Renowned for its various local treats such as Ikan Bakar (grilled fish), seafood dishes and Es Pisang Ijo (green banana with shaved ice) – a popular dessert sold by many roadside hawkers in large cities including Jakarta and Bandung – Makassar also offers Es Palu Butung (banana with ice and pandanus syrup), that is served at restaurants specialising in the Sulawesi cuisine. Both Es Pisang Ijo and Es Palu Butung share similarities, but how can we differentiate between the two?
The two are served in a similar manner, which involves placing the steamed banana inside a bowl and then topping it with a sauce made from rice flour, coconut milk, ice and red syrup. Some tend to have it with a bit of sweetened condensed milk to enhance the overall flavour. They are both perfect to be relished as a dessert after a spot of lunch comprising other Makassar delicacies.
There are a few aspects that set them apart. Es Pisang Ijo uses a banana that is coated with a thin pancake-like skin made from rice flour, coconut milk, and green-colour flavouring or a combination of liquid extract from cat’s claw leaf and pandanus, while Es Palu Butung doesn’t. Both, however, use a banana that is steamed prior to serving in order to heighten its sweetness. Many may assume that the green colour of the banana in Es Pisang Ijo stems from the banana being unripe, but it actually comes from the pancake-like wrapping.
The other contrasting characteristic between the two is the type of banana used. While Es Pisang Ijo is commonly made with Pisang Kepok (saba banana), Es Palu Butung instead uses Pisang Raja (plantains). Although you’re able to mix and match and use whichever banana that you please for the two desserts, the people of Makassar believe that doing so may alter and blemish its original flavour.
Both are frequently eaten to break one’s fast during Ramadan in Makassar. Es Pisang Ijo is better when consumed chilled, while you can enjoy Es Palu Butung regardless of whether it is cold or warm.