We were headed to the Mactan airport from Cebu City and hit a traffic jam in Mandaue, forcing us to pass back roads and directly in front of the main public school in Mandaue, just as kids were flowing out by the hundreds. Since traffic slowed to a crawl, I watched the sidewalk vendors with increasing interest as I saw what kids were buying for merienda or snack. Instead of a whole green mango with bagoong from my schooldays, down to say half a mango 15 years ago, I noticed that now vendors were selling 1/4th of a mango on a stick which was then dipped into a container of bagoong. Others were selling slices of large guavas, sweets, etc. But suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted these tiny little fruit in small plastic bags and I was certain I had never tasted or featured them on marketmanila before. After jumping out of the car and buying several plastic bags for just 1 peso each, we continued on our way to the airport. This is bignay (Antidesma bunius), a common bush/tree/fruit in some provinces, but rarely seen in Manila or major city markets. It is one of two fruits from Doreen Fernandez’s great book “Fruits of the Philippines” that I had not tasted or tracked down. The last one is Aratiles. So I was thrilled with the find.
Bignay or Bugnay for Visayans, or Chinese laurel, is native to this part of the world and the fruit has an incredible tart to slightly sweetish taste, and a rather large pip relative to the size of the fruit. It was sour, astringent, shocking. I read that it is sometimes used in jams and I can so see how that might be brilliant. I could also see a bignay infused sauce on some really nice slabs of foie gras. I am not sure if the seeds are removed or strained out when bignay jam is made, but I will now have to hunt down the jam to taste it. A nice picture of bugnay over at Loney Kitchen. Hmmm, now where to find aratiles???