To cook maruya, you will need ripe saba bananas. They are at their softest and sweetest at this stage. You just won’t get the right texture and flavor if the saba bananas aren’t sufficiently ripe.
What is saba banana? Also known as cardaba, sweet plantain, compact banana and papaya banana, saba is a banana cultivar that grows in the Philippines (see photo after the recipe). It is a cooking banana used to make sweet snacks but it is also a common ingredient in savory dishes.
Is saba banana the same or similar to plantain? Botanically, they are different plants. Saba banana is also different from cardava banana. For cooking purposes, however, it is possible to substitute one for the other. The flavor profile of the cooked banana will not be the same, neither will the texture, but you’ll still get good results.
To make maruya, start heating oil in a wok or frying pan before you make the batter and prep the bananas. That way, the oil will be ready once you dip the bananas in batter.
Prepare the sugar you will dredge the fried banana fritters in as well so that the fritters can be dropped and rolled in the sugar as soon as they are scooped out from the oil.
The batter is a simple affair. Egg, flour, milk and salt. It’s milk, not water. This is maruya you’ll be serving your family, not maruya you’re going to sell. No reason to scrimp by using water. And, yes, you’ll need a bit of salt to flavor the batter. Believe me, a pinch makes a world of difference.
Most cooks slice the saba bananas all the way through to prep them. Since maruya is cooked in clusters of three to five slices of banana, keeping several slices together after dipping in the egg-flour batter can get messy. By cutting and spreading the bananas like a fan, it’s easier to keep them together.
When dipping the sliced saba bananas in batter, make sure that the batter gets into every nook and cranny so that no part of the bananas are left exposed.
Drop the battered bananas into the hot oil and remember to fry in batches so that the bananas don’t touch one another. If they do touch, they will clump together especially when the batter is still wet. Prying them apart will tear the coating.
Scoop out the banana fritters and drop into a bowl of sugar. Dredge both sides to coat evenly.
Full recipe below
Filipino banana fritters (maruya)
- Into a wok or frying pan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of at least three inches and turn on the stove to start heating it.
- Place the sugar in a wide shallow bowl.
- Make the batter by whisking together the egg, flour, salt, baking powder and milk until smooth.
- Peel the bananas. Cut each vertically into three to five slices, depending on how large they are, without going all the way through on one end. Carefully spread the slices to make a "fan".
- Dip each banana in the batter making sure that the batter reaches the crevices between the slices.
- Over medium heat, fry the battered bananas, two to three minutes per side, or until golden and crisp. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding.
- Scoop out the cooked bananas, dredge in sugar and serve at once.