10 May2012

Minatamis na saging (or saba/plantain bananas simmered in brown sugar syrup) is often served simply chilled or with some crushed ice and perhaps some milk or cream on the side. When it’s done right, it is simplicity at its best. Soft sweetened bananas that spell serious comfort food. At its worst, it is hard/tough and less than palatable. I have often been asked, and often wondered myself, what seems to cause these extremes in texture for such a seemingly simple dish with so few ingredients. The final push to experiment came when we recently ordered a dozen halo-halo’s from Razon’s and what arrived were plastic cups filled with the toughest, chewiest bananas I have ever had…

First the bananas. Definitely the saba variety for me, and ripe, but not overripe. That means most of the skins are yellow, but not soft and mushy. I suppose you could argue that if you used overripe bananas your chances of having a softer final product was likely. True, I tried, but only true it seems soon after they are cooked. So I returned to my ideal “just ripe” type of banana. First, I peeled several bananas, let them simmer in about 1/2-3/4 inch of water and flipped the bananas over to half-cook them before adding the sugar.

Next, I added lots of SUPERB dark muscovado sugar, for sweetness AND flavor. Most folks don’t realize this, but regular light and darker brown sugars in groceries are simply white sugar colored with molasses. Muscovado is different. It seems to me to be less sweet, but more importantly, more fragrant and flavorful. It possesses a darker, richer color as well. I also added a touch of vanilla essence. Let this simmer until the bananas are just done and let it cool. Some serve this at room temperature, others like to chill it first. These were delicious, but not necessarily as soft as I would have liked.

So I decided to take bananas from the same bunch, hence the exact same degree of ripeness, and boiled them first, with skins on for say 12 minutes or so. After that, I peeled the bananas and cooked them in a mixture of muscovado, water and a little vanilla essence and simmered this until the sauce was a nice consistency and the bananas soft.

This turned out beautifully, and noticeably more tender than the first version. I was pleased as punch, thought I had discovered something useful. Then I left samples from each batch in covered containers out on the kitchen counter overnight. Samples from each batch were also placed in the fridge overnight. The next day, the ones on the counter, both samples, were noticeably tougher — in particular, they had an almost dry chewy skin surface. The ones out of the fridge were downright hard and chewy, really unpleasant. It seems the sugar in the syrup draws whatever moisture remains in the banana as it sits in the sauce, whether out of the fridge or in the fridge. So if you are getting chewy bananas served to you, it’s a very good chance they were made a while ago… So, what are MM’s tips for nice tender minatamis na saging? Start with just ripe to quite ripe bananas, depending on your personal preference. Boil the bananas in their skins first before peeling and adding to a syrup of water and muscovado. Don’t make the syrup too thick, in other words, leave it with a higher water content. Make the bananas an hour or two before you wish to serve them. Don’t store them in the fridge. If you want them chilled, serve them with some crushed ice added just before serving. All of this, of course, assumes you don’t like your bananas cold, hard and chewy. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Maricel says:

    I skip the preboiling, I just mix together the bananas and sugar and then add enough water to cover the bananas and boil until it becomes syrupy.

    May 10, 2012 | 5:13 am

     
  2. kate says:

    Yup! It hardens when put in the fridge. I’m serving banana con hielo on the day that it was cooked. Not hard, with lots of ice and milk!

    May 10, 2012 | 5:30 am

     
  3. Danney says:

    I wish there are other ways to make the swetened bananas soft even when kept inside the fridge. Most of the time I buy the soft ones to ensure that they are easy to chew. My Nanay use dentures and she cannot chew the chilled sweetened bananas

    May 10, 2012 | 6:51 am

     
  4. sur says:

    ;-) shows you where my mind is at [the gutter, obviously...] when i read your headline after which i cracked up [and asked why would i be putting my bananas in the fridge?– a propos to the classic, “is that a banana in your pocket or are you excited to see me?” line…

    ‘kinalti’ i think is what we called these when i was growing up.

    May 10, 2012 | 7:04 am

     
  5. millet says:

    thank you for solving the puzzle for me, MM. i have stopped making minatamis na saging because they always ended up stone-hard. have always used muscovado, but will do with more water this time.

    i like to put pandan leaves instead of vanilla for flavoring. and sometimes i buy cooked sago pearls in the market, rinse them and add them to the syrup as it boils – the sago become translucent again and softer and chewier at the same time. great when we do saging con hielo.

    May 10, 2012 | 8:01 am

     
  6. PITS, MANILA says:

    I like the saba just a bit chewy. Never over-ripe. The ones in the ref are usually turon, and they can be served cold too. They’re makunat-kunat. I used to have problems with the bilo-bilo in ginataang halo-halo. I like the ginataan halo-halo cold during summer but the bilo-bilo end up really hard and unpleasant when cold. But, if you press and flatten the bilo-bilo before cooking, they don’t end up that hard before serving.

    May 10, 2012 | 8:28 am

     
  7. nessa says:

    My mother makes soft minatamis na saging. What she does is boil the chopped bananas in little water for say, 2 minutes. Add brown sugar then boil for about 10 minutes more. The consistency will be thick rather than watery.

    May 10, 2012 | 8:53 am

     
  8. bitoy says:

    dont forget the pandan leaves..

    May 10, 2012 | 9:40 am

     
  9. Ed B. says:

    Another thing we (my SO and I) noticed is that most of the saba for sale in supermarkets and palengkes in recent months are so underripe that it would take a good 2-3 weeks for them to ripen (forcibly). On our part, to ensure that saba stays soft, we simply buy overripe ones. Mushy enough to remain soft but not so mushy that they disintegrate in the sauce. Lastly, we agree with using muscovado sugar for minatamis as it imparts more flavor without being overly sweet.

