo-halo. Chunks or slices of ripe saba bananas are added to ginataang halo-halo (warm dessert in coconut milk) in addition to a host of other starchy and sweet ingredients, including sweet potato, taro, yam, tapioca balls, rice flour balls, jackfruit slices, and landang.
- Saging con Yelo
The first time I tasted this dessert was back in 1998 in San Pablo, Laguna. Wow, I never realized bananas could be turned into such a delicious yet simple, cold dessert (I thought it could only be halo-halo). Warm candied bananas were poured into bowls of shaved ice blended with sugar, milk and tapioca pearls. Although the dessert didn’t have as many ingredients as the usual halo-halo, it tasted just as great because the banana was the star of the dish.
I like the scrumptious smell and simple taste of this banana dessert that when we went to Camiguin, I actually finished off three sticks (that’s 6 bananas total)! Anyway, ginanggang is actually charcoal-grilled bananas (low heat only to ensure the plantains cook through in the inside without the outside turning all black), skewered in bamboo sticks, brushed with margarine or butter and sprinkled with sugar. Imagine the crusty, grilled banana that’s soft and chewy in the inside, blended with aromatic butter as it melts due to the warm banana crust and blends with the sugar. Each bite is pure perfection for me!
To make banana turon, simply slice ripe saba bananas into halves. Layer one slice of the banana on a piece of lumpia wrapper, topped with slices of jackfruit or langka and toasted peanuts, and then the other slice of banana. Roll and fry in oil until crisp and golden brown. Coat with caramel sauce or sugar.
- Nilupak na Saging
If all you have are unripe saba bananas, and you can’t wait for them to ripen, go and make yourself some nilupak. Begin by boiling the bananas. Once cooked, peel and mash. The traditional way is using a wooden mortar and pestle (“lusong” and “alho”, see our article on crude household tools), but you can always use a potato masher or heavy duty processor. Mix with grated coconut and sugar. Mold into one-inch-thick discs and serve with additional sprinkles of grated coconut.
And last, but definitely not the least – the banana cue, one of the mainstays in every street food menu. Banana cue is deep fried saba banana smudged with thick caramel sauce or a sprinkle of sugar, and then skewered in bamboo sticks.
With a new president seated in Malacanang, we hope he’d keep his promise to facilitate the eradication of bad politics and corruption along with other social evils, which have turn our country into one hideous banana republic for many years. Pro-Du30 or not, we have to unite and support the leader this nation has chosen. Let’s toast for Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency and the Philippines bright future. Hopefully, through Duterte’s leadership, the Philippines will arise from its banana republic image, but remain a nation that loves bananas nonetheless.