In a Nutshell

A couple of weeks ago I went on an unexpected trip to the Pili Nut Capital of the World, Bicol  to visit my father's home town in Balogo, Albay. It was not just a vist but an Eat, Pray, Love adventure not to mention gaining  a couple of pounds around my hips!

What's a Pili Nut? It's actually a fruit bearing tree, the fruit itself  can not be eaten raw, it's a little too fibrous and somewhat bitter. The locals often enjoy it blanched, the flesh becomes sort of pulpy and they dip in fish sauce. I remember my dad telling me about it, when he was a kid, they'd boil some pili fruit , peel it off and shape the pulp into balls, then they wrap it in banana leaves with preserved fish paste (ginamos). He would bring it to school and that would be his lunch. The nuts actually taste like a cross between almonds and pine nuts. 

The pili nut is actually what's inside the fruit, it's covered in a really hard shell and there's no machine or nutcracker that can crack it open. You need an "itak" or a bolo knife, a really BIG one, see me below doing it the WRONG way!!! The result was minced nuts, instead on one beautiful whole nut ;-(


Here's a step by step look at how the Pili Nut Brittle is made before it's packed, shipped and sold at souvenir shops.

Step 1. Pick the fruits from the tree, one fruit is equal to one nut, so just imagine how much nut cracking it takes to fill one bottle.

Arriane, my cousins kiddo guarding the fruits with her pretty doe eyes.
Step 2. The fruits are blanched in a tub of boiling water and all the flesh is peeled off, leaving the nuts in their shell. Blanching is done instead of boiling, if it's overcooked the nuts tend to stick to the shell. The nuts are then dried for a couple of days, they say it makes it taste better. 


Step 3.  After a couple of days, it's nut cracking time.There's a technique on how to do it, not too hard, not too gentle, and here's how my expert cousin did it and you can see the shell separating whole from the nut. There's some special wrist action going on that would probably take me a couple of tons of pili before I master. 



Step 4. The nuts are blanched with boiling water again to take off the skin, then its separated in half. Halfway through the process, I get to munch on a handful or two of fresh nuts, not helpful at all!



 Step 5. It's cooking time, sugar is caramelized in a "kawali" or native wok before adding the pili nuts.


Once the nuts are added, my cousin chef constantly stirs them to prevent the nuts from forming into one big clump.

The sugar then starts to dry up and stick to the nuts, he leaves it on the fire for a couple of more minutes untli the sugar melts again turns into a glossy caramel color.   

                                     

See my cousin Reggie, expertly whipping up a batch of yummy goodness and me pretending to know how!!!


My pretty niece Charm and the finished Pili Nut Brittle, both equally awesome!!!



Seeing how the pili nut is harvested from the tree, cracked and cooked gives me a new  sense of appreciation for this delicacy, and the next time I see a pili nut vendor I will never ever "tawad" or haggle again. . . well, maybe just a little!


Comments

  1. Oh my, I soooo miss pili nuts. There's no other nut like pili nuts. My parents are bicolanos too so I often enjoy pili nuts when relatives come to Manila to visit us. But now that I live in Spain, I have zero chance of eating pili nuts :(... unless I go visit Pinas. Thanks for posting... brought me fond memories... and made me miss Pinas all the more. sigh.

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