30 Sep2014


I don’t know about you guys, but as a kid, these were one of my FAVORITE SNACKS. Salty, “pain in the ass to crack open and keep the squash seed whole” and slightly funky smelling dried watermelon seeds were a cheap snack that kept you busy for hours on end. If you mastered the art of cracking the seeds just right (easier with sharp young teeth), you could do this blind or while watching your favorite television program. My mom used to disapprove of them, saying things like the funky smell was because folks rubbed them in their armpits or something (same for kiamoy, how outrageous is that?) but I always bought them after school anyway if I had a peso or two in my pocket. They would sell them in little paper bags…


Turns out the “funky smell” is a bit of star anise that is thrown in with the nuts along with the salt and they are stored and take on that slightly anise like aroma and flavor. This bunch was made in Pampanga and I spotted them at the FTI market last Saturday and bought a few bags for old times sake. They are as good as I remember them, but honestly, cracking them open IS A PAIN IN THE NECK. Particularly since I bought a whole load of peeled pumpkin seeds or pepitas in South Africa recently and if you toast them with some fine sea salt they taste fresh and wonderful…


But just to make sure I hadn’t lost the knack, I set out to peel several watermelon seeds and getting the inside whole. So my question is, if you liked this stuff as a kid, you were probably one of two distinct personalities… the first, one who cracks each seed and eats the contents immediately (or if impatient, stick the whole thing in your mouth for all the salt, then crack it open) OR did you crack lots of seeds open and save the meats until you had a goal, like 30 or 50 seeds before you ate them? I did the latter, and I am trying to correlate that with one’s ability to save money. If you could hold off gratification, would it make you more able to put away for a rainy day?! What do you think? :)



  1. Connie C says:

    I like to believe that the latter type is either one who is able to postpone gratification or, simply wanting to have the pleasure of having the seeds in one big mouthful. My dad would do that with oysters, shuck them himself by the dinner table until he had enough, then eating them leisurely and with pleasure.

    So, analyzing one’s personality by how one eats pakwan:), you are either a saver or a pleasure seeker. But I wonder too, if the pleasure seeker side might win out. But I think you are both MM, and a prudent one I might say .

    Sep 30, 2014 | 6:59 am


  2. Notice: Undefined variable: oddcomment in /home/marketman/marketmanila.com/wp-content/themes/marketmanila-v2/comments.php on line 33
  3. dragon says:

    MM, how do you crack your seeds open? I find that cracking them within the 1st third of the narrow end allows me to have whole meats more, but not when the seeds are damp.

    Depending on my mood, but most often – 99% of the time, I eat them immediately. Case in point: the fact that you can buy pepitas (squash seeds) peeled, I don’t go and just pop open the bag and garf them down. No thrill…

    Sep 30, 2014 | 7:35 am

  4. Footloose says:

    The ones I grew up with came in square paper packages illustrated with a graphically sinified picture of Abbott and Costello and they were five centavos each pack. I actually took pains in not getting drool on them which caused them to get slippery and even harder to open.

    But my age old question is, how the dickens to they shell the ones you buy bare and unshelled?

    Sep 30, 2014 | 7:45 am

  5. Gej says:

    They taste so much better if eaten in the 10s , 20s …. I found a gadget (made in China) in Binondo once, that could be used to crack them.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 8:36 am

  6. Thel from Florida says:

    This post brought back memories when I was in Grade 4. My Aunt had a sari-sari store and I asked her if I could bring some watermelon seeds into my classroom to sell for commissions. I love earning some money so I continue selling them until Grade 6. When I started high school, I asked my mother to buy raw seeds by the sack and I cooked them on weekends to sell to my classmates.

    I eat them by cracking each one and eating the seed immediately and I turned out to be a saver all my life and then I gave most of it away.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 9:47 am

  7. rosa says:

    i feel bad for being the person who’d pop an entire seed in her mouth for all the salt, and then crack them open afterwards. when i was much younger and didn’t have the dexterity to crack one open cleanly, i’d actually be satisfied with just the salt!

    however bad i am with delaying gratification with watermelon seeds, i’m pretty good at squirreling away money (or so i’d like to think). either i’m a fluke, or my mom was just really amazing at teaching us about being frugal and budget-conscious that the years of training won over my true needs-immediate-gratification self.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 10:01 am

  8. Connie C says:

    MM: Sorry for the duplicate comments here and the passion fruit entry. I was using my I-pad and your Word Press rejected my initial comments submitting it for deliberation first and then saying it was not written by me. I went back to my laptop which then accepted the comments.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 10:47 am

  9. Marketman says:

    ConnieC, no problem, I think the software checks previous comments with addresses to recognize them as a usual commenter, will delete duplicates.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 10:57 am

  10. Mylene E. says:

    My father was a true blue Kapampangan so butong pakwan was and still is our family’s favorite snack. My answer to your question is: I now eat it as I peel it but when I was much younger and with 4 other siblings to share the precious snack with, we would each get our pile of butong pakwan, open all of it, show off our pile of the delicious flesh to the other siblings (just to see who’s got the bigger pile) and then slowly eat handfuls of it while savoring the flavor hmmm. The problem was when anyone of us would have to get up midstream (to go to the bathroom or get a drink), we would hurry back to our pile because another sibling may just declare an attack by shouting “Eating Time!” and the treasure is gone….

