Who in their right mind would ever turn down a freshly cooked banana-que? A delicious saba banana deep fried and coated with caramelized brown sugarâ€¦ gosh, this is Filipino comfort food at its best. There are few things as satisfying as sinking your teeth into a really well made banana-que which, for me, means starting with a plump (bus-ok) saba banana that is semi-ripe (too ripe and it gets limp after frying). There seems to be a surplus of saba bananas at the moment. The end of the hot summer and two months of rains usually results in saba bounty unless some typhoons mess with the trees. Saba bananas roadside in Batangas last week were just under a peso each on average if you bought a whole bunch (bulig in Cebuano). I like buying whole bunches just like I prefer to buy whole langka. A nice sized bunch can have as many as 80-90 fruit. Roadside prices were far cheaper than the ridiculous PHP2.50 they charge in manila markets and groceries.
But first, let me digress. Why is this dessert/snack/delicacy called banana-que anyhow??? Strips of pork skewered on a stick is commonly referred to as â€œpork barbecueâ€ in the Philippines. â€œBarbecueâ€ as a method of cooking actually more aptly refers to slow cooked meats such as baby back ribs, pork or beef roasts, etc. that are marinated in sauces or slathered with a thick gooey mixture of spices, sugar, tomatoes, etc. Visions of real barbecue suggest meat just falling off the bone as it is so tender and so slowly and lovingly cooked. Meat, fish or vegetable/fruit that is cooked over coals is usually referred to as being â€œgrilledâ€ â€“ hence grilled fish and NOT barbecued fish or grilled hamburgers and NOT barbecued hamburgers. So why is this called banana-que or kamote-que for that matter? Particularly when the banana never even comes close to a hot coal as it is deep fried??? Is it because it looks like it is impaled on a billiard cue stick? Does anyone really know, should I care? Heehee.
At any rate, to cook take some semi-ripe fat saba bananas and peel them. Heat up a pan with vegetable oil enough to cover the bananas. Pour in some dark brown sugar to melt and fry the bananas, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. If you like, roll the semi-cooked bananas in more brown sugar and return to the fat to finish off. Serve hot to warm. The banana and dark caramelized sugar combination is superb. Warning to those with false teethâ€¦you could lose them on the cooler, stickier versions of this delicacy. This seemed so close to a caramelized apple that I reached into the fridge, chopped up a fuji apple, coated it in brown sugar and deep fried it till it turned a little golden. It was good (photo here) but nowhere near as yummy as the saba banana! If you want to go over the top, slice bananas and put on a plate and top with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream!