Sunday, April 22, 2007
Pili Tree, Pili Nuts, Pili Sweets
Familiar with this tree? It grows wild in the province. Can you guess what it is? Give up? It is a pili tree. My Japanese friend was so curious to see a pili tree while we were in the province so the moment we saw one, we stopped and we let her get off the car and relish the sight of it. She took all kinds of pictures. She asked if she could take pili nuts back to the US and I said, "I don't see why not!" You see, my friend has eaten pili sweets before because I brought her a jar of caramelized pili from the Philippines and she liked it a lot. She had this idea that she could grew this in Hawaii where her sister lives. It is probably true as Hawaii has a similar climate as the Philippines'. Unfortunately though, we didn't see pili nuts during our trip because our province just recently got hit by a super typhoon last November. Too bad!
When I was young, we would go to the mountains and we would climb a pili tree regardless of who owned it..hehe. Their pili trees were our pili trees, too, you know. I would de-shell it carefully so I wouldn't break the meat. I must say, I was good at it. And I would pop it in my mouth and savor its delicious taste. It didn't take much to fill me up because just like any other nuts, pili nuts are quite rich.
I lifted these next two photos from this site: http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/fresh-pili-fruit-and-pili-nuts, because pili nuts were not available when I visited the market or I didn't look hard enough. That is how they look when pilis are de-skinned. There are two ways of de-shelling the nuts. One is by cracking them open with a piece of stone and other way is by using a machete and applying just enough force to break through the shells but careful enough not to hit the meat. Then you slowly split them open.
These are the pili pods or the pili nuts. The skin of pili is one of my favorite appetizers in the province. We would submerge a dozen or so of pilis with skin in hot water for a minute or two and remove them right away and let the skin soften. The reason why you shouldn't leave them long in hot water because the skin tends to get saggy, hence, it will not taste good. The skin sort of remind me of olives and it is best when dipped in fish sauce or "patis." Delicious!
Caramelized pili is super super tasty! When I travel back to the province, I usually buy at least a dozen to give out to people but on this recent trip, I only bought a couple for my daughter. Amazingly, this is the only nut that my daughter can eat. So, I pamper her with pili delicacies when I make a trip to the province. Mind you, a jar of caramelized pili is not cheap. It costs php90.00 per jar, about $2.00, but it is all worth it.
These are Mazapan Pilis made out of pili nuts, condensed milk, cheese, and eggs. For me though, I prefer the caramelized pili as it tastes so much better and it doesn't have those rich artificial ingredients, which to me, alter the delicious taste of pili. The more natural it tastes the better, I think.