While we’re more accustomed to eating bananas as part of a bread, cake, or muffin than as a condiment, certain indigenous bananas are mashed, processed, and transformed into a tasty dipping sauce for fried chicken in several regions of the world. According to Esquire, a local species of banana was transformed into a ketchup replacement about a century ago in the Philippines.
In restaurants and households where authentic Filipino food may be found, banana ketchup is a much-loved supporting actor. It has a distinct flavor that is sweet and vinegary, with minimal tomato undertones and is not at all banana-like. It’s been compared to Thai sweet chili sauce by some. Commercial banana ketchup is tarred in a brilliant, crimson orange tint that those who grew up with legendary Filipino fast food establishments like Jollibee or Max’s Restaurant will recognize all too well, according to the Seattle Times. Banana ketchup goes well with almost anything, from fried chicken and burgers to the famous Filipino sweet spaghetti, which, according to Food52, is cooked with a banana ketchup foundation rather than the conventional Italian tomato sauce.
Banana Ketchup Was Created With Bananas Grown in the Philippines
According to Specialty Produce, a food scientist named Maria Ylagan Orosa is responsible for the invention of the variety of banana known as saba or sweet plantain. She was born in the Philippines and graduated from the University of Washington in 1916 with degrees in pharmaceutical and food chemistry, according to Lady Science. Orosa appeared to learn as much in the field as she did in the classroom; she worked at a salmon cannery during some breaks to learn about industrial preservation and packaging, and she worked as an assistant chemist in the dean of the Pharmacy School’s food laboratory while she was at school.
Orosa subsequently returned to the Philippines and became a member of the country’s Bureau of Science, where she focused on hunger and food security. As a result, she began to experiment with various methods of food preservation in order to withstand the country’s tropical climate, such as canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and freezing. Her aim to highlight local ingredients, as well as a local tomato and ketchup shortage caused by World War II’s import complications, prompted her to find banana ketchup.
It has a sweet and complex flavor.
According to Esquire, Orosa combined saba bananas, brown sugar, vinegar, and spices to create the now-ubiquitous ingredient. Because the sauce didn’t look especially appetizing, it was decided to add red food coloring to make it resemble, at least visually, closer to its tomato-based ketchup equivalent. Orosa was assassinated in the Battle of Manila in 1945, leaving behind over 700 dishes that Lady Science calls “pillars of Filipino cuisine” today. What about the ketchup, though? One Magdalo V. Francisco is reported to have built a commercial version, which became the commercial success that it is today.
Serious Eats imagines banana ketchup as having more components than Orosa or Francisco would have come up with nearly a century ago. Onions, garlic, jalapeno, and a spice blend of ginger, turmeric, and allspice, as well as bananas, vinegar, tomato paste, soy sauce, and rum, are used to make this relative of the Filipino everyman condiment. The recipe is based on one created by Dr. BBQ, Ray Lampe, and we can only image how delicious it would be with your favorite.