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Banana Ketchup is the Condiment You Didn't Know You Needed

In the realm of condiments, one often conjures up images of the classic trio: mustard, mayonnaise, and the ubiquitous tomato ketchup. But what if I told you there's a hidden gem in the world of sauces? Enter banana ketchup – the condiment you never knew you needed.

Hailing from the vibrant culinary landscape of the Philippines, banana ketchup boasts a fascinating origin story. Rewind to the throes of World War II, where scarcity reigned supreme. In this era of deprivation, Filipinos faced a dilemma: a shortage of tomatoes but an abundance of bananas. It was in this crucible of necessity that the ingenious Maria Ylagan Orosa stepped in.

Recipe from The Spruce Eats

A scientist by training and a heroine by circumstance, Orosa devised a solution that would revolutionize Filipino cuisine forever. Drawing from her expertise in chemistry and food science, she concocted a recipe that utilized bananas as the primary ingredient for ketchup. Yes, you read that right – bananas.

But this wasn't merely a whimsical experiment. Orosa's banana ketchup wasn't just a substitute; it was a culinary masterpiece in its own right. Infused with vinegar, sugar, and spices, this brownish concoction bore a striking resemblance to its tomato-based counterpart, albeit with a sweeter twist.

French cultural anthropologist Camille Oger, in a delightful ode to this tropical delight, describes it as, "a product that looks like ketchup, even though a little more translucent and glossy, but most of all, much sweeter. It’s gorgeous. With kamote fries, it’s just perfect."

Yet, Orosa's culinary prowess didn't stop there. Alongside banana ketchup, she birthed Soyalac, a powdered soybean preparation that served as a nutritional lifeline during times of scarcity. Her innovations didn't just tantalize taste buds; they sustained thousands through adversity.

But perhaps Orosa's most enduring legacy lies beyond the kitchen. Amidst the chaos of war, she remained steadfast, refusing to abandon her fellow Filipinos. Tragically, she met her untimely demise during the Battle of Manila. Yet, her spirit lives on in over 700 recipes she left behind – a testament to her indomitable spirit and culinary genius.

So, the next time you reach for that bottle of ketchup, dare to venture beyond the ordinary. Embrace the tantalizing allure of banana ketchup – a taste born of necessity, crafted with ingenuity, and steeped in history. After all, sometimes the most extraordinary flavors emerge from the most unexpected places.


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