You heard right, banana ketchup. While it may not be popular on tables in the United States, this fruit-based condiment prevails in the Philippines, where it's made. Though it's called "ketchup," traditionally, there's no tomato to be found in the sauce. Instead, the ingredient list includes bananas, sugar, spices, and vinegar to create a flavorful, slightly sweet condiment used on all sorts of dishes.
What Is Banana Ketchup?
If you substituted bananas for the tomatoes in classic ketchup you would get something pretty close to the Filipino staple banana ketchup, or catsup, which prevails on tables all over the country. Just like the American condiment, banana ketchup has a history worth knowing.
Food scientist María Orosa helped revitalize the country with her edible inventions, banana ketchup being the most famous of the bunch. She studied food chemistry in the United States when she was in her early 20s, graduating with a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Washington. Orosa took that knowledge and applied it back home to help make sustainable foods out of ingredients indigenous to the Philippines. Since tomatoes had to be imported, she created a similar sauce out of mashed bananas, various spices, vinegar, and a dash of red food coloring to take the place of pricey American ketchup.
Orosa had other inventions as well, but none that so effortlessly took over kitchens and counters all over the islands. Banana ketchup is still prevalent today and used in classic dishes such as tortang talong (an omelet made with eggplant), hamburgers, fried chicken, and Filipino-style spaghetti, which uses banana ketchup and sliced hot dogs, in lieu of tomato sauce and ground beef. In 1942, this ingredient started being mass-produced by Magdalo V. Francisco, Sr. under his brand, Mafran, which you can still find gracing the grocery store shelves today.
What to Do With Banana Ketchup
Use banana ketchup as you would any condiment, be that on top of a hot dog, as a dip for chicken fingers or French fries, or drizzled over meatloaf. It tastes a lot like regular tomato ketchup but has a sweeter backbone. In the Philippines, this sauce traditionally comes with tortang talong, an egg-dipped slice of eggplant served at breakfast or lunch. There's also a banana ketchup pasta dish called Filipino spaghetti, which involves plenty of the sauce heated and mixed with hot dog slices before getting tossed with noodles. Banana ketchup is also great on eggs, over rice, and as a side for meats, vegetables, and anything you want to add a fruity tang to.
What Does Banana Ketchup Taste Like?
Think of basic ketchup, then add a sweet tang to it, and you have banana ketchup. Due to the vinegar and spices, this item tastes a lot like the food it was meant to replace, but the tropical fruit aspect gives it a layer of juicy sweetness. There's no taste difference between the brown and red banana ketchup, the latter just has food coloring added to give it the rosy hue.
Banana Ketchup Recipes
Make your own banana ketchup or find some in the Asian aisle of the grocery store. Then use it to enhance one of these Filipino recipes, or try it on a basic hamburger, or as a special condiment, for the next barbecue.
Where to Buy Banana Ketchup
Though banana ketchup isn't popular all over the states like it is in the Philippines, you can find it in many stores that offer an Asian ingredient section. Look for banana ketchup or banana sauce by brands such as Jufran, Mafran, and UFC. Baron also makes banana ketchup, though this Caribbean version doesn't have any sugar added.
Keep banana ketchup as you would any ketchup. It's shelf-stable until you open it, and once the top is popped, store the bottle in a refrigerator. If you make your own banana ketchup, you will want to keep it in the fridge where it should last for months, all depending on how much vinegar used.
There aren't many variations on the base of banana ketchup, but you can get types with different amounts of spice and vinegar. The basic Filipino recipe includes ripe bananas, brown sugar, white vinegar, and garlic. Some alternative recipes call for tomato paste, salt, honey, ginger, onion, chilies, clove, and soy sauce. Look for plain or spicy banana sauce or ketchup, and if you're wanting something a little brighter and zippy, the Caribbean-style version tends to have more ingredients involved, such as rum, coconut oil, and curry powder.
Banana ketchup is not naturally red unless you get a hybrid version that includes tomatoes. The classic banana sauce is brown-yellow, and it's only rosy when food coloring is added to it.