Asia offers the widest range of bananas all thanks to its sunny tropical weather. Bananas are surprisingly very hardy plants (under the Musa genus in the botanical world) to grow but they are easily uprooted by strong winds or storms as their roots grow shallow in the ground. When it comes to bananas, they are one of the most versatile fruits to cook. Used in appetizers, desserts and even main courses, this delectable ingredient takes pride in the Asian kitchen.
But with so many banana types out there, cracking your brains to find out which type of bananas to use might just drain your grey matter but help is on the way! Our folks at Gobble have suss out the most common varieties in the market and how they can be deployed in meals, so peel yourself from the bed and read on!
These bananas hail from Hawaii but Asian people have successfully grown the cultivars in Asia. Widely grown in the Philippines and known to banana aficionados as “Latundan” bananas, they have become a must-have item in any Asian kitchen. However, to westerners, they are known as “Candy Apple” banana to westerners. Some people call them the “box banana” because of their square-ish forms. The flesh is firm peppered with a pinkish hue. The meat is mostly moist and sweet and is deployed in many desserts across Asia. Some individuals even add them to salads while Thais and Malays love to deep fry them in a coating of thick batter or turn them into crispy banana chips.
Ah, their ubiquitousness is hard to ignore. Bright yellow skins and long in shape, many people also call them “Del Monte” bananas only because that’s one of the most popular food companies selling this variety of bananas. Its sweet flavour and soft meat complements well with ice creams and other desserts but because of our humid weather, these bananas don’t keep well and oxidise easily. Cavendish happens to be one of the oldest banana specimens discovered by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1834.
Lady Finger Bananas
Lady finger bananas are smaller and sweeter than the common Cavendish but most of them are sold at markets in their unripe green skins. They are harvested when they are green only because when they arrive in Singapore, they ripen quickly. The flesh is firmer than the Cavendish and its taste offers sweetness with a hint of tartness.
Dubbed as the “King of Bananas”, “Raja” means king in Malay and the only reason is because it is highly prized as a banana. Many banana fritter stalls such as the ones in Singapore and Malaysia buy them in bulk and sell them as “goreng pisang” (fried banana in Malay). Its sweet flavour becomes more pronounced after it is fried and you really get to enjoy their natural sweetness, making it a favourite with many. Best of all, their firm flesh does not disintegrate in the deep fryer, making it a strong candidate for top-notch goreng pisang.
These appear boxy but have more pronounced curvy forms. Renowned for their starchy content and texture, they are widely made into fried chips while some Asian cultures cook them into a pate and eat it as a staple. Thai people love to roast them on hot coals as their natural sweetness comes forth to the palate.
Bananas are definitely a prized fruit for many Asians. Aside from the usual muffins and breads, bananas are steamed by Thais and deep fried by Malays, adding to the culinary diversity of this favourite Asian fruit. Bananas are definitely a prized fruit for many Asians. Aside from the usual muffins and breads, bananas are steamed by Thais and deep fried by Malays, adding to the culinary diversity of this favourite Asian fruit. Today, bananas are grown in more than 150 countries and globally we harvest about 105 million tonnes of it per year. It is not just a significant economic importance for many Asian countries but for the world over. Some countries that have deserts have proven to be very successful in cultivating bananas, so bananas are definitely a crop the world loves.