I think I’m going to get booted out of my family for not letting go of this recent battle.
Me vs. the Turon (banana lumpia. Lumpia = Filipino eggroll. Instead of the savory filling, the Turon is filled with fresh banana coated in white sugar, and brown sugar).
At every opportunity, I’ve been inserting this beauty for dessert.
Superbowl? Turon for dessert!
Chinese food theme night? Turon for dessert!
Oh, you all want to order Thai food dinner? Sounds good! I’ll make the dessert: turon!
Let me begin.. this past holiday season, we decided to spend it with family in Hawaii—in particular, Oahu. Whenever my family and I vacation, I always make sure that we try something new—in particular, new to eat. That’s the golden rule for going on vacation, right? Whatever it may be that we eat, I always become inspired to recreate it when I get back home. For me, it was my fundamental cultivation rule: to teach my children how to behave in restaurants, and to always eat something they’ve never eaten before.
However, the recent situation calls for that saying “something old is new again.” I again found this Filipino dessert that I grew up eating. No, I did not take my family on a halo-halo quest like I did with my sister Jackie when we met up in San Diego for a quick vacation. Instead, the discovery was all accidental.
My husband’s cousin Mandi’s boyfriend (yes, I completely just did one of those numbers) bought a huge tray of turon to the Christmas Eve family get together. It was simple, the banana was encased in the lumpia wrapper and smothered in glistening sugary caramel. When you bite into it, you immediately get the layers of texture: the crunchiness of the caramel and the crisp wrapper, and then softness of the sweet banana.
So, let me do a comparison of explanation here—there was a scene in the Disney movie Ratatouille where the food critic sits at the restaurant and he has no knowledge that the food that he was about to serve and critic was created by an adorable rat chef. The food critic orders, of course, a dish of ratatouille (vegetables sliced and baked in a tomato sauce seasoned with herbs de provence). This is a dish considered to be a poor man’s countryside dish, but when executed to perfection—it is something of a wonder. When the plate of ratatouille arrives at the food critic’s table, he takes a bite and is triggered with a montage of memories of him as a child eating his mother’s ratatouille in the kitchen. He was mesmerized.
That is exactly how I felt when I took a bite of that damn turon. But, unlike the food critic who was immediately inspired to write about the dish, I was inspired to recreate it when I get back home.
But, I had to do a bit of intel.
I asked all the Aunties if they knew who made the turon, and if anyone had a recipe. Of course, when you ask a group of Filipino women questions, you get a million variations. They told me Mandi’s boyfriend is always bringing a tray of them, and that his aunt made them. Then, Mandi explained that he purchased them from a restaurant or had someone made them.
No one was going to give me the recipe–although some of the Aunties were telling me the kind of bananas to use.
Auntie Charlene, “you have to use apple bananas, yes, yes. That’s the best kine. Really ono!”
My mother in-law, “Jen, you have to make sure the banana is just right or it will get soggy, and don’t put too much sugar. And, I don’t like that caramel stuff outside of it.”
Auntie Antonette (aka the crazy Aunt), “pick a banana shape like a pee-pee. That’s the best kine.”
Yep, so much for intel.
As soon as we returned to Alaska, I began my quest. The first attempt was amazing. However, I noticed a problem–the turon needed to be consumed the same day because the next day, it went limp (forgive the phallic reference here). But that didn’t happen to the turon made under the Hawaiian sun and air. I vividly recall how my husband took some with him back to our hotel room and left it in the oven overnight, and it was still crisp with caramel shards coating it. I know because I ate all of it and didn’t leave him any.
I’ve attempted 10+ times since, and not only do they go soft the next day (whether I stick them in the fridge, or leave them on the counter) but they also had a tendency to absorb other flavors not true to its original form.
One time I made a mistake of placing the platter of turon next to a wrapped purple onion. I tasted it the next day and almost coughed up a lung.
So, yes–this battle is ongoing.
I’m going to perfect this.
I am going to be triumphant regardless of the protest at home to stop making them.
Here’s an easy recipe found on good all All Recipes because all the other recipes seemed a bit complicated–maybe that’s why my turons die the next day.
Banana Lumpia: Turon
Oil for deep frying
1/4 cup brown sugar, or as needed (note: I also used 1/4 cup of white sugar)
6 large bananas, halved crosswise and then lengthwise
24 lumpia wrappers, defrosted
1 tablespoon water, or as needed
Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place brown sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll each banana quarter in the brown sugar until coated. Wrap a lumpia wrapper around each coated banana, sealing the last edge to the roll using a spoon or your finger dipped in water.
Repeat with the remaining bananas and wrappers.
Working in batches, fry lumpia in the hot oil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked lumpia to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon. Some sugar may leak out the sides of the lumpia while cooling.