07 Dec2006

Boiled Saba Bananas

by Marketman


There is perhaps nothing simpler to make and more satisfying to eat… This must be another one of those childhood memory driven tastes that I simply cannot escape. There is something about a boiled saba banana that is so very basic and satisfying… the heft, texture, aroma and taste is something that I look for at least half a dozen times a year. And there is also something incredibly practical about being able to cook it and just leave it on the kitchen counter until some hungry soul walks by and peels one for immediate consumption. I don’t even bother with a plate, fork and knife…I just eat it peeled. I am, however, quite particular about my boiled saba…they can’t be too unripe or too ripe. I like them just as they are ripening and are still firm but already flavorful. Too ripe makes for a mushy eat.

To be honest, I have never made boiled saba bananas before so I don’t even sab2know how to tell when they are already cooked…I suspect they are rather forgiving if you overcook them a bit. I did once grill a saba banana and that tasted great as well…but boiled bananas are far more practical. My parents used to eat a lot of boiled bananas, so I’m not sure if it’s a Visayan thing, or if it is equally enjoyed across the country. When I lived abroad, I went several years without a boiled saba banana, but now that I am back home it is readily available…



  1. Essa says:

    Marketman, this boiled saba goes so well with that fish sauce ginamus with a slice of lemon. Anyone here ever tried this? I wasn’t able to find it in Manila. I think it might be Visayan. Ginamus is akin to Balayan bagoong, but the fish is still relatively intact. The combination has left an indelible mark on my memories of childhood afternoons.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 3:25 am


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  3. Maria Clara says:

    There is nothing more filling and satisfying than boiled saba bananas. Saba is the only variety of bananas that I like boiled. Other bananas do not even come close to Saba. They are just a waste of calories. Looking and feeling them you can tell if they ready to hit the stove. Usually they have a bright yellow unblemished skin and they are soft but not mushy. They are good for merienda plain as is or for an extra twist with dulce de leche on the side for dipping. I do not know either how to tell when they are ready what I do -I fish out one and open it if it’s ready or not.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 3:54 am

  4. pinky says:

    Boiled saba, fried and dipped is sugar, bananaque, maruya, turon or in bilo bilo concoction I like saba bananas. I even like them uncooked as long as they are on the soft side.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 4:21 am

  5. HD says:

    Yum, simple but yummy. I like mushy saba.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 4:33 am

  6. kaye says:

    this also reminds me of trips to the provinces before or to some old church during bisita iglesia.. like it paired with hot tsokolate!

    Dec 7, 2006 | 5:47 am

  7. Chinachix says:

    MM, Boiled saba is quite the comfort food…and plantains that are available in the supermarkets here don’t even come as close! Loved the texture of your photo…one can almost taste the sweetness of it!

    Dec 7, 2006 | 6:17 am

  8. Frayed says:

    My oldest friends and I still meet – we are a bunch of 6 girls who have known each other from school since ’77 (we were kids then). We were always bound by a love for food. We would rather pig out and have great meals (we called them Sabsabans) than go out with boys. The saba banana was one of our greatest loves. We used to buy it on the highways from our school bus.

    A few months ago, we had it with our meal on the side. When I bit into one, they laughed that I described it so sensually. We didn’t know of anyone other than ourselves who could get so much pleasure out of a simple boiled saba. Most people just eat it. Funny that you should write about it :-)

    Dec 7, 2006 | 6:53 am

  9. stef says:

    Waaah, this post just about made me cry. My mom and lolo always made boiled saba, and one of my lolo’s favorite easy desserts was minatamis na saba. I miss my lolo and I miss saba! ‘Yung pekeng saba dito nowhere near the taste. Minsan nakakatapat especially when we were in Texas but very rarely:(

    Dec 7, 2006 | 7:29 am

  10. millet says:

    I know most Bisaya love boiled half-ripe saba bananas dipped in guinamos and a little mantika (cooking oil). Some add crushed sili and calamansi. I never liked it, though. What I like is ginanggang, peeled saba roasted over charcoal, slathered with margarine and sprinkled with sugar. My Waray in-laws always preferred to have boiled camote, gabi and saba as accompaniments to lechon.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 8:25 am

  11. Jaja says:

    I agree with millet. I’m not a big fan of the saba dipped in guinamos. I remember buying those barbequed saba bananas way back in grade school. That was my staple merienda fare before going home. And I always ask for an extra sprinkling of sugar=)Boiled saba is also a staple merienda in our house since we always have excess bananas from our farm.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 8:56 am

