Thursday, September 25, 2008

Panag-akan na Pantol

How do you eat a pantol (santol)?

Climb up the santol tree, bringing along a small sharp knife safe in its sheath, and some salt hidden in your shorts pocket. Pick a yellow fruit and inspect if it's not ridden with holes, or there might be worms inside. Straddle a thick horizontal branch and bring out your knife.

Peel the pantol thinly in one round motion, like peeling an apple. Do this fast, because the pantol oxidizes swiftly and turns a reddish tan in no time at all. Then using the sharp edge of your knife, beat the fruit, producing many vertical slits all around.

Now bring out the salt. Lie down on the branch, taking care that no large red ants are crawling on it. Lift up your shirt, and put the salt on the depression of your navel. Roll the beaten pantol on the salt. Proceed to lop up the thin cuts of fruit flesh until you get to the fluff-covered seeds that look like cotton.

You may wish to roll the seeds on your navel, but they are so sweet there's really no need. Don't hoard and save them, for they will turn wet with moisture and will look like...wet cotton. You can just roll them over and over inside your mouth, sucking on the fluff until there's not one fiber left, and spit them out bald.

Pick another one, and repeat, and another, until your teeth and all the insides of your mouth feel numb from the acidulous tartness, and biting into any other food produces toothaches. Hide among the leaves when your grandmother calls, looking for you.

It is the tail-end of the santol season, and I am relishing my last taste of them. The Bangkok variety - the bigger, sweeter kind - have practically all disappeared. Only the small native can be found in public markets, though rarely, skins pockmarked because of the rains. These last batch have a sweet edge to them, sweeter than the Bangkok. A last sweet hurrah before they vanish.

Cooking with Santol


Anonymous said...

santol my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Sinantol, a favorite gulay in Bicol region. Kinakayod, then cooked in gata and flavored with dinailan (a shrimp cake, used as pampaalat), tinapa flakes, or baboy with taba. Our househelp hoards the kinayod fruit, salted, pickled and placed in jars and the ref to be taken out whenever the crave calls. Yum!