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“Yuck! Where are the delicious little Filipino bananas.” My future wife complained as she held a bunch of the only fruit I had known as bananas with a look of disgust as if she were holding a two day dead decaying ‘possum. This happened in a super market in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA after I had brought Juliet to the USA on a fiancé’ visa this incident lead to a desperate futile search of Raleigh grocery stores including many Asian markets for delicious little Filipino bananas that I had never seen. My first visit to the Philippines had been brief and I did not remember these bananas. At some point my wife found frozen Saba bananas from Davao, Philippines that she microwaves. My wife refuses to eat the Cavendish bananas that are sold in grocery stores everywhere in the USA. In this article I am going to compare the USA Cavendish bananas against the Filipino Saba bananas in three categories: Non-dessert, Dessert and Raw.
Non-dessert: The Philippines offer a couple of non-dessert that I am familiar with banana lumpia and stew with bananas in it. I love lumpia and I love bananas, but for some reason when you put the two together what you get in my opinion is a greasy mess. The combination of banana and lumpia seems to be a waste of both banana and lumpia. The best I can say for banana lumpia is that it is edible. The stews I have eaten with bananas in it are good, but the addition of the banana does not for me do a lot for the taste of the stew although the banana is better used in this Filipino dish than in banana lumpia.
What does the USA have to offer in the non-dessert banana fray you might wonder? The answer is a beloved favorite from my youth the BMW, Banana and Miracle Whip sandwich. These sandwiches were a staple of my youth growing up in the Southern USA. Some like to use Dukes Mayonnaise for these delicious sandwiches, but either way the combination of bananas, mayonnaise and bread are hard to beat. Elvis Presley famously loved PBB&B, Peanut Butter Banana &Bacon sandwiches, but I must confess I do not remember eating one. I got more research I need to do, but simply based on the BMW Sandwich the USA has the Philippines beat easily in the non-dessert category.
Dessert: Bananas on a stick in caramelized sugar is one of the biggest treats I enjoy to eat in the Philippines. One of my wife’s aunts makes them in the barrio and sells them for as I remember about 5 pesos and they are heavenly. Fried bananas with or without sugar are another of my favorite Filipino dishes especially when there hot from the pan cooked over a fire. In the USA, we have banana pudding, which is a combination of bananas, banana pudding and vanilla wafers. I like bananas and vanilla wafers, but putting them in pudding for me creates a soggy mess, edible at best. A USA dessert that I actually enjoy is banana bread. My wife makes delicious bread and when it is hot it gives the Filipino desserts a run for the money. The banana on a stick in caramelized sugar is simply too delicious to be beat so Filipino bananas win the dessert category.
Raw: It is only fitting that the banana battle comes down to the raw flavor of the respective bananas. My wife has tried one bite of a Cavendish banana. She spit it out and made a face like she was going to vomit. This article is not about her opinion though and I like Cavendish bananas for their taste and texture. I eat them every day if they are available. I put them in my lunch bag when I go to work. Often I buy a Cavendish for a healthy alternative snack at a convenience store. I know a store where I can get one for $.50. The Cavendish is very convenient in that it is large enough where one is a good snack where as I need several Saba bananas to make a snack.
It does not look good for the small Filipino Saba bananas, but wait for it…Filipino bananas, much like Filipino ladies, are smaller but sweeter than their USA counterparts. I said I like the taste of Cavendish, but I absolutely love the taste of Saba bananas. When ripe on my last visit to the Philippines we harvested bananas from Mama’s yard and I think I inhaled 30 of these delicious Saba bananas and it spoiled my taste for dinner, but it was well worth it. I cannot wait for my next vacation and opportunity to eat these delicious bananas! I wonder how wonderful it would be to eat one of Elvis’ PBB&B sandwiches with Filipino peanut butter and Saba bananas. That one goes on my bucket list. If you haven’t eaten Saba Bananas, you really don’t know what you are missing!