All you need to know about banana cue is that it is caramelized, fried banana, served on a stick.
Its cousin, camote cue? That’s caramelized, fried sweet potato, served on a stick.
I know a guy who doesn’t like sweet potatoes. “There is nothing you could do to a sweet potato that would make me like it,” he has said.
Even deep-fry it and caramelize it?
“Even that,” he said.
So he has no interest in camote cue, although I still think he would enjoy it if he tried it. And that’s fine. It just means more camote cue and banana cue for the rest of us.
Both of the cues, banana and camote, are popular street foods in the Philippines. You are especially likely to find them as a midafternoon snack, or “meryenda.” I imagine they are particularly popular among children coming home from school, but adults adore them, too.
Best of all, for our purposes, they are incredibly easy to make. They may be a little bit messy, especially if you tend to be a messy cook anyway, like me. But cleanup is a pleasure when you have a belly full of banana cue or camote cue.
One simple cooking technique is used for both dishes. You heat oil until it is hot enough to deep-fry, from about 350 to 375 degrees. Then you drop in the (peeled) banana or the (sliced) sweet potatoes.
These will start to turn golden brown after a few minutes. That is when you add a handful or two of brown sugar. Spoon the brown sugar-oil over the bananas or sweet potato slices, occasionally turning the pieces, until they are golden brown all over.
Remove them from the pot, shake off as much oil as you can and allow them to cool for a couple of minutes. Place one or two on a skewer, just because everything tastes better on a skewer or at least is more fun, and serve.
Before you rush off and try the banana cue, though, you should know that it doesn’t work on what we Americans think of as ordinary bananas. Believe me, I tried. And as I had feared, the most common bananas in the United States are too soft and narrow to stand up to the rigors of deep-fat frying.
In the Philippines they use a squatter, thicker, starchier variety of banana called saba bananas, also known as cardaba bananas. That’s a perfect ingredient, but they can be hard to find in this country, so I used plantains and they worked fine. They are certainly hearty enough to be fried with ease, and they happen to taste great when fried and caramelized.
And finally, a word about cleanup. You might find that after you are done, you have clumps of cooked brown sugar stuck to the bottom of your pot. It might seem difficult to get it off, but actually it is quite easy: Just put a couple of inches of water in the pot and bring it to a boil. The sugar will dissolve, and any part of it that doesn’t dissolve will be easy to remove.
Your pot will be so clean you’ll want to use it again to make more banana or camote cue.
3 cups oil, for frying
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pour oil into a large pot. Heat over medium until hot enough to deep-fry, about 375 degrees.
Carefully add sliced sweet potatoes; the oil should immediately start to bubble. Turn slices occasionally until beginning to turn light brown. Sprinkle brown sugar over top and cook, turning occasionally with tongs or a spoon.
The sweet potatoes are done when they’re golden brown all over and can easily be pierced with a fork or sharp knife. Remove from oil and allow to cool slightly. Place 2 or 3 pieces on a skewer; serve warm. Makes 6.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 423 calories, 36 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 1 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 14 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 39 mg sodium, 30 mg calcium
6 saba (cooking) bananas or 3 plantains, peeled
Oil, for deep-frying
1/2 cup brown sugar
If using plantains, cut in half.
Pour oil into a pot big enough to hold all the bananas or plantains; the oil should be at least high enough to come about halfway up the side of the bananas, 2 to 3 cups, depending on size of the pot. Heat over medium until hot enough to fry, about 375 degrees.
Carefully add bananas; the oil should immediately start to bubble. Turn bananas occasionally until beginning to turn light brown. Sprinkle brown sugar over top and cook, turning bananas occasionally with tongs and spooning sugared oil over the top of bananas if they are above the oil.
Bananas are done when golden brown all over. Remove from oil and let cool slightly. Place 1 or 2 pieces on a skewer, and serve warm. Serves 6.