    Sep 30, 2014 | 11:36 am

  11. ami says:

    Years ago I loved butong pakwan so much that my lips would start getting chapped probably from the salt. Now I only eat in moderation. I actually have a different technique for butong pakwan and pumpkin seeds. For butong pakwan, I eat each seed immediately while for pumpkin seeds I tend to save them up and eat them in bulk. Where does that put me? Nowadays, peeled pumpkin seeds is being sold in Shopwise and I add them in my cereal.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 11:38 am

  12. Toping says:

    I’m the latter! I do the same with crab.

    The thing with these seeds is that they’re so deliciously salty, you don’t notice until too late that your lips have puckered up and gone a bit numb. But I still miss this treat, more so now that I have to keep an eye on my salt intake. Ah, to be a kid again!

    Sep 30, 2014 | 12:14 pm

  13. Sleepless in Seattle says:

    I am a pleasure seeker,I am a spending fool :-)..Still love to have some pakwan seeds every now and then for they are available on any Asian store..thankfully I still have a good set of chomper..this really brings back childhood memories.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 12:28 pm

  14. Zerho says:

    Currently chomping down on some watermelon seeds. After reading this, I realized that the seeds do taste like star anise! Always thought they were part of the flavor of the seeds.
    Anyway I am one of those who immediately eat the seeds after eating them, mainly because when I was younger my baby brother would wait on me and eat all the peeled seeds. I’m a pretty good saver though.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 1:17 pm

  15. kenikenken says:

    It is only with adult hindsight that I was able to appreciate my mother’s gesture of painstakingly cracking each seed, and handing the kernel for me to eat. I would notice her lips pucker and turn pale from all the salt, but I’d happily continue to munch on, otherwise I’d eat the whole darned thing, shells and all. Ah the selfishness of childhood, and a mother’s desire to do everything for her child. I love you, Mom.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 4:30 pm

  16. millet says:

    when i was a kid, my family went through this phase that lasted about 4 months in which, after supper every night, each of us (including Dad and Mom) got a small plastic bowl of butong pakwan, and we’d sit around the table cracking them and swapping stories. or we’d all move to the living room and watch tv while eating butong pakwan, with a small plastic bowl in the middle to catch all the shells. we’d all peel and eat, but my sister would sometimes keep peeling until she had a tidy pile that she’d shove into her mouth by the handfuls. sometimes we’d take a pinch off her bowl, and that would start a noisy “you did/i didn’t” war. when we finished, we all had gray/white lips from all the salt. oh, the memories that a picture can bring.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 4:42 pm

  17. Lee says:

    @Footloose the one with the graphic design is the Fat & Thin brand. For your question on the unshelled seeds, I am glad that Gej answered that there’s a machine used to crack them. I have this image of a smiling, or frowning, labor force with biting skills filling up sacks of shelled pakwan seeds.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 7:33 pm

  18. Marketman says:

    Lee and Footloose, see pumpkin seed de-huller here, that can process some 200 kilos per hour! So banish those visions of prison laborers cracking them open one by one… :)

    And in case either of you, or readers at large are still curious about how they peel those mandarin orange segments sold in bottles in a sugary syrup, Wikipedia, in its entry on Mandarin oranges clears up the mystery, and I quote:

    “Segments are peeled using a chemical process. First, the segments are scalded in hot water to loosen the skin; then they are bathed in a lye solution, which digests the albedo and membranes. Finally, the segments undergo several rinses in plain water.”

    Sep 30, 2014 | 8:13 pm

  19. Footloose says:

    Ah, there you are, the answer to my second overwhelming question; how they peel those mandarin sections.

    Sep 30, 2014 | 9:53 pm

  20. Connie C says:

    Awesome invention…the de-huller. Now I am still wondering how the machine does it.

    Oct 1, 2014 | 1:36 am

  21. Christine says:

    Ate them as a kid,and still eating them now. I think the butong pakwan had a lot to contribute to my family’s health history of high blood pressure. hahahaha

    By the way,are those the paning’s brand ? My family is a bit picky on the type- some are either too dry or too moist. We like the paning’s brand the most.

    I am an expert dehuller, able to crack and extract the seeds with my teeth. I usually save the extracted seeds in my mouth,and once it is a bit full, I chew it all down for that salty goodness. Then I start the process again until my lips get chapped or until the seeds are all gone. :-)

    Oct 1, 2014 | 7:51 am

  22. Nacho says:

    Our whole family would eat this, especially at gatherings and at the beach. There were some in the family who would delay gratification. But the children would learn quickly that this was a risky strategy, as everyone else, from my grandfather down to the youngest cousins, would connive to steal away the bounty accumulated by those who had a higher EQ.

