The Happy Home Cook: Minatamis na Saging (Sweetened Saba Bananas)

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 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

Bananas grow everywhere in the Philippines. On the streets, in backyards, at commercial spaces, and of course at banana farms and plantations. Banana trees to the Philippines are what lemon trees are to California. I guess that’s why the Philippines is one of the main global exporters of bananas. Because of this accessibility, Filipinos could easily enjoy all kinds of bananas. For example, we have lakatan (the bananas we’re all familiar with), señorita (super short yet plump, finger-like shaped bananas), latundan (a cross between lakatan and senorita), and saba (thick, large, and hearty bananas). Each one has its own unique characteristic but only one kind is used to make Sweetened Bananas or Minatamis na Saging.
 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

Easy to Make, Easy to Love

So what exactly is Minatamis na Saging? For one, it’s traditionally vegan Filipino! It’s made ofsaba bananas and a sweet sauce/syrup called arnibal. Filipinos usually enjoy it as snack. Sometimes, Filipinos add milk and shaved ice to make it a cold treat, also known as Saba Con Yelo. Filipinos make sweetened saba bananas at home all the time; it’s more of a beloved homemade dish than a restaurant special. That’s the case most likely because making it at home is super easy. It takes only few ingredients -3 to be exact, but you could add vanilla extract if you’re feeling fancy. Just combine everything, simmer down the sweet sauce, and you’re done.

But What Does It Tastes Like?

I assumed you’ve eaten a banana before. If you have (please tell me you have!), then imagine its natural sweetness, but with a hearty texture, complimented with caramel and interestingly apple-like notes. You could enjoy Minatamis na Saging as is, or upgraded with shaved ice and non-dairy milk.  But feel free to take it a step further and add it to your Halo-halo drink, or enjoy it with ice cream (I recommend vanilla cashew milk ice cream).

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

If you want something hot or warm instead, (here in San Francisco it gets foggy even in the middle of summer!), then feel free to enjoy Minatamis na Saging out of the pot, while it’s still hot. You could top the sweetened bananas on soups like oatmeal. You could also put it in another traditionally vegan Filipino dish called Ginataang halo-halo. And that’s just the beginning! I’m sure you could come up with more creative ideas as you get more familiar with sweetened saba bananas.

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

Childhood Memories

I remember every Sunday, my family and I would visit my dad’s side of the family (most of my dads’s relatives used to live in one large compound). I’d open my auntie’s fridge and get excited when I spot Minatamis na Saging. My auntie would insist that she made it for everybody and that I’m more than welcome to grab some for myself. My cousins would eventually find out about the sweetened bananas in the fridge. Minatamis na Saging never fails to delight me, then and now.

MINATAMIS NA SAGING (AND SABA CON YELO)

Go bananas over Minatamis na Saging or Sweetened Saba Bananas. They're sweet, hearty, and satisfying, perfect as dessert or snack. Kain na, let's eat!

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 1½ cup water
  • ½ cup organic brown sugar (in the US, non-organic brown sugar is not vegan)
  • 2 ripe saba bananas, peeled and thinly sliced (cut size doesn't need to be precise).
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

For Saba Con Yelo:

  • non-dairy milk
  • shaved ice

Instructions

In a small pot, combine water, sugar, and salt.

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

Heat pot over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

Add bananas, cover the pot, and simmer for 45 minutes (the syrup won't really be thick and syrupy but will definitely be thick-er).

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

Turn off heat and serve hot, warm, or chilled. 

Saba Con Yelo

Place your preferred number of saba pieces in a glass (I usually like to put 4-6 pieces but it really doesn't matter how many).

Top with shaved ice. You could make homemade shaved ice by getting an ice shaver. You could get one at Asian grocery stores (see notes below).

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

Pour non-dairy milk, leaving some room for the shaved ice (I usually like to put about ¼ cup of non-dairy milk but it really doesn't matter how much milk as long as you leave some room for it in your glass)

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

Serve immediately.

NOTES

If you live outside the Philippines, you could still have access to saba bananas. Just check your neighborhood Asian grocery stores and Filipino grocery stores, specifically at the produce section. Here in the Bay Area, they're not that expensive. Choose saba bananas that are soft and tender (but not mushy) when pinched. You could also use plantains as an alternative.

Aside from vanilla extract, you could also add nutmeg and/or cinnamon.

In the US, non-organic brown sugar is not vegan because it uses animal bone char in its refining process.

You could make homemade shaved ice by getting an ice shaver. You could get one at Asian grocery stores. It looks like this:

 Photo by Astig Vegan

Photo by Astig Vegan

If you prefer to watch the video recipe, here’s the YouTube version:


More recipes from Richgail Enriquez