  12. lee says:

    whoa dragons! I was frying sliced saba bananas for merienda last tuesday using the same pan where I fried to a crisp thin slices of spam clones (brookdale luncheon meat something)leaving a salty bite on the browned bananas. I love saba bananas but i terribly hate the small señoritas and the big green pungent banana monsters.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 9:25 am

  13. kathygirl says:

    My parents are Visaya and also loved saba bananas. Growing up, we’d come home from school to boiled saba,fried saba, bananacue, turon and fritters. Like you MM, I wonder too if this is a Visaya thing or is common all throughout the country :)

    Dec 7, 2006 | 10:06 am

  14. xiao li says:

    This is one of the most favorite things I miss a lot!

    Dec 7, 2006 | 10:19 am

  15. lojet says:

    Anybody ate them boiled then pounded in a mortar mixed with grated coconut and brown sugar? They are then shaped into balls and eaten. It is called linusak. I would also eat it with ginamos but without the coconut and sugar. I wonder if they still eat them like that.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 10:30 am

  16. ykmd says:

    Lojet, we used to eat linusak (so that’s what it’s called, I’d quite forgotten) which my lola would make for afternoon merienda in her big wooden mortar. But I miss boiled saba with ginamos and lemonsito the most! I’ve found saba here (it’s labeled “Philippine cooking banana”) which I usually end up frying in slices since my kids like it most prepared that way.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 10:53 am

  17. toping says:

    Boiled unripe saba and fried ginamus with lots of tomatoes and onions. Mouth-watering!

    Dec 7, 2006 | 11:23 am

  18. angela says:

    marketman, have you tried inihaw na saba? it tastes even better.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 12:28 pm

  19. Laura says:

    Unfortunately I couldn’t get saba where we are, I miss it… plantains are still not the same…thanks for reminding me of how simple and healthy snacks used to be when I was a kid, before fast food invaded our culture :)

    Dec 7, 2006 | 1:16 pm

  20. gonzo says:

    saba with ginamos! never heard of it before but i’m willing to try this groovy combo.

    i too love saba, and as someone already posted, the plantains available in the West are a poor substitute. walang lasa, but i guess that’s the point. Latin americans make ‘patacones’ or crisp fried plantain slices eaten more as a savoury, not as a fruit. i’ve had them, they’re not bad but i guess it’s really what you grow up with.

    and the best news is that bananas– any type– are fantastic for your health.

    I do hate those big perfect-looking ones that they sell in america, though. they taste…cotton-y.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 2:43 pm

  21. marga says:

    HI MM! I know of 2 persons who eat Saba for breakfast, lunch and dinner and nothing else as their Diet food. They don’t look anorexic though. Maybe it’s because of the potassium that is in the banana. It’s virtually fat free cuz they boiled them. Ate them without sugar too. Saba is also very filling.

    Dec 7, 2006 | 6:55 pm

  22. ginkee reyes says:

    Yeah i agree with marga that boiled saba is very filling. If you dont want to boil saba, you can peel it then put them on top of an almost cooked rice, just leave them there so the saba can be cooked a little more. saba is also good when included in “nilaga” dishes. hav u tried them?

    Dec 7, 2006 | 9:21 pm

  23. perkycinderella says:

    In Bacolod, we cook it in many ways…boiled, fried, fritters, pinsugbo or boiled it and dipped in ginamos with kalamansi – the taste is heavenly!

    Dec 7, 2006 | 11:17 pm

  24. trishlovesbread says:

    Hmmm…the “boiled saba diet.” Guess that wouldn’t work for me as I enjoy mine with a generous pat of butter. :-)

    Dec 8, 2006 | 1:15 am

  25. Mila says:

    No one seems to have posted it yet, but hav you ever tried eating boiled saba with cheese? It’s really good. The saba serves or substitutes as the starch, sort of bland, but it backs up the saltiness of the cheese. Same sort of idea with the saba/ginomis or fried in oil of spam.

    Does anyone know if saba is a plantain or vice versa? I’ve seen plantains in the Caribbean, they don’t look like our sabas, but they’re both boiled/cooked forms of bananas. I may even be using the wrong term by calling them cooking bananas. Thanks!

    Just reminded me that we had a great cocido recently with saba in it.

