Trends in Banana Flavouring

Candy Bracelet by Macrografiks
Candy Bracelet, a photo by Macrografiks on Flickr.
I remember the dramatic moment, when I discovered that my toddler daughter can recognize flavour (and therefore, scent). She was eating one of those candy bracelets as pictured above, and after chewing the yellow one, exclaimed: "Banana". In my days, the yellow ones were lemon flavoured. But after tasting one myself - I realized she was right, and the yellow was, indeed, banana flavoured.

How interesting, that a child who could barely learn words or symbols can associate such a plastic-like aroma and chalky-texture of "banana" with the real thing (for those of you who don't know me quite well, my daughter has autism, a neurological disorder which affects all areas of life, but first and foremost - language and socialization). I was amazed, puzzled and more than little curious...

Banana Beach Treat

My first personal encounter with the olfactro-gastronomic "banana" as an abstract (and, let's face it, fake) concept of the true fruit was on the beached of Bat Yam (a suburb of Tel Aviv), around the age of 3. It looked exactly like the ice cream bar in the above photo, and tasted about as remote from the real thing as possible. If anything, it perhaps was somewhat similar to baked bananas. But not really... All the same, I loved its creamy texture, cool frozen cream in faux-chocolate coating that crumbled under one's teeth in an instant. If you haven't tasted this before, try to get a hold of Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Vanille Banane, which is like a wild ride at the country fair, holding very little grasp in reality...

This banana flavouring trend persevered in the flavour world for decades, with more modern variations being only slightly more sophisticated, for example - Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream, which is based on the aroma of banana bread, with the addition of crunchy walnuts and gritty frozen chocolate shavings, for added interest. More recently, my daughter and I have become addicted to Murchie's Coconut Cream Banana flavoured black tea. It's a wonderful affair of deep and smooth black tea, paired with freshly baked banana bread spiced with allspice and real banana slices and coconut ribbons. It's especially soothing with a tad of milk added, and more often than never, we go overboard with a slice of banana bread right next to it.

This summer,  however, a new trend of bananas have rised to my palate's concious: the under-ripe raw banana, preferably with the peel. It first made an appearance in our lives at Second Beach Concession, which sold Peelin' Pops - Nestle's relatively new frozen desserts invention (which actually first showed up in Thailand in 2011...). This strangely innovative little bar is tiny but impressive: a modest amount of vanilla ice cream is covered with a thin layer of semi-frozen gel, not particularly sweet, and only charmingly slimy, which possesses an alarmingly realistic flavour of under-ripe banana. The experience of biting into the top of such pop and peeling off the "banana peel" is imaginative and addictive and I'm surprised not to have found it in more places.

Just a couple of weeks after the discovery of banana peel as a gourmet phenomenon we meet another strange banana tea: This time it's Red Banana from Banana Republic - one of my favourite tea shops in town. This rooibos tisane is again adorned with generous coconut ribbons, and flavoured also with banana and kiwi pieces. However, the banana has nothing at all with the ice cream merchants on the beaches of Tel Aviv, nor baked banana breads: it resembles the raw, not quite ripe yet banana, with peel and all. Seep that in boiling water, and the tea is smooth yet refreshing, fantastic as an iced tea as well, and tastes convincingly natural. It's lovely with milk - or without. Now I'm just waiting to find a matching avant guarde dessert to match it, because banana bread is too spicy and not edgy enough for this cup of tea... Perhaps a raw banana cream pie? Or slices of frozen banana served with a drizzle of coconut milk?

Banana Sheera

Banana Sheera, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Before reviewing Sira des Indes, I figured I should try the dessert it was inspired by. So I searched for a few recipes online and found this one. I think now I can see the connection, as well as the choice of banana, cardamom and indolic notes combined in the perfume. Bananas cooked in milk and semolina and spiced with cardamom has a flavour that is like no other - rich, warm, full bodied, exotic. The saffron garnish though is what adds the extra floral/medicinal/indolic/animalic touch. Now I can smell the connection... Plus it was a fabulous way to start the day - with a rich and fruity semolina dessert!

