Banana-que / Deep Fried Bananas with Caramelized Sugar

Who in their right mind would ever turn down a freshly cooked banana-que? abq1A delicious saba banana deep fried and coated with caramelized brown sugar… 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 “pork barbecue” in the Philippines. abq2“Barbecue” 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 “grilled” – 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. abq3Heat 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 teeth…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!


37 Responses

  1. Lord, lord, lord. Marketman — you could have entitled this one as “Banana Glam” or “Saba Chic” and it would have been mighty fine. What can I say? Bananacue has never looked so prim and proper. And boy, my stomach growled the minute I opened your site! I am such a fan of sweetened saba — as turon, with sago and shaved ice and now, bananacue! I’m particular about the ripeness of the banana though. I abhor it when it’s opaque in color and chalky in texture. I like it ripe and bursting with sweetness. And yes, vanilla ice cream would make a wickedly delightful touch to bananacue (or Haagen-Dazs macadamia nut brittle!). Now that’s worth an ass-busting work-out! Thanks, Marketman! Dedicate a stick for me!

  2. Skewered saba cooked over coals (then brushed with margarine & rolled in sugar) is called ginanggang in Davao. yum! Even if it’s charred black in some parts *:)

    I still can’t eat street food (or snacks) in manila.

  3. One of the things I passed on to my nephews is my love of banana-que. I love bananas in general, but banana-que takes the cake for me. I also like banana crepes. Sweet, succulent, hot, and oh…nagugutom nako. And yes, the vanilla ice cream will top it off all too nicely.

  4. Can’t get saba bananas where I live but i settle for those big bananas that come from African countries they call plantain. They’re not as good but pwede na. We have asian stores here that sell langkas, durian, those small bananas we call senorita, but saba. Thanks for the recipe. Will try it this weekend.

  5. I’ll tell you why it’s called banana-que. You are right about the distinction between grilling and barbecuing. However, the distinction only came later in history (blame it on Southern and Midwestern Americans). There is such a thing as semantic change so one word can change meanings as much as usage requires (like “fat” originally meant “healthy”, no kidding). These days barbecue refers to a method of cooking. The original word from whence it came was also referred to a method of having meat on a stick and putting it close to a fire but NOT to cook it actually, but to dry it. The real question is, why relate banana-que to barbeque when the bananas are actually fried. Well, Filipinos just coined the term on the basis of PARTIAL similarity — they’re both on a stick. This is called motivated root creation, same method of coinage used by Tolkien when he created the tern “hobbit”. He got it from rabbit, which is also short and hairy. This said, let not the magic of banana que be lost cause it’s still a darn treat!

  6. Chris!!! Good grief, someone more anal about food than I ever will be! Heeheehee… thanks for that wonderful explanation! I think the stick was simply added because holding or wrapping a caramel dipped fruit or root crop is messy and potentially painful (think caramel burns)! So just like a caramel apple which is traditionally served on a stick, banana-que and kamote-que is likewise skewered on a stick for ease of serving and eating…

    Chrissy, skewered bananas on an open fire…I have learned something new today! Sounds interesting.

  7. I feel homesick again for banana-cue. At home in Obando, we are near the school so we can easily buy it during snack time or after school. During school holidays, you get woken up in your siesta with the shouts of “banana cue”, it’s a long shout intended to wake you up and catch your attention.

    Here in Wellington, when we have our bonfire near the beach the Kiwi’s would wrap a pealed banana (Dole variety, not saba here) in foil and put it some chocolate buttons (like coins). The chocolate would melt around the banana. Just be careful that you don’t bite it when the chocolate is still boiling hot.

  8. marketman,
    i guess you’re officially off your south forbes diet. unless your caramelized splenda or equal go with your misnomered “banana-que.” i digress again but in case one does caramelize aspartame or any pseudo-sugar for that matter, would it be carcinogenic? or just outright nasty-tasting? i know it would be wisest to try it out myself but i don’t have the access to a kalan or kaldero where i dorm (thus, i usually only end up salivating but never satiating my cravings when i visit your site). cafeteria food and the misnomer-ed banana-ques they serve there suck, but at least they keep me from starving.