    Oct 1, 2014 | 4:04 pm

  23. manny says:

    I would find myself doing both – cracking and eating right away or at times cracking and saving for a big mouth full. It’s a matter of preference since cracking and eating right away gives you the option of salting your tongue while the later gives you a mouthful.

    I remember eating this while watching a movie until my fingers were sore or my two front teeth felt like it were about to crack.

    Have you tried the ‘green tea’ flavor?

    Lol, funny how people can be so serious about eating butong pakwan.

    Oct 1, 2014 | 7:28 pm

  24. Jane says:

    Love butong pakwan, I am the crack open and eat person. On the side, what happened to Betty Q? I am a daily reader and enjoy the site, more so with Betty Q comments, tips and recipes. Miss you, Betty Q!

    Oct 1, 2014 | 10:18 pm

  25. Monty says:

    Do these big watermelon seeds come from a special variety? Most seeded watermelons sold like the dark green sugar baby or the striped Taiwanese variety have fairly small seeds.

    Oct 2, 2014 | 12:58 am

  26. kristin says:

    Crack and eat here otherwise my two younger siblings will take all the accumulated cracked seeds…

    Oct 2, 2014 | 1:01 am

  27. DhayL says:

    I’m kinda in between! I would snip all the salt contents first, crack them open, then I would somehow store them in my mouth for as long as I can hold them, then, chew them all at once! :)

    They’re quite addictive, once you start, it’s hard to stop, so we usually finish the entire pack. Unfortunately, here in Toronto, you can only get them at chinese stores, so offerings are limited, but none the less, I still buy them! :) Happy eating!

    Oct 2, 2014 | 2:27 am

  28. millet says:

    MM, Footloose and Lee, your discussion on de-hullers and mandarin segments remind me of the time when my dad went through an ice-cream making phase, trying different flavors every few days or so. one time we had a guest who was swooning over dad’s atis ice cream, until she asked how he separated all the seeds from the pulp. as a joke, i said, “first you start by chewing the pulp….” you should have seen the horror in the lady’s eyes!

    and yes, i’ve seen in DEC and other chinese grocery stores those personal butong pakwan shellers that look like ladybugs, but i guess that means you’ll be missing the salt/star anise kick. here it is: http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/01/snapshots-from-asia-watermelon-seed-cracker.html

    Oct 2, 2014 | 7:28 am

  29. dragon says:

    @ Millet – there’s hope for the toothless!

    Oct 2, 2014 | 8:24 am

  30. joed says:

    Eating butong pakwan is fun and for me the only reason. And just like other things in life there’s so many ways to it. There is no right or wrong way — any ways so long as I and others shall not be unhappy.

    Mine is to crack a seed and chew at once = one fun or 10 seeds is 10 x fun. I find one time of 10, 20, or 30 seeds is just one fun.

    And why wait, life is too short.

    Many thanks for the article…I feel young again.

    Oct 2, 2014 | 10:34 am

  31. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    I just can’t get pass the image of carefree summer days and spitting watermelon seeds wherever and whenever…yeesh.

    Oct 2, 2014 | 2:06 pm

  32. Footloose says:

    Interesting gizmo there Millet and it looks efficient too but I’m afraid it’s like in vitro fertilization, people would still insist on doing it their old fashioned way, if at all capable.

    @Getter Dragon 1, they actually make a sport out of that, I guess, mostly in the benighted South.

    Oct 2, 2014 | 4:23 pm

  33. Marilen says:

    Footloose, you crack me up !! “…Old fashioned way is best, if at all capable”

    Oct 3, 2014 | 4:56 am

  34. EJ says:

    No wonder you’re a success, MM. The ability to delay gratification is supposed to relate to higher EQ and success in later life. Remember the marshmallow test? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment

    Oct 4, 2014 | 12:13 am

  35. millet says:

    Getter Dragon, yes, indeed, equal opportunity! Fooloose, the analogy is …well, spot on!

    Oct 5, 2014 | 9:33 am

  36. dianna tuazon says:

    Panu po mkabili s inyo ng butong pakwan yung maasin kc nid ko padalhan
    Friend ko sa aug. 18 pls txt me 09308091119 how much po per kilo

    Aug 16, 2015 | 10:22 am

  37. jana says:

    Where to order here in California or what website?

    Jul 12, 2016 | 5:47 pm

  38. lydiaalmazan says:

    please tell where can buy watermelon seeds and squash for business

    Aug 31, 2016 | 9:15 am

  39. yay says:

    My dad is friends with the owner of a certain brand of this, and they are very nice. They would give us these delicious dried watermelon seeds for free :D

    Sep 3, 2016 | 10:05 pm


Market Manila Home · Topics · Archives · About · Contact · Links · RSS Feed

site design by pixelpush

Market Manila © 2004 - 2021