Banana Sheera Recipe*
1 cup Semoline (Cream of Wheat)
¾ Cup Golden Sugar
½ Cup Ghee or melted unsalted butter
1-1/4 Cup Milk, warmed
2 Bananas, mashed
½-1 tsp freshly rushed green cardamom
Salt to taste
1 handful of raisings, soaked for 10 mintues in boiling water (or soaked in room temperature for 2 hours)
2-3 Tbsp. Sliced almonds or cashews (keep some for garnishing)
Pinch of Saffron for garnish

1. Melt the ghee in a small sauce pan, heat for about 5minutes
2. Add the semolina and fry until golden brown and fragrant
3. Add sliced nuts
4. Add 1 cup of warm milk (keep the rest for the mashed bananas)
5. Stir to avoid chunks from forming in the semolina.
6. Once the pudding becomes thicker, add the sugar and
7. Mash the bananas and mix with the remaining warm milk
8. Pour banans and milk to the pudding.
9. Drain the raisins and add them to the pudding.
9. Let cook for about 6-8 minutes over medium heat.
9. Serve hot in small dessert bowls, and garnish with saffron, crushed cardamom and sliced nuts.

*Adopted from Chimbori.com

Here are links to other recipes (larger quantities) for banana sheera:
Napa Valley
Recipe Bazaar

BBC Food Recipes

Sira des Indes

Pear, originally uploaded by Abbey Wuthrich.

The latest from Patou, Sira des Indes, signifies the hope of the return of classic perfumery in at least some of its glory. Despite the rundown of notes for Sira des Indes, which seems quite conformist and girly in an “I’ve Smelled This Fruity Floral Before” way, it is not.

Well, let me back off a little by saying that there is something familiar about it; familiar in a good way. First of all there is the familiarity of cooked fruit – primarily banana and pear. I can’t say I am noticing any berries and the bergamot is very muted as well. The cardamom, on the other hand, is there to complement the banana in a warm, seductive way, much as it does so in the dessert that inspired this perfume.

Than, there is also something classic about it. Perhaps I am reminded of the indolic jasmine of Joy, of seductively cloying narcissus as in Narcisse Noir and Vol de Nuit. There is also some champaca, and in this context it is a continuation of the banana-semolina pudding: fruity, warm, sensual and soft, with rare glimpse of magnolia peachiness. As I mentioned earlier, champaca is a very rare note to find in Western perfumery, and especially a French perfume. There is not a lot of it here (not as much as in Aftelier’s Tango or Ormonde Jayne’s Champaca), but there is enough to notice and make this stand apart.

Perhaps the familiarity and the feeling of return of classic perfumery is due to the well cushioned structure – no-nonesense base notes, creamy, rich and full-bodied of powdery yet sweet amber and musk, with sandalwood and vanilla in quantities that won’t embarrass Guerlain’s Samsara. The final drydown, by the way, is very similar on my skin to a cross between Samsara and Shalimar.

Meped, originally uploaded by Farl.

Like most “Orientals” made by Westerners, Sira des Indes brings a hint of the flavours to us in the West rather than abduct us on the Orient Express to the source (only very few “Western” perfumes do it in my opinion, such as some of Serge Lutens and Montale’s). Nevertheless, it’s a fresh, reviving scent that gestures to the past, winks at the Orient, and looks forward with a promise of dignity.

Top notes: Bergamot, Banana, Pear, Pink Berries, Cardamom
Heart notes: Red Champaca, Jasmine, Narcissus, Ylang-ylang
Base notes: Musk, Amber, Vanilla, Sandalwood.

If you are interested in reading other reviews of the same fragrance, visit:
Bois de Jasmine
Now Smell This
Victoria's Own

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