Earlier this year, I did an Asian hot sauce tasting for Bon Appetit magazine that included Filipino banana ketchup. I bought bottles of the leading brand, Jufran, and frankly, the stuff was oddly fake tasting in the banana department. There are many kinds of bananas in Southeast Asia and their funky fermented characteristics were in the sauces, as well as a ton of sugar. It was also bright red, practically like nail polish. I wondered what the real stuff was like.
What’s the back story on banana ketchup? Filipinos love American ketchup but during World War II, they had a tomato shortage. One woman resourcefully came up with a knockoff made with bananas. (If you’ve been to Southeast Asia, you know that bananas are ubiquitous and the many varieties are extra delicious.) Banana ketchup, also known as banana sauce, was a local hit and became as popular as ketchup, writes Marvin Gapultos in his debut book, The Adobo Road. As a result, anywhere Filipinos went, they brought their ketchup with them.