Filipino Pantry Staples; Banana Ketchup
by Allan Roman Reyes
I don’t claim to be a “ketchup aficionado“ or even think there’s such a title out there, but an early dinner at Max’sRestaurant got my mind going about a new career, “Condiment Sommelier”. OK, it wasn’t THAT dramatic, but the flavor of their “banana ketchup” was so memorable that I went a little bananas(get it?). Banana ketchup was created and formulated in the Philippines during World War II because of a tomato shortage. Ingredients consisted of local mashed banana, cane sugar, and native vinegar with “colorants” added to emulate the red pigment of traditional catsup.
The bottled island version is sweeter and goopy-er than than original. Most Filipinos are familiar with these giant brands, now turned pantry staples, of the BK world: UFC, Jufran, and Mafran. Enter the dragon: Max’s house-made banana ketchup. “Max’s” is a world-wide chain of eateries specializing in a Filipino favorite, fried chicken! I got my grub on at the SoCal location. The chicken was delicious, but the crimson dressing was the biggest surprise. It was mouth-watering and tangy. It was smooth in texture and robust in smoky flavor, yet delicately spiced. It was the perfect accompaniment.
I’m not knocking the manufacturing companies that produce this popular side by the thousands, but something feels lost in the process, namely, the banana. Next time you have an intense craving for Filipino food, try making your own. LOL. Or drive to Glendale, CA and try Max’s fried chicken and their house-made banana ketchup; it’ll be a new, yet familiar discovery And if you don’t like bananas, try it anyway, the chicken may change your mind.
RECIPE INSPIRATION PROVIDED BY: CHEFDRUCK.COM
- 15 Roma Tomatoes, sliced in half
- 10 ripe saba bananas
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
- 2 sweet Vidalia onions, minced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into small dice
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut into small dice
- 1 cup of cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of chipotle pepper powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel the bananas and Slice the Roma tomatoes in half and arrange face up on two cookie sheets. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Roast for 25 minutes. They should now be wrinkly but not burnt.
- Once the tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, puree them in batches in the food processor.
- In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on medium/high heat.
- Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the diced peppers and saute for an additional 3 minutes.
- Now add the brown sugar, chipotle, ancho, and cayenne peppers. Mix well and saute for another minute to meld the flavors together.
- Add the tomatoes and bananas and finally the cider vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium.
- Cook for 20 minutes, stirring periodically.
- Now remove the mixture and put it through a food mill to remove the pulp. There will be much liquid still trapped in the pulp after you finish with the food mill, so put the pulp in a fine mesh sieve and press it down with a spoon to get every bit of tomato essence. Once you’ve squeezed all the moisture out, reserve the tomato pulp for other uses such as omelette filling, quiche, sandwich toppings, or cracker toppings.
- Return the tomato liquid to the stockpot. Cook on low heat for 2-3 hours until reduced into a fourth or a fifth of the beginning, and nice and thick. It may be sad to see so much liquid disappear, but just think of it as getting exponentially more delicious as it shrinks.
- Once the ketchup is ready, pour it into cans and process it, or keep it in the fridge for a week to 10 days.