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14 May 2012

Tris di Banana

Show me a tris di dessert (trio of desserts) in a restaurant menu, and I will never say no to it.  I love having different kinds of small desserts in one plate.  Dessert is the most pleasurable part of a meal and a tris is synonymous to laying back and being indulged with a succession of sweet little dishes. A little taste of everything is better than having a lot of a single thing. 

It's Mother's Day and I wanted to revel in sweet treats.  I had my eyes set on my basket of Asian fresh produce in the kitchen.   Inside that gold mine were some yellow plaintain bananas that were ready to be cooked.  I missed the banana desserts (or afternoon snacks) I had been eating in the Philippines and wistfully thought of having them again.  After speaking with my aunt for a long time the other day, speaking about food and how to cook some local dishes, my yearning for the Philippine cuisine multiplied. 

These banana desserts all use cooking bananas.  I used the kind that is available here which is the plaintain.  The kind used in the Philippines for cooking is saba or cardaba, which is much sweeter and tastier.   If you have access to it, please use it and think that there's someone out here in Rome who is envious of you. 

Let's start with the sweetened bananas in syrup (or minatamis na saging in Filipino).  They are sliced bananas cooked in water, brown sugar and vanilla.   They are usually dressed with the syrup they are cooked in.  I like having them with a lot of ice especially on hot days.  It's a very refreshing dessert or afternoon snack.

The second one is the boiled bananas with butter and lime zest (or nilagang saging in Filipino).  They are simply boiled with the skin on and when peeled, accompanied with butter on top that melts with the heat of the bananas.   I wedged some lime zest in between the banana slices while they were still hot to give a delicate lime flavor and fragrance.  Boiled bananas are represented in a multitude of ways.  Growing up in my parents' house, we used butter or no condiments at all.  In my house, I introduced lime in addition to the butter.  Some families roll them on sugar, or honey or whatever their imagination takes them. 

The third one is the fried caramelized bananas with cinnamon (or banana cue in Filipino).  The bananas, whether sliced diagonally or left whole, are fried and rolled on hot caramel melting in hot oil then skewered in wooden sticks.  This is the most popular way of eating the bananas and the most delicious among the three.  Sprinkling cinnamon was my option. 

These banana desserts are all popular street food in the Philippines.  They can be found everywhere and eaten anywhere.   It is one way of enjoying the country's kitchen.  If a street vendor passes with a container of warm banana cues, I know I won't be able to resist going for a stick. 

So here are samples of how the Philippines interprets the cooking bananas.  I wanted this tris to be an eyeopener for my husband and kids and for you too.

Have a good week ahead and Happy Mother's Day to all the tired but happy mothers out there.

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Tris di Banana

Makes 2 serving plates
  • 3 plantain bananas or 6 saba or cardaba bananas (Plaintain bananas are usually bigger than saba bananas.  So I am gauging 1/2 plantain per person per recipe or 1 saba per person per recipe)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar + more for coating
  • zest of 1 lime
  • peanut oil or similar for frying
  • cinnamon powder
  • 2 knobs of butter
  • vanilla extract 

Fried Caramelized Bananas with Cinnamon

  1. Peel 1 plantain banana (or 2 saba bananas).  Cut away about 2 cm. of both ends and spots where there are discolorations.  
  2. Slice diagonal pieces.  
  3. Coat with brown sugar & cinnamon powder. 
  4. Deep fry in hot oil until golden brown.
  5. If you want the caramel to coat the bananas well, warm up some oil in a saucepan then add about 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  When the sugar melts and the oil is hot, roll the bananas on the caramel until they are all well coated.  Pierce them with wooden skewers or serve them on a plate. 

Sweetened Bananas in Syrup

  1. Peel 1 plantain banana (or 2 saba bananas).  Cut away about 2 cm. of both ends and spots where there are discolorations.
  2. Make round slices.
  3. Boil in 1 cup water and 1/2 cup brown sugar.
  4. When it boils, add a few drops of vanilla essence and the bananas.
  5. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the bananas are tender.
  6. Serve in a bowl or glass filled with ice.

Boiled Bananas with Butter & Lime Zest

  1. Boil a pot of water that's wide or tall enough to accommodate the bananas.
  2. When the water is boiling, put the unpeeled banana in the water.   Cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. Take away from the water and peel.  Cut away about 2 cm. from both ends.   Make round slices.
  4. Peel lime.  Cut them to uniform sizes.  Wedge one rind in between banana slices.  
  5. Place a knob of butter on top of warm banana.  Serve.