I MUST confess that this article should’ve come out last year. But careless old me misplaced the memory card I used to take the pictures so, embarrassed as I was, I had no record of the cooking and eating session that took place. As luck would have it, the memory card I misplaced was found, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
As the summer months come into full swing, a few of our local fruit-bearing trees come into season and produce their sweetest bounty. Among the fruits that are in season during the summer months is santol. We actually have a couple of santol trees at home so I am very familiar with it. Come April or May, our santol tree becomes hitik, or packed with bunches of those round, yellow-brown fruits. Santol seeds are white, sweet and tart when ripe, surrounded by sour and bitter flesh. While the flesh of the santol fruit is normally thrown away after eating the seeds and surrounding pulp, in some regions of the Southern Tagalog, and more specifically the Bicol region, chopped santol flesh is cooked with coconut cream and chillies. This creamy, spicy and tart combination called sinantol is popular in the coconut-rich provinces of Quezon and throughout Bicolandia.
So now that the timing of my finding the memory card and the santol season have been established, let me get back to our neighbors. As a regular player in our village tennis club and by being a tambay in our park, I get to meet a lot of neighbors. One of my tennis friends and kakulitan from years back is Atty.Tiboy Reyes. A tennis and cycling aficionado who I’ve known for decades sometimes brings native Bicolano delicacies whenever he comes back from Naga. As an avid foodie himself, Atty. Tiboy can also cook a mean meal but, when it comes to Bicolano specialties, I think he lets the experts do the cooking. On one summer afternoon last year, Atty. Tiboy brought some sinantol to the tennis club, and after I got to taste it, I requested he teach me how. He referred me to his sister’s trusted cook so we set the cooking and eating session, and I got to see for myself how their delectable sinantol is prepared. Special thanks of course to Atty. Tiboy Reyes and his sister Mrs. Jessica Reyes-Ong for their generosity. Of course, thanks to Manangs Rose Briones and Rose Evangelista for teaching and feeding us.
There aren’t any measurements in this sinantol recipe, as the amount of seasoning and chilies used will depend on your taste. I think the pictures should give a general idea on the amounts used, but I’ll give my “guesstimate” as to the amounts.