Banana pudding is reaching delicious, creative new heights in the East Village.
The rotating flavors at recently launched Baonanas blow the peels off reigning champ Magnolia Bakery’s fine product, which for all its acclaim is available only in a single variety: one-note chocolate hazelnut.
Baonanas hit town this month after making a splash in Jersey City and at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. Supermodel Bella Hadid turned the splash into a tidal wave when she touted the pudding to her 50 million Instagram followers last fall.
Magnolia claims its pudding is “world famous,” but Baonanas is the top banana with its new location at 93 East Seventh St. Just minutes after opening at 4 p.m. Thursday, the little yellow storefront (for takeout only) was thronged by happily slurping young couples, lone dudes on bikes and a horde of uniformed cops on their break. No wonder: Thirty-three different flavor combos tinted with a light Filipino touch make the classic comfort food feel fresh and new. (Eight or nine flavors are usually available at a given time.)
Fear not — the rich banana flavor comes through loud and clear even though the puddings are complexioned with other fruits and chocolate and textured with all kinds of crunchies. The secret to them all, said Filipino-born co-founder Lloyd Ortuoste, is that he and partner Patricia Villanueva use traditional Filipino leche flan for the pudding base, rather than commonly used boxed Jell-O mix.
The flan lends a caramel note missing in Magnolia’s formula. The three types of pudding I tasted delivered balanced bursts of sweet and creamy elements. Baonanas’ classic “OG” blends smooth vanilla mousse with fresh banana chunks. A vanilla wafer crumble topping crackles on the tongue. Valrhona chocolate mousse classes up a s’mores flavor that features palate-pleasing blasts of fresh bananas, toasted marshmallows and graham crackers.
But I got the biggest kick out of luscious ube, “made from a secret family recipe,” said Ortuoste. Frozen ube — a purple yam — is molded with condensed milk “and other secret stuff.” Ortuoste attributed the variety’s “sweeter side” to the yams. But that “secret stuff” surely includes old-fashioned sugar — nothing to be ashamed of, guys!
Baonanas’ confections are made for hot summer days. But on the frigid, rainy afternoon I had them, they tasted like pure sunshine. Customers can enjoy the puddings under the outdoor shed of 7th Street Burgers, next door, which partnered with Baonanas on the opening. Cups are $4 for a single scoop and $6 for two scoops. Half-pint containers to go are $7.