This should be the last of this year’s tropical escape series. I’ll start with the seafood–nothing unusual, except for the fact that seafood is more affordable for the average household than if one were in the UK–shrimps and prawns (just steamed with salt, sometimes with Sprite/7-Up), crabs (steamed or stewed in coconut milk), and I have a picture here of bangus or milk fish–if you can see those black bits on the underside–that’s the membrane covering the fish fat–oh my goodness, it melts in the mouth! One sad thing though–it is now becoming rarer to find full grown crabs, but I can’t even bring myself to discuss that.
Root crops–our sweet potatoes are more starchy–just like potatoes. I find the sweet potatoes sold in the UK to be more crumbly, and they disintegrate when cooked. Also, I’ve only seen orange-coloured sweet potatoes here, but back in the PH camote comes in orange, white, yellow and violet too. Included in the picture as well is gabi or taro with its rough skin.
We also grow our own ginger and turmeric–but I forgot to take pictures of the turmeric!
Fruits. Mangosteen is regional and expensive (except from the source). Papaya is common–in some parts of the country they’re wild and considered a poor man’s food. We eat them ripe, and when unripe they can be cooked as vegetables. They can also be made into pickles (atchara)–just like sauerkraut, but in a sweet-and-sour concoction. The saba cooking banana which I featured last time is the one leftmost in the picture–you might notice it’s got an angular shape!
Guyabano or soursop. You can see how it attracts ants (and birds too). When opened, it’s very pulpy, cottony and fibrous. Very creamy when made into a shake 🍹😋
Jackfruit or langka/nangka. Have you seen one before? When Playmate saw one decades ago he couldn’t believe a fruit could be as huge as a pig. It’s very spiky like guyabano, and unlike guyabano the spikes are hard–but not sharp like durian’s. But unlike durian it is not stinky, but smells sweet, just like it’s fruit–but very strong and permeating.
The fruit when ripe can be eaten as it is (Playmate thinks it tastes like bubble gum–but I don’t think so and I’d say it takes like jackfruit!), can be cooked in sugar syrup and preserved or made into a jam (it can be very sweet and has plenty of pectin). When unripe, it can be made into a salad with green chili and raw coconut milk , but usually it’s stewed in coconut milk (vegan), sometimes with chicken. The columnist Zoe Williams did not give jackfruit a high rating in her review at The Guardian, although she was honest to mention that she’s only tasted it in a Starbucks wrap, then as pizza topping at Pizza Express and the tinned ones. Jackfruit is difficult to describe to someone who has not tasted it from the source in its fresh, pure, unadulterated form: the taste, the consistency, the scent–it is like no other! And of course, it comes in different varieties/species too.
The last two pictures are that of some 1) sintones/santones–they are citrus fruits as big as tangerines, but will never be yellow even when ripe. I didn’t realise how I missed it until last time–for its citrusy taste–these days’ hybrid easy peelers no longer have tang in them; 2) calamansi or lemoncito–a bit smaller than key lime, very sour and tart, very delicious when made into a juice drink with just plain water and sugar.
Calamansi is also squeezed into sinigang broth, and on noodles.
And before I go–I just want to show you how wild aloe vera and oregano could grow in the PH!
Until next time! 😽🇵🇭