When you live overseas there is always this abyss you fall into every now and then. You find yourself being pulled into the past – the good past – where life, you felt in your bones, was copacetic and you weren’t induratized to Cupid. Nostalgia comes in myriad forms. For some, it is the trips out of town with the entire family – grandparents, cousins, the whole caboodle – that’s peppered with mishaps, quibbles, and, naturally, laughter and fun. For others, it’s the food or, in Filipino context, merienda (roughly translated as snack) which filled their youthful summer days.
In my case, it is food. My childhood days were filled with this sweet merienda that I bought either from the school canteen or the lady-vendor who, in the afternoons, sat near the entrance of my department in university. Bananacue was and is still is an all-time favourite. I don’t see the lady-vendor anymore, so I get it from Hi-Top, a supermarket along Quezon Avenue, from a kiosk selling Filipino delicacies, mostly kakanin, or rice cakes, and bananacue. The name is a rewriting of barbecue – the banana is skewered hence bananacue. The banana isn’t just the ordinary banana; it must be saba or sweet plantain that is fried in a wok of oil and caramelized red sugar until all the pieces are reddish gold. Some like the bananas slightly hard while others want it somewhere between soft and soggy. Either way – the taste is just as sweet.
I have yet to find bananacue in Indonesia although I have found the Indonesian version of the Filipino turon. Turon is saba wrapped in spring roll wrapper and fried just like the bananacue. The Philippine version would have strips of jackfruit in it which I am not fond of. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s turon is called piscok, short for pisang coklat, which translates to chocolate banana. The banana in spring roll wrap is injected with chocolate syrup. The decadent version, I was enlightened by a friend, is from Banana Melts, where each of its piscok is drowning in chocolate. As he said, “it is chocolate overload.”
However, I have found bananacue in a way thanks to a flatmate who shares my nostalgic inclination for it. Khaven cooks it whenever the mood strikes and when there is good saba to be found.
“I used to sell it for PhilP1 a stick when I was in elementary,” he shared. “It was part of my chores and if I didn’t do it, I’d get a spanking.”
“So, you would wait for your mother or grandmother to finish cooking?” I asked.
“No, I cooked it,” K replied.
Bananacue is best eaten after it’s cooled down a bit so it won’t scald your tongue. Any drink would go with it, but preferably something not sweet. An offshoot of bananacue, which is a tad heavier snack but made the same way, is camotecue, or sweet potatocue. It is another favourite that is, like the bananacue, only available in our bungalow in Indonesia.