Burro bananas are NOT saba bananas. Nothing made this fact more obvious after boiling burro bananas. What I was looking for was the soft mushy texture and sweet flavor of boiled saba bananas; instead, I bit into a hard, starchy, and bland boiled burro banana.
Saba bananas are everywhere in the Philippines. California markets have them too, I think, but I’ve never been able to find them in Northern Virginia. At the Filipino store where I go, I once saw peeled, frozen saba bananas, but I’ve never seen fresh ones in any grocery store in all the U.S. cities and college towns I’ve lived in. For now, I probably am out of luck because the only varieties of cooking bananas that are available where I live (at least, the ones I know of) are plantains and burros.
Having said that, I do not doubt that there are many other uses for burro bananas, especially in Latin cooking. And I was able to find a use for it in Filipino cooking as well–sweetened bananas!
Traditionally, saba bananas are used to make sweetened bananas. Using burro bananas changes the taste and texture quite a bit, but not in bad way, because sweetened saba bananas can sometimes be too sweet and too mushy, while the blandness and meatiness of the of burro bananas provide a good balance to the sweetness of the syrup.
Other than using burro bananas, I made three other modifications to the traditional sweetened bananas recipe (the linked recipe lists vanilla extract as an ingredient, but my grandmother never used vanilla extract so this could be a modern variation). First, I pan-fried the banana slices in coconut oil to soften the bananas a little. Second, I used coco sugar instead of brown sugar, because coco sugar is the new “healthier alternative” to sugar (I bought my coco sugar in the Philippines when I went there, but I’ve seen it at Costco so I am guessing any health store would have it by now). And third, I squeezed half a lemon to the syrup, because I wanted to add a flavor other than pure sweetness.
Although I used burro bananas, I have no doubt plantains would be perfectly fine too. In fact, Filipinos in the United States typically use plantains in dishes that require saba bananas, though, as if I haven’t emphasized this enough, the flavor and texture are not the same.
Finally, I should note that sweetened bananas are great on vanilla ice cream, but can be enjoyed by itself for dessert. I hope you enjoy the recipe below.
- 5 burro bananas (plantains would work too)
- coconut oil
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup coco sugar
- half a lemon
1. Slice the bananas into bite sized pieces.
2. Pan-fry the bananas in coconut oil.
3. Boil the water and add the sugar. Mix.
4. Put the pan-fried bananas in the syrup. Squeeze the lemon and mix.
5. Let cook until desired softness of bananas is reached. Enjoy!