Why Banana Ketchup's Popularity Soared During WWII

You likely know ketchup to be the all-American, tomato-based condiment typically associated with hot dogs, burgers, and french fries. But it has a banana-based cousin you may not be as familiar with.

With a strong and balanced flavor, banana ketchup is an essential condiment in the pantries of many Filipino households, accompanying recipes such as an eggplant omelet known as tortang talong, or Filipino spaghetti, according to Food 52. One iteration of banana ketchup from Serious Eats calls for sweet onion, minced garlic, 1 seeded jalapeño, about 4 mashed bananas, vinegar, rum, soy sauce, honey, tomato paste, and a spice combination of ginger, turmeric, allspice, and salt.

In the Serious Eats recipe, the mixture is set to simmer on low heat (with intermittent stirring) for about 15 minutes and is then blended by means of a food processor or with an immersion blender until a ketchup-like consistency is reached.

The inspiring history behind this unique condiment began with a Filipina food chemist-turned-war hero named María Orosa during World War II, according to Esquire Magazine.

Banana ketchup during WWII

María Orosa, having received multiple chemistry degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle, returned to the Philippines with ambitions to help the country become more self-sufficient, especially during the war, according to Food 52.

Tomatoes were mainly obtained in the Philippines by importation, which was halted during the war. While tomatoes may not have been readily available to produce, the Philippines' supply of bananas was plentiful. Orosa, with her vast amount of food and chemistry experience and knowledge, recognized this, and using a technique similar to that of tomato ketchup, created the revolutionary new condiment with a tiny splash of red food coloring, according to The Spruce Eats.

The sweet, tangy sauce soared in popularity throughout the country with Orosa to thank for it. So, the next time you reach for a bottle of ketchup in your fridge to pair with your fries or your leftover chicken strips, consider giving Orosa's wonderful creation a try instead.