Amidst the chaos of various online discussions about the sorry state of the world in the last month or so, there was one bit of non-political social media acrimony that I found rather interesting: an argument about whether or not langka has any place in turon.
It turned out to be one of things, like pineapple on pizza, that really sets people off. It turns out that there are people who care deeply about the platonic ideal of the turon, this humble afternoon snack of lumpia-wrapped bananas rolled in sugar.
It is easy enough to understand the objection to the inclusion of the jackfruit. Part of the appeal of the turon is its simplicty: It’s basically just three ingredients that work remarkably well with each other. The banana provides the satisfying backbone of the snack, its starchy goodness serving as a proper filler of the void that emerges within us in the afternoon hours. The lumpia wrapper, once fried, offers the texture. The contrast between the crunch of the wrapper and the tender banana makes for a delightful bite. And then there’s sugar, a substance that generally makes everything better, right up until it kills us.
And so it is perfectly reasonable to think that the langka is an interloper in this Eden of a snack, the forbidden fruit that will throw us out of our edible paradise. But I’d argue that it is ultimately what makes a turon a turon. It takes it from being a banana fritter to something distinctly Filipino. The added brightness and fruitiness take it over the edge, flavorwise, making it feel more complete. Perhaps life was more perfect in Eden, but there is nothing more human than to seek out the tree of knowledge.
If you’ve managed to slog through that overwrought piece of hyperbole, we can talk about how this ultimately comes down to a matter of preference. People have individual tastes that are inexorably to their own personal experience. Maybe someone has fond memories of their mother cooking turon at home, adding extra langka because that was her thing. Maybe someone had a bad experience with langka – a childhood fruit binge that ended with langka scented vomit. Or maybe someone’s father went out to the store to buy some langka, and never came back. Personally, I like turon with langka because that’s what was served on the streets of my hometown of Cubao. At around 3 PM, the vendors would start lining up, and the sharp, tropical smell of langka would cut through the smoke of a busy Cubao afternoon, a ray of sunshine in the brutalist gloom of the city.
Inasmuch as this is an endorsement of turon with langka, this is also an endorsement about being thoughtful about the stuff we like. These discussions, though seemingly trivial, are the basis for culture. If we are capable of being thoughtful about turon with or without langka, about pineapples on pizza, or whether niyog or cheese is better on pichi-pichi, then we are turning the simple act of consuming into an opportunity for discourse. And that’s almost always a good thing.
Let’s agree, though: expensive turon in fancy restaurants is bullshit. Putting tiny turon in a vertical stack doesn’t make it better, fancy chefs.