  9. Blew my South Forbes Diet a few days ago on a trip to Singapore, haven’t yet returned to no carbs…figured if I let loose I might as well make it a whole 10 days… I have no idea how splenda would caramelize but I don’t think it would be pretty. I, too, am willing to wait for someone else to try it. I lost 7 pounds in about 8 days and have gained back 5 pounds in six days of unbridled gluttony…hmmm, maybe I should just die fat.

  10. Banana-que is a great love of mine, too. A week should not go without my eating it. I either cook it myself or i go down the hills where I live to buy a stick from the banana-q vendor below.

    I also cook turon. I don’t like to buy it from anyone. I love it freshly cooked, crispy on the outside, hot, sweet and bursting with langka aroma from inside. Yum yum.

  11. Yo Marketman, I don’t think I can be as anal about food as you are. I just happen to be a Linguistics major back in college and I love etymology! Anyway, my mom said back in Cebu, they did something like a banana que but they used breadfruit. She said she likes it better. They also used breadfruit to make pinasugbo.

  12. I had really good caramelized bananas (not saba) in Zamboanga and Jolo last December. They use native, small bananas that are so naturally sweet; the caramelized sugar just heightens it. The texture is soft, chewy. I ate a whole plate of these without realizing it because their smaller than the bananacue here so you don’t realize how much you’ve eaten until you can’t find another banana. Goes great with black strong coffee.

  13. Just looking at the pictures of bananaque made me drool. So I immediately asked our driver to buy a few sticks for me and for the rest of the household. As I type this message…I wait in anticipation for my order to arrive. Hehe. Great website, by the way! You should join our yahoogroup called Pinoy Frugal Foodie. :-)

  14. I tried making bananaque once and it was a mortifying experience. I thought I was going to end up frying my eyeballs out with the hot oil and caramel splattering all over my face…and all over the place :P I guess the oil was too hot, eh? Hehehe. I also used ordinary bananas (lacatan) because I didn’t have any saba bananas on hand and they ended being a big, mushy mess. Delicious…but mushy. And greasy.

  15. a traditional a-la pobre version exists much like ginanggang of davao fame. it’s simply called binangé (pronounced bee-nuh-ngé). Cooked over coconut charcoals and not to be charred. This will dry the outer layer of the banana and sweeten the insides a bit more. No margarine, no sugar, take it ala carte.

    The word binangé I think refers more to the manner of cooking than the banana cooked this way. The same is done to corn.

  16. i don’t know how i could have missed an entire week’s worth of posts, but am catching up just now. didn’t realize “ginanggang” was the term for the childhood favorite that we learned from our household staff..half-ripe bananas on barbecue sticks roasted over charcoal, then slathered with margarine (not butter) and sugar..sarap! is it just a davao thing? i don’t think i have seen it outside of davao and south cotabato…

  17. Millet, I haven’t had the version you describe…perhaps it is a Davao thing…judging from the comment prior to yours by jdavies as well…

  18. The trick I haven’t yet mastered is getting the sugar to STAY on the banana so that it’s nice and smooth — so much of it falls off and either sticks to the bottom of the pan or floats to the top, and I’m left with a patchy banana. What’s the secret?

  19. Andrea, put sugar in the fat first and let that melt, then slowly swirl the bananas in that mixture, then when half-cooked roll the banana in more brown sugar and gently return to hot fat and finish off that way… seems to work most of the time…but I know what you mean by patchy bananas. Also, bananas must be dry when you start…

  20. fave merienda! :) readily available sa jolly jeeps near the office.. 10 pesos per stick (2 pcs. saba) :) yummy!

  21. Went to the philippines last year and tried this one type of bananaque. It was topped off with something that was light brownish and a little crunchy. It didn’t look like sugar. It was really good. Wished I knew what it was. It tasted really good.

  22. hey guys,

    Banana-que…. Turon all of these are my absolute favourite indulgences.
    Yet living in Australia has made it a bit of a hassel to make…
    but when i do… try using condesed milk for first frying and then brown sugar… the end result….


    thanks marketman….

  23. My family and I was watching bizzare food on either the travel channel or discovery. We were watching a special about the Philippines and the many different food the country had. My husband told me that I should get the recipe for the fried banana that they showed on television so I went to your site and got it. My family loves it!!!!! Thank you.



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