Precious Pili

Everytime I take a trip home to Manila, my favorite uncle, Pay Kiko (younger brother and youngest sibling of my Mom) brings us fresh seafoods and goodies from our native Bicol. And this time around, I had uber-fatty crabs which Mom cooked in coconut milk and malunggay leaves. Just thinking about it brings me back to those hearty meals when we got our ginataang alimango fix.

In addition to the fresh and succulent fruits of the sea, I always get a bag full of pili goodies. I love them raw, coated in sugar (as pictured below) or made into mazapan or pastillas. I may get pistachio nuts, almonds and macadamia nuts any time I want here, but the pili is always special for all the memories that go with it.

I remember how I would implore our househelp to crack open the thick shell of the pili in which it arrived in and one had to expertly hit it with an itak or larger knife so that it cracks the hardy case but does not cut into the nut. And when finally freed of its shell, one had to blanch the nuts to rid it of its brown skin or painstakingly shuck each nut free.

And let us not forget how the pili is the core of a meaty fruit that is boiled for its meat so the nut shell can be “freed” of the fruit itself. All these layers to get to the precious nut! Is it the bicolana in me or is it simply because I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of getting to know the pili as intimately as I have that makes me put the pili nut a cut above the rest? Whatever the case may be, it’s truly a treat that brings me home.

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