Traditional American Banana Pudding Made with Korean Ingredients

Banana pudding is one of those things most mothers in America know how to make.  Children grow up having fond memories of Mom’s banana pudding.  At every church dinner, you can find that someone has brought banana pudding.  It is easy to make in America because all the ingredients are easily found, and they even have instant pudding which makes it even easier, but we live in Korea.  There is no instant pudding.  We have had trouble finding all the ingredients, but I made substitutions, and I have experimented and have everything working like clockwork now.

First, I begin by making homemade vanilla pudding. I have been making homemade vanilla pudding for years, since I first got married. However, I lost the recipe for a while because we have had to moved so much, and then I had to recreate it from memory and made a few mistakes until I figured out how to make it right again.  If you make it wrong, a couple of things can happen.  It could turn out runny or it could turn out with the consistency of Jello instead of pudding, so if you want to make this desert, be sure and follow the instructions exactly as I give them.

Start with 2 cups of milk.

Start with 2 cups (16 ounces) of milk.  Pour part of the milk into a sauce pan.  I put about one cup and 1/3 of milk in the sauce pan, and left about 2/3 of a cup of milk in the measuring cup.  Leave the smaller part in the original measuring container or in a small bowl.

I added 4 tablespoons of sugar to the milk in the measuring cup.
I finally found corn starch, but I have experimented with potato starch and realize it works too. Use whatever kind of starch you can find.
I added 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the milk and sugar in the measuring cup.

Next, into the milk in the measuring container or small bowl, add 4 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  You must mix the cornstarch into the cold milk before you add it to the other milk because if you don’t it won’t mix, and you will have lumps.  Cornstarch will not mix into hot milk.

As far as the cornstarch, it is necessary to thicken the pudding.  However, at times, I have not been able to get cornstarch. When we first came to Korea, I searched everywhere for cornstarch and couldn’t find any.  I ended up finding potato starch, and it worked as a good substitute.  If you don’t live in a country where cornstarch exists, you could search around and see if they sell another kind of starch.

Use 2 eggs.
Crack the eggs open and let the eggs white go into a separate bowl.
Put the 2 egg yellows in one bowl and the 2 egg whites in another bowl. (Separate the eggs.)
Mix the egg yellows with a fork, then set them aside.

After I mixed the sugar and cornstarch into the cold milk, I got two eggs.  Some recipes don’t call for eggs, and you can make it without eggs. If you decide not to use eggs, you will have to use more corn starch.  I have made pudding without eggs, and it works, but this time, I used eggs. I separated the eggs.  I cracked them open, and then I let the white part fall into a bowl and kept the yellow part in the egg shell.  After that, I put the yellow part into a separate bowl by itself. I did both eggs the same way.  After that, I took a fork and mixed the egg yellows around. You won’t be using the egg whites in this recipe.  Put them aside to use another time for something else.

Heat the milk in the sauce pan stirring it with a wire whip until it begins to bubble.

Next, I turned the fire on under the milk in the sauce pan.  I got out my wire whip.  The wire whip is great to use because when you stir with it, you stop the lumps from coming.  e careful with the milk because milk burns easily, but put it on medium to medium high heat and keep stirring as it warms up.

Slowly add the cold milk, sugar, and cornstarch mixture to the hot milk in the pan, stirring the whole time with the wire whip.

When the milk begins to bubble at the side, it is time to add the cornstarch, sugar, and milk mixture in the measuring cup or bowl that you set aside.  I mix it again before I add it to make sure all the corn starch and sugar are mixed well into the cold milk.  If they aren’t, and you pour it into the hot milk like that, you will be fighting lumps, so be careful to make sure it is mixed well before it goes in.  Pour it in slowly mixing the whole time with the wire whip.  Once all the milk, sugar, and cornstarch mixture is added, you will want to turn the fire down and cook it for a few minutes. It will begin to thicken. Continue stirring.

Slowly pour the egg into the pudding while it is cooking over a low fire stirring the whole time.

While the pudding is cooking, and you have turned the fire down a little, drizzle the egg yellows in slowly mixing them all the while with the wire whip.  Keep cooking it.  If you don’t cook it enough, it could taste like corn starch or not get thick enough. It won’t be the right thickness when you turn it off, just thicker than when you began.  Pudding has a tendency to thicken as it cools.

Keep cooking and stirring. The pudding will begin to thicken, but it won’t be completely thick enough until it cooks.
Turn the fire off, and melt a tablespoon of butter into the hot pudding. This will make your pudding creamy.

The last thing you will add to the pudding is a teaspoon of vanilla.

Next, right when you turn the fire off, and the pudding is still hot, melt a tablespoon of butter into the pudding.  I haven’t always done this, and I figure out that not adding the butter is what makes your pudding turn out with a Jello consistency, so don’t forget the butter.  After you have melted a tablespoon of butter into the pudding, add a teaspoon of vanilla.  In Korea, the vanilla is in powdered form, and in America the vanilla is in liquid form.  It is all the same.  I have made it with Korean vanilla, and it works, but this time, I happen to have American liquid vanilla.  Mix the vanilla in and let the pudding set.

These are the tiny vanilla wafers my daughter found at EMart.

At this point, you have vanilla pudding, so the next step is turning it into banana pudding.  Get out a nice big serving bowl.  Next, you need bananas and cookies.  American mothers use vanilla wafers that are easily found in American grocery stores. However, I can’t find them here in Korea.  I have experimented with the best kind of cookies to use that are available here.  I found just a kind of plain vanilla cookie for a while that I used, and then I used a kind of cookie you can buy called butter rings. They both made the pudding good, but it wasn’t exactly the same as they serve in America.  When I was looking for cookies to make this vanilla, my daughter showed me something she thought might work. She said she had tried them, and they were vanilla wafers.  The look just like vanilla wafers, but they are much smaller. They are little bite sized wafers and almost, but not exactly the same as American vanilla wafers, so I am going to use them for this pudding.  Use whatever plain type of cookie you can find.

I lined the bottom of the serving bowl with the cookies.


I sliced the bananas up into bite sized pieces.
I covered the vanilla wafers with slices of banana.
I poured some of the warm pudding over the cookies and bananas.

I begin by lining the bottom of the serving bowl with the cookies.  After that, I slice the bananas up and put a layer of bananas on the cookie layer.  Next, I take the warm vanilla pudding and pour a layer of it over the cookies and bananas.  Next, I put another layer of cookies, and then another layer of bananas, then I pour another layer of pudding. I just keep making layers until I have all the pudding in the large serving bowl. On the top of the pudding, I decorate the pudding with vanilla wafers and slices of bananas, and the pudding is finished!

Cover your finished pudding with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to cool and thicken.

The only thing you have to do now is cover it with plastic and put it in the fridge until it cool. Your family will love it!  I loved it when I was growing up and my mother made it! It was always one of my favorites.

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