Living in the US. Born and raised in Manila. Traveling and eating in between. Inspired by tradition.
Pili Fruit and Nut
A friend of mine, Chel, came back from Bicol recently from a business trip and came back with some loot for me: Fresh Pili and Pili nuts (still in its shell)! I had the wonderful taste of this nut when we went to Bicol to check some of mom’s property, along with a side trip to Caramoan Watersports Complex (CWC) for some wakeboarding. We bought half a kilo of the strange nut that I didn’t know what to do with to take home to Manila. It took a few more weeks after that before I attempted to crack some with the now broken meat tenderizer (which somebody else broke) and then a hammer. The hammer was more successful in getting the goodies out.
The fruit, on the other hand, would be a new experience. It was steeped in hot water for a while then drained. It was supposed to taste like sweet potato. But it didn’t! I wasn’t sure if I did anything wrong, but it was a bit bitter, a bit on the chewy side. After the first taste, I just wanted to get a cracking. I assumed that the fresher hard shell would be easier to crack to get the nut.
So I put out my trusty hammer and a handy floor mat ready to do some heavy pounding. The two things are a mainstay in the pili process for me. I have no idea how the folks in Bicol peel/crack thousands of these things, but this is my way. The mat is there to avoid shattering the concrete (I do this on the floor, squatting) into pieces, and to also keep the nut in place, almost like when you’re schucking oysters. Pieces of flying hard wood are deadly too, so I ensure to cover the nut with the mat on top before hitting.
I used to think that crazy force was needed to get the prize inside. But a little caution was also needed. Enough force to crack the shell, but enough hold to NOT smash the actual nut into smithereens. It’s easy to do, the smashing into smithereens, not the cracking. It takes a pound or two of direct force to crack one. Another pound might be needed to loosen the meat, hopefully still whole.
As mentioned ealier, this is my intitial foray into a fresh Pili. I was expecting the fresh meat inside to be different from the (I guess dried) shells you see sold in the streets, but the difference is astounding! I have heard so much about the oiliness of the nut and always wondered about this since the nut coming from the dried shells were just like regular nuts, a bit softer. But this one! The nut coming from the fresh fruit is amazing. It almost shoots out of the shell because of its oiliness! And it has a crisper texture, compared to the chewy one of the dried nut.
Fresh vs. Dried
Forgive me because the picture above is overexposed. But look at the differences. Another thing, for the dried nut, you can hardly remove the skin, and I just resort to eating it whole. The fresh one comes out white and clean. I just ate everything up raw! I’m looking forward to another batch of these 🙂 I enjoyed the last bits on top of my still in the freezer gata ice cream 🙂