    Dec 8, 2006 | 11:23 am

  26. sasha says:

    Aw Marketman, you’ve brought back some memories with this post that’s for sure!! I loved minatamis na saba as someone else previously mentioned, and as a kid used to pair it with vanilla or butterscotch ice cream…YUM! :-)

    Dec 8, 2006 | 3:03 pm

  27. tulip says:

    Mila, “Saba” is a kind of plantain, moreover it is better called in Botany as Philippine plantain. Actually, a lot of people doesn’t know how to refer plantain and probably doesn’t really know what it means and differ from regular bananas. I believe some are trying to propagate “Saba” in North America and Hawaii, and I wonder how it will turn out. There are about 100s of variety of bananas and some of these are categorically called plantains. Oh well, even those marketing it doesn’t know how to call the produce properly, que horror!

    Dec 8, 2006 | 3:05 pm

  28. Rina says:

    For some reason, I always like my saba over-riped! May it be boiled, fried, caramelized, or in a turon!
    When we go mountain biking or just hiking, we always bring a boiled saba in our packs, and we have it for merienda. Yumm!

    Dec 8, 2006 | 5:14 pm

  29. Marketman says:

    According to Alan Davidson, plantains are the name given to bananas that are only suitable to cooking. They are not botanically distinct from other bananas…

    Dec 8, 2006 | 5:19 pm

  30. tulip says:

    Marketman, with the name, there comes a wide explanation to it e.g. taste, composition but that is another story! Goin’ bananas over bananas ppfft! Marketman, if you ever resume your diet after the holidays, those saba will be enough-highest source of enzyme and filling too. And one question though, I saw some red looking plantains in some markets and seen it more frequently in provinces, are those also “saba”?

    Dec 8, 2006 | 6:02 pm

  31. choy says:

    saging na saba is indeed comfort food. in the waray region, we even have it as “ulam” paired with fried fish or pork or bistek tagalog.

    boiled saba with guinamos is still a favored pulutan by my visayan drinking buddies. we normally use the slightly unripe ones for this.


    Dec 8, 2006 | 6:14 pm

  32. gonzo says:

    whew MM, i wish your site had grammar check (like spellcheck) for your posters. Would make the cringe factor a bit less, well, cringey..

    Dec 8, 2006 | 9:07 pm

  33. Marketman says:

    Sorry Gonzo, one of the things we all have to accept with the wide array of readers…and better everyone feels like participating than not. And I, for one, have pretty appalling grammar and spelling skills as well…

    Dec 8, 2006 | 9:19 pm

  34. Bay_leaf says:

    hi, MM, haven’t been here in a while, too busy, but seeing these boiled bananas today made me really homesick especially as it’s cold and dark outside! :(
    I’d love one right now—comfort food, indeed!

    and the almost ripe boiled version with matching ginamos squeezed with biasong and siling labuyo…pagkalami!!!!

    Dec 8, 2006 | 11:13 pm

  35. kaye says:

    i also love these saba bananas in nilaga.. it gives it a sweet taste in addition to the sweetness the camote gives.. haay! love to slurp the broth on a rainy day..

    Dec 9, 2006 | 12:34 am

  36. sha says:

    I missed this post… where I was growing up in Cebu whenever we go to the beach we always have saging and gianamos together….

    Jan 21, 2007 | 7:31 pm

  37. Langga says:

    Boiled saba is terrific with ginamus or bagoong especially if the saba was boiled when it is not too unripe and not ripe also. Saba banana is one of my all-time favorite snacks,beats sandwiches anytime of day :-)

    Jul 24, 2007 | 5:04 pm

  38. agnesdv says:

    Here in the Waray region, boiled sab-a bananas are commonly eaten with lawlaw (our white ginamos version). I prefer to eat it with (real) butter while the banana is still hot. We eat lupak (linusak) only mostly after typhoons, to make use of the fallen unripe bananas that are not ready to eat/cook yet. Oh, and to know if it’s already cooked, test it with a fork (like you do with a cake). If part of the banana sticks to the fork, then it’s still not done. ps I could be wrong, but that picture doesn’t look like a sab-a. Just making sure.. haha.

    Feb 3, 2008 | 6:22 pm

  39. Rey says:

    My wife knows how to make a very good ginamus that is why i decided to make a sideline selling clean homemde ginamus if you want to order just give me an email.

    Mar 7, 2009 | 4:07 pm


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