From sweet treats to savory dishes, there is more to discover from this humble fruit.
Many of the summer fruits of our childhood remain unknown to today’s young Filipinos who are familiar only with bananas, mango, avocado, and pineapple. Only a few recognize sineguelas, tiesa, kasuy, makopa, duhat, aratiles, and santol, my favorite.
Santol is native to Indochina and Peninsular Malaysia. It has been introduced into India, Borneo, Indonesia, Mauritius, the Andaman Islands, and the Philippines. where it is generally eaten fresh with some salt.
The fruit is grown also for its therapeutic properties. Several parts of the santol plant have anti-inflammatory uses. They are recommended for the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery. They are also used as a carminative. The aromatic, caustic root, antispasmodic, is also a potent remedy, a tonic for stomach ache.
Our parents and grandparents serve santol as a refreshing drink, jam, marmalade, candied preserve, souring agent for sinigang and main ingredient for sinantolan, a rare treat from Laguna and Quezon.
To make santol juice, the ripe fruits are peeled, sliced in half and the seeds removed. The rind is chopped finely and stirred into a large pitcher with water, ice, and sugar. Wait until the santol flavor steeps out and makes the water tangy. The longer the wait, the better the drink.
Santol jam is simply chopped santol rind simmered in sugar. The fruit’s natural pectin ensures proper consistency. Keep the heat low and stir consistently to prevent scorching.
For sinigang, unripe santol is preferred for maximum sourness, although some old folks prefer a hint of sweetness from the half-ripe (manibalang) fruit. Boil the peeled fruit and mash, adding as little or as much as you want for the desired sour level.
One of the rarest Pinoy dishes is sinantolan, basically chopped santol simmered in pure coconut milk and flavored with what is seasonally available: pork, crabs, shrimp, bagoong, and dried or fresh fish.
Start by washing and peeling two kilos of ripe santol. Cut in half and remove seeds. Finely chop or grate the flesh into a bowl of hot water and squeeze tightly using a cheesecloth to drain liquid. Set aside.
Heat two tablespoons cooking oil in a wok. Add ground or chopped pork and stir-fry until light brown.
Push the meat to the side. Add garlic and onion and cook until aromatic. Combine with the cooked meat.
Add siling haba and the squeezed santol flesh. Pour in pure coconut milk.
Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often until desired thickness is reached.
Season with bagoong or alamang, salt, and a dash of sugar. Serve hot with steamed rice.