    May 10, 2012 | 9:46 am

     
  10. Connie C says:

    Like rice, it is the starch in bananas that harden in the fridge. I notice however that good variety cooking bananas that are mature when picked and properly ripened don’t harden nearly as much in the fridge as is similarly observed with good variety rice. Heating on stovetop or in the microwave on low to medum temperature usually brings back its consistency .

    May 10, 2012 | 10:11 am

     
  11. connie says:

    This just really brings back childhood memories. Mom will make it with pandan leaves, let it cool and then topped with shaved ice and Alaska evaporated milk.

    May 10, 2012 | 10:58 am

     
  12. britelite says:

    great!very much appreaciated–now to hunt for the perfect banana!

    May 10, 2012 | 12:25 pm

     
  13. JE says:

    Just wanted to say that there’s been a noticeable drop in quality in those Razon’s halo-halos. It used to be that you’d get a simple and really good refreshment for the cost of 60 pesos or so, and now it’s 90+ pesos for the same thing. And the ingredients seem to have changed ever so slightly that it just doesn’t taste as great as it used to.

    May 10, 2012 | 12:49 pm

     
  14. millet says:

    JE, found out that the quality of Razon’s halohalo varies from branch to branch. they have only two branches here in davao city but the taste and the servings vary in a major way.

    May 10, 2012 | 10:16 pm

     
  15. Chi Castañeda says:

    I usually reheat the bananas for a few seconds in the microwave and they’re as good as new.

    May 11, 2012 | 3:33 am

     
  16. razonsfoodcorporation says:

    13. How has the quality differed from the years past? We still use the same ingredients and we do not cut back on quality We strive to provide the best products and services to our customers so we welcome feedback.

    14.The Davao branches are not part of Razons Food Corporation, owners and operators of Razon’s of Guagua. They don’t have the authentic recipe and our legal department is taking care of that issue. Please go to our website to find our branches. http://www.razonsofguagua.com

    May 11, 2012 | 9:10 am

     
  17. Berto and Kwala says:

    I never tried making saba con yelo so I wouldn’t know… but I just love it when they smell so good. So I agree with the other comments and use pandan leaves =)

    May 11, 2012 | 9:21 am

     
  18. Marketman says:

    razonsfoodcorporation, thank you for that explanation. I just checked your branch sites and you don’t have one in Cebu. I recently bought 12 halo-halo’s from your “Cebu” namesake on Mango avenue but they were not good. To say the least, the use of the name is confusing, as Razon’s and Razon’s of guagua seem quite similar… And since it uses a last name of a person, I guess that’s where problems can arise… The same confusion arises with Lapid’s chicharon… R. Lapid, Lapid’s and Lapid Original, etc. I guess the ultimate winner is the one who successfully lays claim to the brand name, and who has the best product. Family related business situations can be sticky… I hope all of these situations with multiple use last names are satisfactorily resolved, in the meantime, consumers suffer from the confusion.

    May 11, 2012 | 9:25 am

     
  19. Betchay says:

    Just got back from Hanoi :) and one time,we were served sweetened bananas for dessert. The banana variety was not saba but small ones similar to our senorita variety and they were cooked with their skins on! I think the caramel sauce they were cooked in had a pat of butter added as the sauce was glistening and had a rich taste.
    On the other hand, when we do cook our sweetened bananas, we use the slightly over ripe saba for tenderness as we don’t want our bananas tough so no need for pre-boiling. And instead of vanilla, we add Anise Seeds for that liquorice-minty taste.Try it MM.

    May 11, 2012 | 9:29 am

     
  20. juls says:

    hi MM, what our help does is to fry the ripe bananas first then take them out and place them on a plate. after which while still hot, liberally sprinkle muscuvado/brown sugar on top and cover them with another plate. Leave to cool. After 30 mins or so, the steam and the heat inside will melt the sugar and would soften the bananas making them decadent and indulgent.

    May 11, 2012 | 11:09 am

     
  21. Al says:

    Lagyan mo ng isang kalamansi na tinanggalan ng katas. Isama sa pagpapakulo ng saba. It will render your minatamis na saba na a refreshing flavor and aroma. I sometimes wash the pinigang kalamansi in water to get rid of the excess juice.

    May 12, 2012 | 1:02 pm

     
  22. Risa says:

    MM, was the site offline a few hours ago? A site from CLoud something came up

    A friend gifted me with caraway and now I wanted to make the homemade bacon you made.

    May 12, 2012 | 11:19 pm

     
  23. DW says:

    I get so hungry while making my bananas, that they rarely make it to the fridge. Maybe two or three, but not the whole pan.

    May 12, 2012 | 11:48 pm

     
  24. Betchay says:

    Unrelated, but just want to greet Mrs. MM HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! great job with the TEEN!

    May 13, 2012 | 9:43 am

     
  25. millet says:

    thanks for that clarification, razonsfoodcorporation. to the ordinary consumer, it is difficult to tell the difference.

    May 14, 2012 | 6:34 pm

     
  26. chinachix says:

    Hard to believe but it was only today that I made minatamis na saging and here in Toronto we have to make do with frozen pre-cooked (steamed) saba. Surprisingly the result was very soft bananas and it confirms your experience of a better dish if the bananas are already pre-cooked.

    I’m going to try again but this time use muscovado sugar instead of the brown sugar I had in the pantry.

    Oct 16, 2012 | 7:13 am

     
 

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