You could find banana trees everywhere in the Philippines. They’re on the streets, backyards, 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 widespread availability, Filipinos get enjoy a variety of this fruit. For example, we have lakatan (the bananas we’re all familiar with), senorita (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.
Easy to make, Easy to love
So what exactly is Minatamis na Saging? For one, it’s traditionally vegan Filipino! It’s made of saba bananas and a sweet syrup called arnibal. Filipinos usually enjoy Minatamis na Saging 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 most likely because making it at home is super easy. It takes only 3 ingredients -bananas, brown sugar, and water. You could add vanilla extract if you’re feeling fancy. Just combine everything, simmer down the 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, complemented with caramel and (interestingly) apple-like notes.
You could enjoy Minatamis na Saging as is, or upgraded with shaved ice and non-dairy milk. Feel free to take it a step further. Add it to your Halo-halo drink or enjoy it with ice cream. I recommend cashew-based vanilla ice cream.
If you want something hot instead of a cold treat (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 familiar with sweetened saba bananas.
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. Minatamis na Saging never fails to delight me, then and now.
- 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 doesn't need to be precise).
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Saba Con Yelo:
- non-dairy milk
- shaved ice
- In a small pot, combine water, sugar, and salt.
- 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).
- 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 an ice shaver at Asian grocery stores (see notes below).
- Pour non-dairy milk.
- Serve immediately.
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:
If you prefer to watch the video recipe, here’s the YouTube version:
Filipinos go bananas (pun intended) over Minatamis na Saging. That’s because it’s easy to make and easy to love. It calls for only few ingredients and simple methods. Yet, the result leads to sweet, caramel notes with a hearty bite. You could enjoy Minatamis na Saging warm or cold, by itself or with ice and non-dairy milk. You could even get creative with it and add Minatamis na Saging on oatmeal, ice cream, Halo-halo, and Ginataang Halo-halo. I prefer it by itself, chilled, just like how my auntie would prepare it for me and my family. I’ll leave it up to you which version you’d like the best. Kain na, let’s eat!
SHOP THE RECIPE: